The cost of purchasing or leasing a plug-in electric vehicle is typically greater than the cost of a comparable gasoline or diesel model. However, many commercial fleets purchasing electric vehicles today are already anticipating a lower total cost of ownership for these vehicles. This is because higher purchase costs are offset over time by sharply lower operating costs. Depending on the number of miles driven, the ownership period, and other variables, these vehicles could generate significant savings.
Reduced Spending on Fuel: When operating on electricity, the cost to fuel a plug-in electric vehicle is substantially lower than the cost of gasoline or diesel. For example, at a price of $3 per gallon, a gasoline-powered vehicle getting 30 miles per gallon costs about 10 cents per mile to fuel. By comparison, at the national average electricity price of 10 cents per kilowatt hour, a typical electric vehicle costs about 3 cents per mile to fuel.
Reduced Spending on Maintenance: An electric drivetrain is functionally simpler than a conventional drivetrain. For example, a battery electric vehicle has only one moving part: the electric motor. Electric vehicles also feature simpler transmissions, and they do not require fluid replacement. Even features like regenerative braking reduce wear and tear on basic vehicle components. Commercial fleets operating these vehicles today are reporting maintenance cost reductions of more than 50 percent for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) across all vehicle classes. Though savings for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are slightly reduced—due to their use of combustion technologies—the reductions are still significant.
When powered by electricity stored in an onboard battery, plug-in electric vehicles emit none of the tailpipe gases associated with conventional vehicles—gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Therefore, these vehicles offer a significant improvement for air quality in urban environments. Depending on the fuel used to generate the electricity powering the vehicle, they may also offer significant total reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. For example, an EV powered by nuclear energy or renewable electricity results in negligible lifecycle emissions of greenhouse gas. When powered by the national average grid mix in the United States, an EV sedan has the same CO2 emissions profile as a 50 miles per gallon hybrid—all while using zero foreign oil.
Several commercial fleets operating plug-in electric vehicles have reported high levels of employee satisfaction, improved performance, and better retention. For example, in delivery applications, drivers of EV trucks appreciate the smooth and quiet ride, the elimination of diesel or gasoline exhaust fumes, and the idea that they are operating a cutting-edge technology. And retention has an impact on the bottom line: some commercial truck fleets estimate the total cost of hiring and training a new employee to be as much as $50,000.
Commercial fleets have reported numerous operational advantages associated with plug-in vehicles. For example, electric trucks eliminate trips to the gas station. For some parcel delivery fleets—particularly in dense urban areas—this reduces employee downtime. Utility and other service vehicles report that electrically-powered buckets reduce ambient noise at the jobsite and contribute to a safe work environment.