A dive into the 3-year ownership costs of EVs offers surprises

Electric vehicles generally require less maintenance, offering further savings when looking at the big picture

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Pop quiz, hotshot: Where do you think a good chunk of your money goes each month? No, not those pudding-of-the-month subscriptions you’re trying to keep on the DL – we’re talking about the machines resting in your garage or parked in your driveway.

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A central tenet of car ownership is there’s more involved in its total operating cost than just the monthly payment. Maintenance, insurance, and fuel are the main trio of extra costs but other ancillaries like cleaning supplies and the occasional drop of windshield washer fluid can add up over time.

Now that inflation’s running rampant, wreaking havoc on fuel prices and service costs, we thought it a good time to take a close look at the true cost of ownership for some of Canada’s most popular vehicles, comparing them to a market segment that’s on everyone’s lips : electric vehicles.

One major draw to the EV lifestyle is, of course, the relative expense of a ‘fill-up’ compared to traditionally powered cars. Packing one’s electric vehicle full of electrons results in a bill which is just a fraction of what one will be presented at the pumps, not to mention the added convenience of charging the vehicle at home for those fortunate enough to have the space to do so. Electric vehicles generally require less maintenance – no oil changes, for example – offering up further savings when one looks at the big picture.

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The numbers shown in this article, such as purchase prices and interest terms, are current as of this writing. Estimates of fuel costs (gasoline for internal-combustion vehicles, and electricity for EVs) are taken from NRCan’s official ratings with one major caveat: numbers listed by the feds are based on an average gasoline price of $ 1.09 per liter. To account for current prices, we’ve applied a factor of 1.9 to their numbers. Electricity is estimated to cost 15.5 cents per kWh.

Maintenance estimates were provided by third-party database Vincentric where available, or directly sourced from quotes by local dealerships. Taxes and rebates are correct for the jurisdiction in which your author resides. We did not include insurance costs as they vary wildly depending on driving history and the deal provided by your broker. Be sure to add that important expense to our notes when running your own numbers.

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Ready for some surprises? Let’s roll.

EVs, ICEs, and PHEVs – oh my

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We’ll kick things off with a Korean brand, chiefly because they’re doing a tremendous job cranking out a host of EV options for those who want one, and ICE cars for those who do not. In between are some plug-in hybrid options which may appeal to both camps.

A spread of nearly $ 20,000 separates the top-rung IONIQ5 from a snazzy variant of the similarly-sized but internally combusted Tucson N Line. Rebates, both federal and provincial, erase some of the delta price, reducing the spread to about $ 12,000 after taxes. Both have all-wheel-drive, though the electric car has almost double the horsepower and over 2.5 times the amount of torque. Of course, the EV cannot go as far on a single ‘tank’, requiring a time-consuming fill-up about 200 kilometers before the gasser.

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Digging deeper, the monthly payment difference of almost $ 200 per month quickly vanishes when fuel costs are factored at today prices. Both numbers are based on 20,000 km of driving per year at the unit prices noted above. It is gobsmacking, frankly. Pushing further into three trips around the sun with your new ride, servicing costs – averaged over 36 months – are about a third for the EV compared to the gasoline-powered car.

But the real takeaway from this exercise is the appeal of Hyundai’s new PHEV powertrain in Tucson. While its asking price is thousands more than the gasser, a hearty battery capacity permits it to qualify for government largess, erasing most of the premium. A large annual savings on fuel takes care of the rest and more besides, even if its estimated maintenance is on par with the N Line. We fearlessly predict Hyundai will not be able to build enough of them.

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American Pie

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The specter of an all-electric pickup truck is no longer the stuff of fantasy or a notion at which to be snickered. This author has spent ample time behind the wheel of a Ford F-150 Lightning, towing heavy trailers and hauling payload, and can say with confidence the percentage drop in range on the EV is dissimilar from doing the same tasks in a gasoline- powered truck. Difference is, of course, one is starting from a much smaller total range: less than half when comparing the all-electric Lighting to a PowerBoost hybrid.

Still, only tire rotations and basic inspections (plus a cabin filter) are recommended in the Lightning’s owner’s manual as service items until the truck hits 60,000 kilometers, at which point the brake fluid needs to be changed. The latter seems to be a recurring theme with some brands, such as Nissan who recommends its Leaf get that service every two years. Seems excessive.

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Back at Ford, our takeaway is not dissimilar to the revelation at Hyundai: the hybrid powertrain holds a massive amount of appeal. The PowerBoost running gear is the one to get in your next F-150 pickup truck, since its estimated monthly running costs are within a hair of the EcoBoost yet provides far more horsepower and torque, plus the ability to stretch its legs much further on a fuel tank.

American Try

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Here’s a good example of how unincentivized EVs fail to compete financially with their gasoline powered brothers. While the Mustang Mach-E and Edge aren’t a great direct comparison, the Explorer Hybrid makes for a better case study (though we still included both for all you stats nerds out there). Turns out the average cost per month between the Explorer and Mach-E is less than a hundred bucks when projected over three years despite the latter’s sticker price premium of nearly $ 17,000 – and that without any sort of EV rebates on the hood.

Find One, If You Can

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We’ll wrap up with Volkswagen, though note that three-year operating estimates for Chevy (Bolt / Bolt EUV v Trailblazer) and Nissan (Leaf v Qashqai / Rogue) are also provided in the gallery above. VW says its entire run of ID.4 models are completely sold out, but if shoppers can find their way onto a waiting list for one, it may be worth the effort based on these numbers.

In spite of a sticker price some $ 13,000 in excess of its showroom brother (one of the smallest differences in our sample, it should be noted) owners could save about $ 8,000 over the span of three years compared to a similarly equipped Tiguan while enjoying more power and torque. Total driving range and availability of home charging may be an issue for some customers but for those for whom it is not, the ID.4 puts forth a compelling set of numbers.

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