Cars

Study touts the economic feasibility of electric cars

One of the three electric vehicle charging stations installed by Kansas City Power & Light at Thomas Stoll Park at 12500 W. 119th St. in Overland Park. KCP&L’s Clean Charge Network consists of more than 1,000 charging stations in the Kansas City area.
One of the three electric vehicle charging stations installed by Kansas City Power & Light at Thomas Stoll Park at 12500 W. 119th St. in Overland Park. KCP&L’s Clean Charge Network consists of more than 1,000 charging stations in the Kansas City area.

The electric car is known for being environmentally friendly. Jeffrey Chu, an analyst at personal finance information service NerdWallet, also found that owning an electric car can save thousands of dollars.

Chu released his study in mid September during National Drive Electric Week.

“The objective of the study was to find a comparison of a gas car, a hybrid car and an electric car,” Chu said in a telephone interview. “We wanted to see the economic feasibility of having an electric car, having a hybrid car and having a gas car.”

Kansas City was one of 27 cities where Chu decided to compare costs.

“During my research, Kansas City really stood out to me because Kansas City Power and Light has a $20 million initiative to install 1,000 car charging stations. That is huge in terms of electric car infrastructure,” Chu said. “I wanted to focus on areas that are booming with that kind of project. The three places that stood out to me were Kansas City, Atlanta and Indianapolis.”

The three cars Chu selected to compare were the Nissan Leaf (electric), Toyota Prius (hybrid) and the Toyota Camry (gasoline). The reason those three cars were selected because they were similar in price.

Chu used Edmunds as the source for the costs of the vehicle.

In Kansas City, Chu listed the price of a Camry at $21,376, the Prius at $24,843 and the Leaf at $23,179. Over a five-year period, Chu factored in the cost of maintenance, repairs, insurance, fuel and any federal tax credits.

In that period, the total cost for the Camry was $39,407, the Prius was $40,058 and the Leaf was $29,079. It should be noted that Chu credited the Leaf with a $7,500 federal tax credit that’s available for plug-in electric drive motor vehicles, which the other two cars didn’t receive.

But the fuel cost was significantly different. The five-year cost for fuel for a Camry was $7,000, the Prius, $4,000 and the Leaf, $2,500.

“The main thing to take away from that is the Nissan Leaf was the cheapest to own even without the tax credit and that is mainly due to fuel savings,” Chu said. “What stood out to me was the overall gas savings. Over a one-year span it is a few hundred dollars, but if you were to blow it out over five years, that would lead to huge savings if you were to drive an electric car. That was the biggest thing for me.

“There are state incentives and federal incentives to drive an electric car, but even without those, the Nissan Leaf or electric cars in general are fairly economical.”

Chu wasn’t paid by a car manufacturer to do this study. NerdWallet, based in San Francisco, provides answers for life’s financial questions like credit cards, life insurance, auto insurance and investing, Chu said.

“Our mission is to provide that clarity and empower people to make smart money decisions,” he said.

Chu said the study wasn’t done to advocate electric car use. It was put together simply to compare cost of hybrids, gas and electric cars.

“In a very unbiased way, we are giving people a financial landscape of electric vehicle purchases,” Chu said. “It wasn’t done to tell people you should buy electric cars. We are not trying to push that.

“There are some intrinsic value of having a gas car that electric car doesn’t provide. We want to give visibility that you can save a lot of money if you buy an electric car.”

To read Chu’s original study, visit www.nerdwallet.com/blog/insurance/auto/electric-hybrid-gas-how-they-compare-costs-2015/.

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