Sunday, February 25

The hidden costs of the electric car

Rising oil prices have made zero emissions more attractive

There is no way back. Europe will be electric. This year the ‘Fit for 55’ package of environmental measures presented by the European Commission in 2021 will be approved, among which it put a counter on the automotive industry: the ban on the sale of thermal engines in 2035.

The route is clear, and it is becoming more and more common to find zero emission taxis, which seems to indicate that the economic arguments are solid. It is already possible to find these models on the market from 18,000 euros – the upper limit reaches multi-million supercars – but limiting yourself solely to the purchase price would be a mistake.

Every vehicle has associated costs that are easy to make invisible: insurance, taxes, maintenance or, especially, energy costs are all factors to take into account, since the sum of them can mean the same amount as buying the vehicle, according to the data from the Dutch investment Robeco. Its analysts compared the total cost of ownership (TCO) of two similar Skoda SUVs, the electric Enyaq and the combustion Kodiaq over six years. The first of them achieved savings of around 8,200 euros against its rival, despite having a higher starting price.

European governments have implemented incentives to make electric vehicles more affordable, but these vary in amount and complexity: in Germany they amount to up to 9,500 euros, while in Spain the Moves III depends on conditions such as scrapping a thermal car. Sectoral associations such as Aedive or Anfac advocate that VAT be eliminated from zero emissions. However, from Robeco they affirm that “the cost for the administrations of this aid is high and they will end up disappearing”, as has already happened in Switzerland.

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The price of energy is the main factor that increases the cost of ownership of a vehicle, especially after the war in Ukraine has shot up the price of a Brent barrel by 57.4%. According to data from the Ministry of Ecological Transition, gasoline has an average cost of 9.18 euros per 100 km, diesel 6.65 and electricity between 2.53 and 6.16, depending on whether the recharge becomes public or domestic.

Taking these data as an example, with a car 11 years old and 14,000 km per year, they would have spent, respectively, 14,137; 10,241 and between 9,486 and 3,896 euros throughout its useful life, with a clear advantage for zero emissions.

But the price of electricity is very variable and everything comes down to the price of the kWh that has been contracted. Bearing in mind that the average consumption of electric cars is 15 kWh per 100 kilometres, and that the current average kWh is 23 cents, the price to drive them is 3.45 euros. With the valley rates, from 9 cents per kWh, they are reduced to 1.35 euros —2,079 in 11 years—.

These figures are exclusively for domestic rates —with a maximum power of 7.4 kW—, since public points increase their price considerably. In 50 kW semi-fast chargers, the kWh can reach 40 cents (Endesa); while in the rapids of 150 kW, the kWh can reach 79 cents (Ionity).

Assuming that the installation of the charging point is already done. Manufacturers can include it as a courtesy when buying one of their electric cars, but prices are around 1,500 euros, which can be subsidized up to 70% by the Moves III plan.

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This interest in saving on recharging has given rise to companies specializing in energy consultancy such as Emovili, whose CEO, Paco Casas, affirms that up to 70% can be remedied with the installation of solar panels. In his opinion, “the aid is important to change the mentality of the clients, but they have to be provided with more funds.”

However, they are optimistic: “the use of renewable energies, together with bidirectional charging that allows the use of energy from the car for the house, would allow not having to depend on an external supply,” he says.


Another hidden cost of electric ones is that, at the moment, they do not store their value as well as thermal ones do. After the first 15,000 kilometers, a combustion model will have lost 25% of its value, while an electric one will have done so at twice the rate, around 50%, according to the German consulting firm Bähr & Fess.

Although it is true that they require less maintenance, the main reason they accuse is the deterioration of the battery, since it is easy to mistreat them with negligent recharging. Accumulators are generally guaranteed for eight years, and the closer you get to that threshold, the less attractive it becomes to a second-hand buyer.

Replacing the battery is possibly the most feared aftermarket operation for electric vehicle customers. It is true that the cars that have passed that age had to be registered in 2014 and then the current offer did not exist either, but the prices in the official workshops – the only ones capable of carrying out the change – are around 8,000 euros.

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