Electric vehicles (EV) are slowly becoming more accepted and perhaps even becoming mainstream. Being a technology and money geek, the idea of owning an electric vehicle has me intrigued and even a little excited. There aren’t a lot of options for electric vehicles, but it looks like 2018 will offer a number of options for consumers.
Why do I like electric vehicles so much? One main reason – efficiency! They charge like a cell phone (except with a much bigger cable!), have much better mileage than equivalent gasoline engines, have the ability to generate energy when you aren’t pressing on the gas peddle, and zero emissions! These cars not only cost less in terms of fuel, since EVs generate electricity when you let go of the gas peddle, thus forcing the EV to slow down, brake pads/rotors can last for several years. To top it off, regular maintenance costs are less than a gasoline powered vehicle because electric engines do not require oil changes.
Do I have you convinced yet? Well, as I like to present a balanced view on any topic, there are some downsides. The first is that there are very few models that are affordable to everyday consumers. I mean the Tesla Model S is probably my favorite dream car (see the white vehicle below), but it starts at $90,000 (+ tax/delivery) and goes all the way up to $173,000 (+tax/delivery). While I could probably afford it, heck even pay cash, I could never dish out that much money for a vehicle.
The second downside is that the technology, especially battery technology, is improving by leaps and bounds every year and hasn’t plateaued yet. So buying a model that’s a couple years old would likely have a lot less driving range/charge than current models. And third, range limitations. Although battery technology is improving, economical electric vehicle options are fairly limited in range. For example, an economical used 2013 Nissan Leaf costs less than $15k and has an estimated range of 135km. While it’s fine for urban travel and frequent charges, it’s not great for people who need to travel greater distances.
Although most vehicle manufacturers are coming onboard with electric versions of their lineup, as of today, there are only three models that I would consider. These offer a balance of driving range and pricing. Also note that some provinces like Ontario, Quebec, and BC, offer a credit for purchasing an EV. All of these provinces have their own rules, but Ontario will offer up to $14k, Quebec up to $8k, and BC up to $5k.
My 3 Favorite Electric Vehicles for 2017
The Nissan Leaf is the highest volume EV sold in North America! Why? Because they were the first affordable EV offered to the mass market. As I previously mentioned, the 2013 Nissan Leaf offered 135km of range in ideal situations, and the 2017 model has increased its range to 172km. The range decreases significantly once you need to turn on the heater in cold weather (ie. Canada!). The one aspect of the Nissan Leaf that’s up for debate is the look of the vehicle. Some love it, others hate it – it’s a polarizing debate! Personally, I don’t mind it as I think that an EV should have a unique look.
The Leaf will change significantly in 2018, not only in terms of looks (as shown above) but also a significant increase in range from 172km to 241km. This will bring its range closer to the next two competitors. The data below is based on the new 2018 model, I chose this model because it’s a closer comparison to its main competitors.
Price: $36,000 CAD (+taxes and delivery).
Range: 241km per full charge using a 40kWh battery. A 60kWh battery coming in 2018 which should theoretically increase the range to around 350km per full charge.
Cost per charge: In NL, the local power utility (NL Power via Fortis) charges around $0.12/kWh regardless of the time of day. Big difference from Ontario which charges $0.157/kWh for peak hours, and $0.077 during off-peak or late night hours (ie. the perfect time to charge). So with a 40kWh battery in NL, the cost to charge from 0% to 100% would be about $4.80 or about $0.02/km. If charging in Ontario during off-peak hours, the cost goes down to $3.08/full charge or about $0.013/km. How does this compare to a typical sedan? Say that a Honda Accord can get 600km out of a 65L tank through city/hwy driving. Assuming gas is $1/L, that’s about $0.11/km.
Notes: Since this EV has been around for a while, there is a healthy used market. Depending on where you live, you can pick up a 2015 model for under $20k. The best prices are from the provinces that offer a credit towards an EV since the original owners received a significant discount due to the EV credit. One more thing to keep in mind, 2016 is the first year that Nissan offers extended range of up to 172km (from 135km the year before) in the SL/SV models (S is the base model).
Tesla Model 3
It is expected (maybe hyped?) that the Tesla Model 3 will become the most popular EV ever. With Tesla design (it’s a beauty) and technology combined with reasonable pricing (especially with provincial credits), it is no wonder that hundreds of thousands of people put down a deposit. With the backlog of orders, you may need to wait until the end of 2018 before the Model 3 becomes available to the general public.
While the Model S starts at around $100k CAD, the Model 3 will start at around $35k USD or $44k CAD (depending on the exchange rate). Tesla is directly competing with the BMW 3-series in terms of pricing, but with provincial credits, it’s actually competing with mid-range sedans like the Honda Accord.
Let’s get down to the details.
Price: Standard range: $35,000 USD or around $44,000 CAD (+ taxes and delivery). Long Range: $44,000 USD or $55,300 CAD (+ taxes and delivery).
Range: Standard range: 220 miles or 350 km per full charge (reportedly 50kWh battery). Long Range: 310 miles or 500 km per full charge (reportedly 75kWh battery).
Cost per charge: With a 50kWh battery, the cost to charge from 0% to 100% in NL would be about $6 or about $0.017/km. If charging in Ontario during off-peak hours, the cost goes down to $3.85/full charge or about $0.011/km. What’s interesting is that the efficiency or cost of electricity with the Tesla is slightly better than the Nissan.
Notes: The Tesla Model 3 pricing is actually very competitive with the Nissan Leaf, which is quite surprising to me. By the time you upgrade the Nissan Leaf to the larger battery pack to keep up with the standard range Model 3, I’m thinking the price difference will be negligible. So for the same price and range, which would you pick, a Tesla or a Nissan? You already know my answer.
This GM vehicle is the biggest surprise on the list with the release of the Chevy Bolt. Released in early 2017, this was the first mass-market EV with a range that is close to what a regular gas tank would give you. With pricing that is competitive to the Tesla Model 3 and the longer range model of the Nissan Leaf, this gives consumers another viable choice. Actually, as of this moment, this is the ONLY choice if you want a longer range model at a reasonable price (after credits). The Model 3 is back ordered and the 2018 Leaf has not been released.
Price: $43,200 CAD (+ taxes and delivery)
Range: 383km using a 60kWh battery.
Cost per charge: With a 60kWh battery, the cost to charge from 0% to 100% in NL would be about $7.20 or about $0.019/km. If charging in Ontario during off-peak hours, the cost goes down to $4.62/full charge or about $0.012/km. While the efficiency of these vehicles are similar, the Tesla comes out on top in terms of cost/km.
My 3 favorite EVs at the moment are actually all very close in terms of range and price. In Ontario, overnight charging costs work out to $0.013/km for the Nissan Leaf, $0.011/km for the Tesla Model 3, and $0.012/km for the Chevy Bolt. Even though I can imagine myself owning an EV right now, I would not pay the premium to own a new one. Personally, if I was to purchase an EV right now, I would pick a used 2015 Nissan Leaf in the $17k-$20k price range, then wait until 2021 or so (a retirement gift?) to buy a used Tesla Model 3.