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How Much Do Electric Vehicles Impact Our Environment and Your Wallet?

Whether helping the environment is a big deal to you or if you just want to stop spending so much money on gas, it is good to know how much an electric car pays off – to both your wallet and the environment.


First, let’s talk about the environment since the primary goal of electric vehicles (EV) are to go green. Completely electric cars give off no emissions. Depending on where you live, the electricity infrastructure and benefits you can get from an electric vehicle will vary slightly. Some states have less carbon intensive electricity generation than others do, meaning electric cars are more beneficial in states with “cleaner energy” such as those using less coal and more wind, solar, or natural gas power. EVs still have a much smaller effect on the environment when they are being driven compared to gasoline vehicles.

A group of researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology put electric vehicles to the test by looking into how much less harmful every stage of their life is, compared to the average gasoline powered vehicles. They found out that producing the battery that lives in EVs is about two times more harmful to the environment than producing an engine you would find in a gasoline vehicle. There are large amounts of aluminum in EV batteries, and the process to make these batteries is very energy intensive. Though some pollution may come from the building of EV batteries, they will break even with gas-powered cars after tens of thousands of miles, and most electric cars will be driven far more than that. There are environmental benefits to electric cars, but not as much as people may be lead to believe.


Going green could also keep a little green in your wallet when it comes to taxes. Most electric cars qualify for the federal tax credit of $7,500. And, depending on the state you live in, owning an EV could qualify you for other state incentives like clean-vehicle rebates, sales-tax waivers, or free meter parking and more. Used electric vehicles, however, do not qualify for government tax credit. To see what your vehicle qualifies for, check out www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/taxevb.shtml.

The most obvious benefit about owning an electric car is the fact that you don’t have to buy gas. Energy.gov has some great information as well as a feature called eGallon, which takes the most recently available state by state residential electricity cost and puts it up against the average cost per gallon of gasoline in that state. This allows consumers to compare how much it is costing them to drive their EVs around compared to driving a standard vehicle. Currently, the US average cost for a gallon of gas is more than $1 higher than the US average of an electric eGallon. The trend that energy.gov has found is that there is far less inconsistency in electricity prices than there is in gas prices, which tend to fluctuate and make large jumps regularly.

Though it’s great that money will no longer be spent at a gas pump, the starting cost of electric cars are far more expensive than the average gas-powered vehicle. One of the cheaper EVs, called Smart Fortwo Electric Drive, is about $26,000; this price gets you two seats and barely any room for anything but the people inside. A car that is still on the smaller side, but closer to an average sized gasoline car, is the Nissan Leaf. The starting MSRP for the most basic model of the 2016 Nissan Leaf is $29,010. Compared to the 5 standard sedans Nissan offers that average about $19,000, the Leaf is significantly more expensive.

Maintenance costs are another fee to keep in mind. Though electric cars typically don’t need all of the maintenance that a gasoline car does - such as oil changes - they will need a new battery every 5 to 8 years or so or every 60,000 to 100,000 miles. Depending on the EV, these battery replacements cost around $12,000 on average. This makes owning an electric car pretty pricey, taking a while to break even financially with the cost of your average gas-powered car. An engine replacement on a standard car can cost around $5,000, but you don’t need a new engine every 5 years. The money you save at the pump with an EV does not seem to actually get “saved”; it gets spent on the actual cost of your vehicle and the maintenance.


It seems to cost a little extra money to be nice to the environment. With an electric vehicle, you are leaving a smaller carbon footprint than you would be with a traditional gasoline-powered vehicle, but that comes at a price. EVs don’t seem to pay off as much financially as they do environmentally.

For more information

If you are looking to go even deeper into the topic of the environmental and financial impacts of the electric car please check out these helpful insights:


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