Electric Cars: Are they For Real?

The other day, the lady and I were biking through the parking lot of the fancy Natural Grocers food store, when I suddenly screeched to a halt, without even realizing why I had done it.

It turns out the reason was that one of these things had caught the corner of my eye:

“What’s going on here?”, I thought. New cars don’t normally show up on the US market without me knowing about them first. Especially futuristic little space-bubble cars, which are my favorite variety.

Poking around the car in the parking lot, I could see that it had a roomy passenger cabin, gigantic glass area giving a panoramic view, and… no evidence of a gas-burning engine of any type. The hood was far too compact to house a conventional engine, and looking underneath I saw no exhaust system, none of the usual fiddly drivetrain bits, and instead just smooth underbody panels and a beefy electric motor.

What I had stumbled across is the Mitsubishi Miev (also known simply as the “i”), just the latest of several intriguing electric-only cars to hit this country’s market in the last few years.

For those not familiar with this new bit of technology, it is very real: electric cars are out there, and they kick some serious ass, offering comfort, performance, 100-300 miles of driving range depending on the car, and a silky-quiet driving experience with no road-level emissions. All these attributes are available not in the hazy future, but right now. Among the most prominent are these ones:

  • Tesla Roadster (released 2008) $109,000
  • Tesla Model S (just came out last month): $57,000
  • Nissan Leaf  (2010): $32,000
  • Ford Focus Electric (Fall 2012 in 16 states): $35,000
  • Mitsubishi Miev: $27,000
  • Chevrolet Volt: $39,000 (short-range electric plus full gasoline power)

They are all expensive, but you can start by subtracting $7500 from the prices above due to a US federal tax credit on vehicles of this type.

That still leaves more dollars than the average Mustachian should be spending on transportation, but right about the same amount that most Americans spend on cars of similar quality in each of those performance ranges.

So what I had discovered in my local parking lot is the lowest-priced electric vehicle currently on the US mass market. It’s neat new technology and it sounds great, but it does lead a skeptical person to ask quite a few questions. Having done some work on electric cars myself, I can even try to answer them right here:

Does an Electric car really cost less to fuel for a given distance?

Yes. Way less. To understand the cost, let’s understand the baseline of fueling a gasoline car. If you have a reasonable car that gets 35MPG and you can get gas for $3.50 per gallon, your fuel cost is 10 cents per mile. If you’re a new reader and you still drive around in a truck, your fuel costs might be $0.20 or more.

Now check out this handy table I’ve made for you. You can see that the pure electric cars burn juice at only 2.4 to 3.3 cents per mile. From a cost perspective, it is like driving a car that gets between  116 and 145MPG, or like getting your gas for 89 cents a gallon. The exact cost depends on your local electricity price, but I used 10 cents/kWh, roughly the rate I pay for 100% wind-generated power where I live (coal power is only about 8 cents here, but it varies around the nation).

VehiclePessimistic EPA Range (miles)Battery Capacity (kWh)Electricity Cost per Mile (@$0.10/kWh)Weight (lbs)
Tesla Roadster221532.4c2723
Nissan Leaf73243.3c3375
Ford Focus Electric76233.0c3691
Mitsubishi Miev62162.6c2579
Chevrolet Volt35164.6c3781

 But what about the battery life?

That’s a good question. These cars use lithium batteries, and they are expensive today (about $400 per kilowatt-hour of capacity, meaning the MiEv has a $6400 battery on-board). General predictions seem to be a service life of 8 years or 100,000 miles for these batteries, which adds 6.4 cents per mile to the cost of travel, bringing us back up to 10 cents, just like a 35MPG car. And the bigger your battery pack (Tesla), the higher your cost per mile, as you are lugging around unused capacity which is fading away whether you use it or not. Uh-oh!

But wait: remember that an electric car does not need oil changes, transmission fluid, belts and hoses, fancy valve services or most of the other greasy stuff that comes with gasoline cars. In addition, big electric motors themselves have generally only one moving part, which in industrial uses of the past 100 years have shown that they are good for the equivalent of over 1 million miles with no service whatsoever. So you’ll get a lot of that 6.4 cents back in the form of avoiding expensive service visits.

On top of that, lithium cells have been developing in a Moore’s Law-like fashion, meaning technology and reliability has been increasing rapidly even as price drops. A friend of mine runs an online electric vehicle parts store, and I’ve been amazed at the almost monthly developments in the lithium ion battery market.

Imagine that you buy a high-end $1000 Core i7 ultrabook computer with a 256GB solid state drive today and use it for 8 years, until it dies. Then you want to replace it with another Core i7/256GB laptop in the future. When you go shopping, you find that even the slowest new computer is better than your high-end one was, and it costs $199. That’s Moore’s Law in action.

But aren’t I just replacing road pollution with coal powerplant pollution?

Many people say this, and the answer is that it depends. Even if you can only buy 100% coal-fired electricity in your area, there is a slight improvement in pollution by switching to an electric car. The difference comes due to the fact that power plants are about 40% efficient, while gas engines are less than 20% efficient (the rest goes out as heat). When you factor all the other stuff  like oil extraction and refining costs, electric transmission losses, etc., all you have to know is that the electric car does fine in this area.

The real benefit, however, comes in areas like mine where non-coal power is available. Here in Colorado, wind power is cheap and plentiful, and when you buy more of it, they just put up more towers in the otherwise-barren Eastern desert plains of the state. The impact on jobs is spectacular, as I keep seeing shiny new wind company headquarters popping up, and meeting highly-paid engineers and technicians who have come to the state to work in the growing industry. All caused by me just checking a box on my power bill that said “100% wind”.

We also have ideal conditions for solar generation, to the point that I can buy my own panels (even without subsidies) and build a system to charge an electric car off-the-grid, and the amortized cost of the electricity will be just as cheap as my grid power. (More details of solar harvesting are coming up in future MMM articles, as I continue to tinker with my own house with the goal of getting roughly energy independent over the next few years).

In California, solar power is extremely popular, and that state’s much higher electricity costs combined with federal and state incentives make it a no-brainer to convert a home rooftop to generate power and feed it into the grid.

So if you’re getting an electric car because you don’t like the idea of burning gas, you might as well go the whole route and use non-fossil-fuel electricity to charge it.

What about Driving Range? Will I run out of power in the middle of nowhere?

Oh, Waaah Waaah. Poor baby is accustomed to driving 300 miles on a tank of gas. And if his car ever stopped driving, he’d have to just sit in it and cry until he was rescued!

First of all, the range of these cars in the table above is estimated by the EPA, which assumes a lead foot and no driving skill at all. As a Mustachian, you drive your car efficiently, so you’ll see a 30% higher range (Japan’s more reasonable test cycle for these cars confirms that).

The GM (Chevrolet) Volt addresses this irrational fear by adding a gasoline engine and a fuel tank, which allows the car to drive in either electric or gas mode. It’s a beautiful car, but you pay for the convenience in the form of pulling two entire powerplants around, which leads to higher sticker price as well as weight (the Volt weighs as much as a small minivan), which leads to higher electricity consumption.

GM is in a tough place with the Volt, since they are trying to make a practical vehicle, but sell it to people who are still buying cars based on irrational emotions like “Is it fast? Will I look cool in this thing?”, and “What if I want to drive it to the Grand Canyon?”. Right now there’s a video on the site showing the unfortunate state of their marketing necessity: http://www.chevrolet.com/volt-electric-car.html

From a strictly financial perspective, I’d suggest getting a Mitsubishi Miev, and either renting, car-sharing, borrowing, or owning a fuel-efficient second car for your longer trips.

In fact, from a strictly financial perspective, an electric car is just like any other new car: it’s far from the most cost-effective way to get around. In a few years, depending on how the used prices shake out, they may or may not take on this status.

But for those of us who have far more money than we need anyway, and are interested in enjoying a high-tech luxury toy with minimal environmental guilt, this is an ideal candidate. I believe that paying the premium to be an early adopter, thereby advancing this industry so it can eventually displace the internal combustion engine, can actually be a fairly Mustachian choice to make.



Elsewhere on the web: Motor Trend reviews the Focus Electric vs. Nissan Leaf


  • Lance September 13, 2012, 6:21 am

    I had thought about these cars but always assumed they cost a lot to charge and that you would just be replacing car pollution with power plant pollution. While we don’t have a wind option here I have been learning a lot about power plant efficiency at my job so that makes a whole lot more sense to me!

    These cars are too expensive at their current price point but as their batteries get better and the cost comes down I could see them becoming a real alternative. We just need to support the technology enough to keep it alive.

    • Nurse Frugal September 13, 2012, 9:44 am

      I agree, these cars are definitely pricey, but I do see the long-term benefit of driving them! My thoughts are that if you have enough money to buy it with cash and negotiate a good price….GO FOR IT!!! If not, doesn’t seem like it would be worth all the interest money you would be paying if it were financed. Would love to test drive that little thing ;)

      • MechanicalMustache September 13, 2012, 5:27 pm

        I got to test out one of the Mitsubishi iMievs while I was taking a tour of one of their facilities courtesy of an Automobile Technology program I participated in at a Japanese university. As an engineer, I love the technology of electric cars and I think that in the long term they are going to do very well. In addition, I got to take one of these for a short test drive and they are definitely fun to drive. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the pickup on acceleration because I always hear from people how terrible it is on some electric cars. Once my money mustache is a bit fuller I hope to get an iMiev or something similar :)

    • da55id September 13, 2012, 1:38 pm

      I got a Volt last month on a lease. In true MMM fashion, I got end of model year, dealer demo on special super secret lease for 169.00 per month.

      Before the Volt I spent $300 per mo on gas between the wife and myself. For the last 1300 miles I’ve spent zero whole dollars on gas. The car was delivered with 8 gallons in the tank and there are now 6.5 remaining.

      I LOVE LOVE LOVE not going to gas stations!

      It’s also the most fun car out of the 12 I’ve owned – and it pays me to have the fun!

      • Gus September 13, 2012, 2:25 pm

        Depending how long you have ahd the car, I would start being concerned about the gas in the car going bad.

        How awesome would that be? A car so efficient that, by the time you empty the tank, the gas has gone stale!

      • O October 17, 2012, 5:54 pm

        In true MMM fashion, you got to explain about the super secret lease…

    • Julia April 30, 2015, 12:51 pm

      We are leasing an electric VW Golf, and have figured our fuel costs to be $0.03 a mile. We haven’t even installed a rapid charger, we are just plugging the thing into our house with an exterior extension cord. It’s working great as the run-around car. (We do have another car, a VW Jetta TDI wagon, for long trips and larger loads.) We don’t put that many miles on it, so it can go a couple of days in between charges. We’ve got it set up to charge to about 70% at night, this is apparently better for the battery and allows harvesting of brake resistance while driving.

    • Kevin July 4, 2015, 7:36 pm

      I just bought a 2012 Leaf for $10,000. It replaced a minivan that I was able to sell for $4,000. If you amortize my $6,000 out of pocket cost over 4 years at roughly 4% interest, it comes to $135 a month. I easily save that much each month in gas . . . At $3/gallon gas and .10/kwh electricity, I break even when I drive around 850 miles a month.

      Two caveats: 1) My family still has a second gas-powered car we use for longer trips (although both my wife and I prefer to drive the Leaf when possible–which is most of time). 2) The car I found for $10,000 had less than 20k miles on it, but was a “loss leader.” $12,000 would have been a good deal in my market. Still, $12,000 is much better than the MSRP for a new Leaf. There are a glut of 2012’s on the market after three year leases are up. The point is . . . Leafs in very good condition are currently a STEAL! The literally pay for themselves in gas savings.

  • sendaiben September 13, 2012, 6:29 am

    I was in Shanghai in March, and the thing that blew me away (other than how much it had changed in 15 years) was that almost all the motorbikes were electric.

    Silent, no emissions, and almost completely (80%+) ubiquitous.

    China is just trying out its battery technology and production facilities: in five years they’ll be churning them out for export :)

    • Joe September 13, 2012, 10:12 am

      I think an electric bicycle is a great alternative as well. The cost is much lower and it extend the range of even the most bicycle challenged rider (me…)
      We can’t really get an electric car at the moment. We live in a high rise and there aren’t any recharging facility here. Perhaps if the price come down a bit and the car become more common, the HOA will figure out a way to recharge the car.

      • El Beardo Numero Uno September 13, 2012, 12:22 pm

        I love my electric bicycle. I built it last summer (a great science project). I’ve put 3900 miles on it now, and in bad traffic it gets me home faster than a car or a bus. It goes 30mph for 25 miles, and I charge it at home and at work.

        The cost of electricity in the PNW is cheap ($.05/kWh last I checked) and comes from dams, so I feel good about that.

        Battery life for lithium is determined by the depth of discharge and number of charge-discharge cycles. More discharge = fewer cycles before the batteries give up the ghost, so cars with huge batteries will last longer. The problem is, it’s very expensive and heavy to add battery capacity.

        I’m at 200 cycles on my bike (lithium polymer), and it still puts out the same range as it did a year ago. We’ll see when I hit 400, 600, maybe even 800. The battery replacement cost will probably amortize out to be equal to the cost of electricity.

        Electric bikes are a great way to enjoy the benefits of bicycling and electric cars, without tens of thousands of dollars, but with some occasional rain :)

        I just got a scooter helmet to quiet the wind noise, keep my eyes from watering, and provide a little extra safety.

        One problem is that cars think I’m a bike, so they underestimate my speed, and pull out in front of me often. E-bikes are definitely a niche product right now, and time will tell if they become mainstream. Until then, I have to ride quite defensively.

        • mike crosby September 13, 2012, 3:13 pm

          These bikes really make a lot of sense.

          I live in Los Angeles and imagine if those who could, used this form of transportation. Especially lower income people could put the bike in their apartments overnight for safety. Also wouldn’t have to worry about searching for a precious parking space.

          So even being 20 miles from work, here in Greater LA, I would bet most commuters would get there quicker via this mode of transportation. And have a hell of a lot more fun too.

          I like the comment about bikes in Shanghai being electric. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these batteries getting better as times goes on, and for some gas fed bikes to get over 100-125/mpg.

        • Mike September 15, 2012, 9:59 am

          Beardo, did you have a set of instructions to follow or was it your own design? Would love to see if I could follow suit.

        • sdpinaz September 18, 2012, 10:08 pm

          I have an electric recumbent. it is way overpowered and can go about 55 mph for 20 some miles, or 30mph for 40miles. The recumbent is more comfortable for me and looks just different enough so people don’t know what to think and give me a wide berth on the road. I have panniers and a bob trailer and can bring home a fully loaded grocery cart of goods, and I mean the “bottom shelf full of beer” Full. I built it in 2004 and the range is definitely not what it used to be, I am going to rebuild a newer, better battery this winter, estimated at 850 bucks. we will see. I built the bike with brand new everything in 2004 for about 5500 bucks, If I used a beefy old-used beach cruiser it would have cut the costs in half. I guess I could built a super battery that fits into the Bob trailer and triple my range for about 1500 bucks. Way cheaper than these new electric cars, no passenger capacity though. guess I need a side-car??

          • Heath September 19, 2012, 6:26 am

            That sounds amazing! I too feel more comfortable on recumbents (lower back issues), but hadn’t even considered an electric. What kind of a motor did you put on there? Some casual research led me to this interesting item…
            Looks like it could be used to build something similar to your setup (and it even comes with various types of frame mounting brackets for DIY-newbies like me), but I’m not sure about the power/speeds it would produce.

            Did you build your trailer as well? Or were you referring to an actual “BOB trailer”? I’m curious. This could turn into something beautiful…

        • Darren May 1, 2014, 6:02 pm

          I’d like to hear about how you put your electric bike together, out of curiosity. I don’t need any detailed plan. I rode an electric bike a few years ago and wanted one until I heard the price tag. I just recently bought a Cannondale Quick-something for $467 (ten times more than I’ve ever paid for a bike before). I thought that was expensive, but I’ll save that much in fuel and maintenance costs in just three months. I still have a truck…but I promise I’m going to sell it when I get back to the States.

  • Matt G September 13, 2012, 6:32 am

    MMM, I’ve sold my A4 and am going to buy a Prius today, I also have an Astro I use for work I’m going to sell. I’ve seen the top 10 cars for smart people, and now electric cars are the future. I’m running the numbers on the Prius, and it’s going to save me about $200/mo. Am I missing something? I drive 16k miles/year.

    • Art September 13, 2012, 7:51 am

      Assuming 25 mpg average for A4, 50 mpg for the Prius, 16000 miles per year and $4 per gallon gas would it go something like this?

      16,000 miles at 25 mpg will use 640 gallons at $4 per gallon = $2,560.
      16,000 miles at 50 mpg will use 320 gallons at $4 per gallon = $1,280.
      $1,280 / 12 = $106 per month savings on gas.

      Of course for a true comparison you also need to see how much you are spending on that new (used) Prius vs. how much you are getting for your A4. But if you are looking just at gas, then $106 per month might be a nice return on investment.

      • Matt G September 13, 2012, 9:49 am

        Art, I looked back at my calculations and they looked like this. (I guess it’s actually 17K miles rather than 16k). I think the 16k was wishful thinking.

        Van 4700 miles at 17 mpg at $4 per gallon = $1,105.88
        A4 12506 miles at 21 mpg at $4.40 (premium) per gallon = $2,620.30
        Prius 17206 miles at 48 mpg at $4 per gallon = $1433.83
        Savings $2292.35 /12 = $222.93 per month savings

        Regarding the upgrade cost. After DMV fees, taxes, blah blah. It’s going to be $8,943 MINUS whatever I get for the van. I’m thinking around $1500. So it should be around $7,443. But I’m also going from a 2001 Astro + 2004 Audi to a 2009 Prius. I’m thinking I could turn around and sell the Prius for around $12k. I also expect to save something on Insurance.

        If you are trying to figure out the break even point, its 2.7 years, but I don’t think that’s really important since I’m also increasing my fleet value. Like an underwater homeowner, I believe that the real mistake happened the day I bought the A4, and I’m paying for that now.

      • Matt G September 13, 2012, 9:53 am

        One more thing to add on the A4, It’s a 3.0 Quattro, I think your 25MPG might be from the 2.0T engine.

        • Mr. Money Mustache September 13, 2012, 10:25 am

          Great job, Matt! You are a model for other Mustachians, making such an improvement in your car fleet.

          For people like you who do extreme amounts of driving, making a change is most valuable. For me with no commuting, no local mileage, and all of my 7k driving done on long vacations, it is a bit less useful.

          But I still have a goal to find a way take my little car instead of the van on next year’s trip to Canada.

          • James February 3, 2013, 9:24 am

            A small camper trailer type thing may work. If you’re traveling from CO to Canada, you’ll mostly have to deal with it on the highway where the roads are larger and you generally have more space. Once you get to your destination, you can unhitch it, and there you go. Extra cargo capacity, no need to own a huge ass vehicle with massive additional insurance costs.

        • Scott September 13, 2012, 10:03 pm

          Great job Matt. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if you can sell that 2009 for a premium in two or three years when the cost of gas exceeds $5 per gallon (or when shit hits the fan with Iran).

          If you learn the quirky tricks of driving the Prius, you can easily get 58 MPG too (Ecopia tires help). I skipped the 335i for the Prius, and it was one of the smartest moves that I have made.

          • Oh Yonghao October 21, 2014, 2:29 pm

            It appears that price prediction for gasoline was wishful thinking. Today I see $3.17/gal for Premium here, and $2.87/gal for Regular. But I fuel up only once every couple months so I don’t care so much about what gas prices are. I’ve put about a third of my miles on my bike this year so far, and looks even better for the rest of the year.

            • Jeff October 21, 2014, 3:09 pm

              The funny thing about gas prices is… they do a lot of funny things. It’s never been as simple as supply and demand.
              The fracking boom has produced a temporary glut of oil, which eventually brought prices down. But it would be unwise to forget that only higher prices made fracking economically viable to begin with. If prices fall much farther, fracking ops will start shutting down because they’re unprofitable. And if/when that happens, it could take new record prices to get us back to the same level of production.
              Hubbert predicted that after ~50% of oil reserves had been extracted, production would peak – and depending on whose math you trust, we’re either just past that point, or just approaching it. There’s no major debate about the general area of the curve where we now are. And past that point, he predicted not just rising prices, but extremely volatile prices. The dwindling supply of the commodity will not be accompanied by an exponential price curve, but wild oscillations around a generally rising average. The biggest mistake anyone can make – and the mistake being made by many – is to treat this as anything but the calm before the storm.

  • Greg September 13, 2012, 6:37 am

    I think that electric cars are absolutely awesome. The problem for us is the range. We take our cars on several hundred mile trips about 4 times a year. The 100-300 mile range isn’t a huge problem for us. However, it takes several hours for those batteries to be recharged. That isn’t a big deal if you are at home. However, we would never really be able to take that car out on the road. Therefore, we opted for a Toyota Prius…and we love it. I’ll never buy another car that isn’t (at least) a hybrid ever again!

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 13, 2012, 8:06 am

      For a single-car family who frequently does long roadtrips (thus making standard car rentals expensive), I can see how long range would be important. But as soon as you have two cars, the range anxiety goes away (in my own mind at least).

      • David September 13, 2012, 8:21 am

        Nice to see an article on EV’s at MMM! I work at a company that makes EV-fast charging stations. These chargers charge at 50kW, which fills up your car to about 80% State of Charge in 15-20 minutes. So far for range anxiety. Experiments years back in Tokyo showed that the placement of only two of these units increased the amount of vehicle movements about a hundred-fold, while the stations were not used that often. The effect is primarily psychological.

        Having a couple of them in the area you wish to travel in makes even longer roadtrips possible. A couple of colleagues of mine managed to drive about a 1000 miles in 24h using these kinds of stations. Unfortunately the US doesn’t have a lot of these stations yet, but the demand for them is rising.

        Our office has a pool of seven Nissan Leafs, I use one every now and then, and I believe you forgot one major argument in your article: these babies are FUN TO DRIVE! Very quiet, kick-ass accelleration (electric motors can deliver maximum torque at 0rpm) and just as comfortable as any other vehicle. We also used to have an iMiev, but I really liked the Leaf more.

        • Mike September 13, 2012, 10:00 am

          Dave, I’m all for electric cars, but as the owner of a car that I autocross regularly that also runs 12s in the quarter mile, I and other gear heads laugh that a Leaf accelerates well. A quick internet search shows the leaf running a 17.8 ET, which is downright pathetic in the sports car world.

          I’m all for EVs being popular, but don’t call them something they aren’t.

          • Mr. Money Mustache September 13, 2012, 1:29 pm

            Oh relax, fellow gearhead.

            This is an article about transportation, not racing. If you want to compare apples to apples, look at the Eliminator V electric drag racer (quarter mile in 7.956 @ 159.85 MPH). Or the Killacycle electric motorbike, which is faster.

            But in reality, even the slowest car on the US market is still ridiculously fast and overpowered. And the Leaf is much faster than that. Our transportation life here is very cushy.

            People just need a car that can get to 75MPH eventually for those rare times they go to different cities, and even more they need a bike that can go 20MPH for at least an hour without getting overly tired.

            • Mike G September 13, 2012, 2:52 pm

              Mr Money Mustache, I agree it’s about transportation, but if someone tells me my econobox (I don’t drive the toy to work unless necessary) is fun, I shake my head. Most vehicles are built with 1 or 2 purposes. What’s fun for you might not be fun for me and vice versa.

              This article IS about cars, and trying to sell a car that is at the bottom or close to the bottom of the performance heap isn’t a plus for performance minded people. That was merely my point.

              I do agree we have it quite good.

              A lot of the EV modifiers seem to go for extending range and adding features, which is just a different subset of gearhead culture. That’s just as cool as going fast.

          • JC September 13, 2012, 2:32 pm

            Mike, I don’t think most people are tracking their EVs. The Leaf has great acceleration in the low end (as do most EVs by definition). 0-60 in 7 seconds is not mind-blowing, but because it has so much low-end torque it feels faster than it is. They are quite fun to drive, but certainly not comparable to a 12s racer (most Ferraris are at or above 12s in the 1/4). Props to your incredibly quick car, but most of us have fun with a little less.

            • Mike G September 13, 2012, 2:56 pm

              If you’re comparing it to a Ford Festiva, sure, it would be a blast to drive I can imagine. If you’re comparing it to my 92 dodge caravan I had in high school, I don’t know, I had a lot of fun driving that. I could spin one of the tires if I tried hard enough.

              I’m not knocking your fun. I am merely saying it isn’t a feature and shouldn’t be construed as one to other people not in the know.

          • Jamesqf September 13, 2012, 10:27 pm

            If the Leaf’s not quick enough for you, buy a Tesla :-)

            • Matt September 14, 2012, 4:17 am

              This is where I think hybrids (yes I know I’m going on about hybrids AGAIN) come into their own. With an electric motor on board you CAN have the best of both worlds. KERS in an F1 car is used to give a power boost, but there’s nothing to stop an electric motor or KERS unit being used for economy and/or/as well as additional power when you want it (push to overtake?).
              And this is where Porsche and Ferrari are going now, so hopefully it’ll filter down to more affordable sports cars soon enough. My hobby is cars so I’m looking forward to scrapping the diesel and being able to afford to run a quick car again.

          • David September 14, 2012, 9:09 am

            Of course, compared to a Porsche or Ferrari it’s nothing. But for its segment, it does pretty well.

            • Matt September 17, 2012, 4:23 am

              For ordinary mortals, there’s always the Honda CRZ as well. They claim it’s their “sporty” hybrid, although for me personally it needs a few more horses.

      • Alex September 13, 2012, 8:30 am

        About range anxiety, I’d just like to add that eventually, there will be a network of quickcharge stations available, hopefully just as plentifully as the current gas station network.

        These stations can charge up 80-90% of your battery in 25-30 minutes.
        So instead of a 10 minutes gas stop, calculate a half hour charge coffee food stop? Plus extra route planning for the stops.

        We just need to support the tech enough to give them incentive to set these up as soon as possible.

        • Matt September 13, 2012, 10:31 am

          Renault have gone electric over here, and they’re setting up “swap” stations, so it’s even quicker. You drive in, swap over and drive out again, so you don’t even have to wait 15/20 mins. In Spain, some city bus fleets are now all electric, and they have charging “pads” at stops, so the battery get stopped up every time they stop.
          This is all great of course, but I still haven’t seen ANY of this personally, (and I’m car mad, so I’d definitely spot it). I still think hybrids are the best option for now.

          • JYves September 14, 2012, 1:17 am

            Hello Matt,
            Where is “over here”. In Europe ? I am in France and I haven’t really seen any of this. I’ll be interested.

            • Matt September 14, 2012, 1:51 am

              I believe they’re rolling it out this year – http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/concept-cars/battery-swap-electric-renaults
              I live in the NW of the UK, so we won’t see it outside of the M25 for a while yet I guess.
              Did you know Renault had stopped selling the Laguna here? Apparently sales are so low, they even considered withdrawing the clio too! They’re concentrating a lot more on EV’s at the moment.

            • JYves September 14, 2012, 3:07 am

              Tks for the article, but I am a bit like Saint Thomas, i believe what I see. Renault is doing not too bad here, tks to Dacia and the Logan, which is quite a very Mustachian car. Peugeot is doing very badly on the contrary. They are talking about an hybrid with Diesel to come very soon. But now that Diesel engine are officially cancerogenous, i don’t know what will happen.
              Another question if I may : do you know if adding vegetable oil to an old 205 (1991) Peugeot be safe for the engine ?

            • Matt September 14, 2012, 4:26 am

              I can’t comment on a peugeot 205 as I’ve not had one. I researched the whole veg oil thing when I had a 95 clio. Some German injection pumps (like Bosch) will handle it, and the Clio had one of those. It also had a fuel heater incorporated in the fuel line as standard too for some reason (colder climates?). So that’s where I’d start.
              Have a look under the bonnet, identify the type and make of the relevant parts, for 2 reasons:
              1. You can google some veg oil motoring sites and make an informed decision on whether the car will be OK. I’d start with a very low oil/diesel mix and see how you go
              2. It’s good to have an idea of what parts may be affected, so if they break, you’ll know how much they are, where to get them, and how easy they are to fit. After all, this whole veg oil thing is all done by amateurs.

    • jDeppen September 14, 2012, 6:32 am

      I was thinking I could probably swap with a family member. They would save a ton on gas and I wouldn’t have to pay for a rental.

  • David William Edwards September 13, 2012, 6:49 am

    The Volt has already been cancelled – they were simply loosing too much money per vehicle.

    I think in order for there to be wider acceptance, the definition much change. I see much more happening along the lines of single-occupant commuter cars instead of trying to replace the family sedan. The hobbyists are already starting to make this happen and you’ll start to see a huge cottage industry ala custom choppers.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 13, 2012, 10:04 am

      David – I looked up your claim regarding Volt cancellation, and I could not find confirmation. They have had slow sales at times and paused the production lines several times. But it’s a brand-new car that took a billion dollars to develop and I’d expect they have a longer time horizon than that to test the market.

      Money loss per vehicle is an accounting exercise and that $49k is utter bullshit amortizing the full development cost across the few cars produced so far. If you just look at marginal cost to produce each extra Volt, Bob Lutz is on record for saying it is either breakeven or gross margin positive, even at this infancy stage of a new vehicle: http://evworld.com/news.cfm?newsid=28697

      I do like the hobby EV market as well. I’m researching parts right now to do a high-speed Money Mustache Electric Bike conversion, so I can write about it on this blog. Stay tuned!

      • Jamesqf September 13, 2012, 12:33 pm

        It’d be interesting to see how much money Toyota “lost” on the Prius in each of its first few years, and how that compares to today, with around 3 million units sold.

        I’d also note that it’s kind of strange how, despite all that lost money spent on developing the Prius, Toyota wasn’t the company that needed to be bailed out by the US (or Japanese) taxpayer.

  • FinanceViking September 13, 2012, 6:49 am

    The Miev looks like a great car for short commutes. Electric car technology should improve over the next decade. For now, the drawbacks you mentioned are keeping people from buying them. They have also not been terribly lucrative for car companies. GM has released dismal numbers on the Volt this year. They lose money with every sale.

  • jlcollinsnh September 13, 2012, 7:03 am


    sounds like we’ll be reading about your new Mitsubishi Miev shortly, Mr. MM. Unless of course you spring for that Tesla you’ve been lusting after. :)

    I have a pal I ride motorbikes with who just picked up a Leaf as his second car, joining his Honda Element.

    He already has solar panels on his house and he bought and installed a charging system for the car.

    It is a beautiful little thing, about the size of a Civic, and he and his wife love it.

    Still, my solution to the 2nd car issue is still more efficient: We don’t have one.
    With a little scheduling effort and the occasional inconvenience, one has worked fine. Even for those years of high school and summers now with our daughter driving too.

    I’m surprised the Volt hasn’t done better in the market. Seems it neatly solves the range worry, while functioning mostly as an electric since studies show most folks drive less than 35 miles a day. No renting, car-sharing, borrowing, or owning a fuel-efficient second car for your longer trips needed.

    I guess 39k is just too high a price.

    • Matt September 13, 2012, 7:08 am

      Yeah, am a bit concerned about the Volt (or Ampera as it is over here). Apparently it does 900 miles on a tank, I already get 700…

  • Matt September 13, 2012, 7:03 am

    Hmm. Not convinced. And why are hybrids always petrol? Surely if you want maximum range AND max mpg, the engine should be a turbodiesel??
    My 12 yr old Renault TD does 55mpg (because I drive it gently and fitted energy saving tyres all round). Plus during the summer, I run it on a 33/66 mix of veg oil and diesel. (Veg oil is £1/litre which saves me about £0.42 at the moment, and used is often free, saving me £1.42 for each litre). Potentially, my running costs for fuel are 10.7p/mile if I pay for the veg oil. I blogged about it on my personal blog here: https://inthemetal.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/veg-oil-update/
    Will I be looking at them used in a few years time? Depends. Turbodiesels are getting so good now, new ones are getting the same sort of mpg as the prius and insight

    • Wrecked September 13, 2012, 9:39 pm

      I have always wondered the same thing. If the aim is to maximize efficiency, why doesn’t anyone make a diesel hybrid?

      • cptacek September 15, 2012, 12:40 am

        Because hipsters think diesels are dirty.

    • Diego October 4, 2014, 4:59 am

      You see, diesel comes from petrol too… (Unless you use 100% veg oil). I understand your point, though, but most hybrid cars use Atkinson cycle engines instead of Otto cycle, wich makes them way more fuel efficient at the cost of less power per displacement. I guess they use this as a trade-off between the inefficent but lighter Otto engines and the heavier Diesel engines, since an electric power plant already increases the weight of the car a lot, but I’m no expert.

    • Diego October 4, 2014, 2:46 pm

      I replyed elsewhere in this comment section about that, but keep in mind I’m no specialist.
      The disavantages of hybrids are the added weight and cost of having two power plants. If you were to use a Diesel engine, it would become HEAVIER adn MORE EXPANSIVE than it already is. Moreover, Hybrid cars gas engines use a diferent kind of thermal cycle called Aktinson Cycle, that makes them more fuel efficient at the cost of power density (that means a regular Otto cycle engine with tha same displacement will be more powerfull).
      I guess hybrids trully shine in big cities full of traffic jams, because even if the diesel car has a start/stop system, every time you hit the brakes (you will do that a lot on a jam) you waste all your energy, whereas the hybrid or electric car regenerates a good chunk of it. At slow speeds hybrids behave more or less like a fully electric vehicle. If it makes them a better choice over Turbodiesel is another story tough.

  • Scott September 13, 2012, 7:07 am

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/170315130/boosted-boards-the-worlds-lightest-electric-vehicl is 2.6 hp electric longboard; wireless remote, regnerative braking, ~6 mile range….

  • Andrew September 13, 2012, 7:38 am

    I have to say, I’m really geek-lusting over the Lit Motors untippable electric motorcycle being developed right now: http://techcrunch.com/2012/09/10/lit-motors-will-shake-up-the-electric-vehicle-market-with-its-two-wheeled-untippable-c-1/

    Not that I’d buy it before it is $10k at the most…

  • Dillon September 13, 2012, 7:42 am

    “So if you’re getting an electric car because you don’t like the idea of burning gas, you might as well go the whole route and use non-fossil-fuel electricity to charge it.”

    Well that’s the key isn’t it? I would love it if it was normal for each house or apartment building to have its own solar farm (or geo-thermal or wind farm, whatever) with the sole purpose of fueling electric-only cars. However, this is not reality and the cheapest car in the list is 27,000. Used electric car market you say? Is that a near oxymoron? Unless there is some large anti-mustachian movement out there that is just fascinated with new technology and blowing through all the latest and greatest electric cars, I would imagine there is severe selection bias in who would be purchasing these pure electric vehicles and would hold onto them for a long time to realize the cost benefits (since environmental benefits were already realized much, much earlier). Who am I kidding, I’m sure this will exist in consumerist America, just it doesn’t as of right now. So for hopefully the near future only, I will drive my petrol vehicle when I need to drive.

    Side note: I’m just going to ignore the power plant efficiency stuff and especially the sentence “When you factor……all you have to know is that the electric car does fine in this area.” for now since it is moot if everyone has their own solar power farm at home anyway. :)

    • Matt September 13, 2012, 7:59 am

      There’s always hybrids. I’ve seen quite a few around lately, (I do work next door to a toyota dealership though!!).
      What would be great is if the advances in battery tech Mr MMM is talking about can be retro fitted, then your hybrid would get more efficient with age…

      • Mr. Money Mustache September 13, 2012, 10:32 am

        Funny you should mention that, Matt..

        The same EV friend I mentioned in the article also helped to found a local company that upgrades existing Priuses (especially 2004-2009) to have a highly useful plug in electric-only mode that can go up to 20 miles on EV mode, and dramatically boosts your fuel efficiency even if you are in gas mode. The cost is much less than a new electric car, or even a newish Prius, especially since the Colorado green car incentive currently picks up much of the tab:

        Boulder Hybrid Conversions : http://www.boulderhc.com/

        • Matt September 14, 2012, 1:36 am

          That is such a brilliant but simple idea. I was going to say why haven’t Toyota done this, but it turns out they now do with the latest model.

        • Christine Wilson September 14, 2012, 10:06 am

          Why especially 2004-2009 Priuses? You even mention that it is a good car to buy between that year range. Does a 2001 Prius have problems? I’m looking for a cheaper second car which needs to go a bit of distance.. so I was looking at a 2001 at about $4,200. Any problems with this?

          • Mr. Money Mustache September 14, 2012, 1:16 pm

            Hi Christine! The 2001 is apparently still a good commuter car, but I think the smaller electric motor (and battery compartment) gave it a lower limit to its electric-only speed.

            So from the context of an aftermarket EV upgrade, it’s not as much of a home run as the 2004. Still a great choice for gas-only commuting though.

            In Canada where you live, diesels are especially attractive too, because mileage is higher AND the fuel is cheaper. In the US, diesel can be as much as 20% more, wiping out half of the savings.

            But with few reliable low-cost diesels on the US/CA market so far (Volkswagens being expensive to buy new, and more maintenance intensive when old), they are not yet a great choice for everyone as they are in Europe.

  • W at Off-Road Finance September 13, 2012, 7:50 am

    I think the biggest issue with these is still range anxiety and the energy cost of manufacture. That $6800 battery pack cost is largely energy used in manufacture. So you have to save a similar amount of dollars in gas to break even.

    Right now I think a Passat or Golf TDI or similar car still has a somewhat smaller energy footprint to 150K miles. I could see that crossing over in the next 10 years though.

  • lilacorchid September 13, 2012, 8:03 am

    I think these cars are pretty neat, but I worry about how much amperage they need to charge. Most houses in my older part of the city have 60 Amp services, not even enough to have an electric furnace. And even if you upgraded your service, if all your neighbours did too, you’re going to have problems at the transformer or substation (or at the very least brownouts) if everyone in the neighbourhood plugged in their cars. And sure, you could do solar, but again, it takes quite a bit to run a whole house (I live in the north), never mind cooking or heating.

    So coming from a power system management point of view, these things are trouble in the same way buying an old house and needing to upgrade the wiring. On the plus side, some smart power companies have started to look at these cars and at least therorize what would happen if they become popular.

    • cdub September 13, 2012, 9:48 am

      One thing that will mitigate this to some degree is that a lot of people will be charging after work which is past the time where peak power is used.As it is, power plants largely waste most of the energy they produce in the evenings as the demand is so much lower.

      • Lilacorchid September 13, 2012, 12:15 pm

        I disagree, at least where I live. Peak power is in the morning tapers a bit and levels during the day, and then rises again when everyone comes home and starts cooking dinner, watching tv, turning on lights, etc. It tapers down as the evening progresses, until around 6 am, when it starts rising again. Regardless, if everyone had an electric car, it would put a strain on the system as we have it set up. And in the end, depending on how much these cars draw, the new peak time may very well become after work when everyone plugs their car in!

        I’m not saying the cars are good or bad, just that if they do take off, there will be some adjustments in other sectors too. At present, you could not start mass producing these cars and giving them to everyone and expect the grid to cope.

        • JR September 13, 2012, 1:48 pm

          I think you underestimate how much energy is used by industrial and commercial buildings throughout the day. We have 5 plants in a 10 mile radius and each plant’s electric bill averages $100,000 per month. They run 24 hour shifts but the day shift uses much more energy than the evening shifts.

          • Lilacorchid September 13, 2012, 7:57 pm

            Actually, I work for the power company and see the tapes this stuff is recorded on. Different lines supply different parts of the grid, so the plant up the street probably has its own service, separate from the houses nearby. I was talking about peak residential use, which is probably going to be more important to the owner of the electric car, unless business owners are going to let their employees charge at work. (And I doubt that. Even here in Canada where you have to plug in your car in the winter to keep it warm, most large companies put a timer on the employee’s plugs to keep the cost down, while still allowing the car to start.)

            Residential areas don’t have the same type of service as industrial areas. I wasn’t saying that there isn’t enough generation available, I was saying that there isn’t enough capacity on the lines themselves in residential areas to charge everyone’s car at the same time especially in older areas.

        • marven September 13, 2012, 10:33 pm

          Definitely a valid concern because the American electric grid is in shambles. I went to a regional transportation planning meeting a couple months back and electrics were mentioned for some reason or another. In the discussion that ensued, it came out that basically, several cities were having major problems when as for as 2-3 people on the same block got an electric car. Transformers were blowing, blackouts are occurring, and generally the grid just won’t tolerate much more than 2 cars.

          • cptacek September 15, 2012, 12:43 am

            Wow, I haven’t heard that before. Thanks for the info.

  • Eric Hansen September 13, 2012, 8:14 am

    Hey MMM

    I was waiting for you to address electric cars. The concept is very mustachian, but the current market is not. I believe the people that can benefit the most from electric vehicles, are the least able to afford one. It’s going to take a long time for a used market to emerge. For awhile, Chevy was blowing out Volts on $200-250/mo leases to get them off the lot. I’ve read that the true cost of a Volt is $89k. I hope they don’t get discouraged and dump the line. Of course there’s plenty of people lining up on the other side hoping exactly that.

    I believe this country needs a national retrofit movement. Parts are available in various places to turn your current gas car into electric. But it’s still very fringe. There are options to replace your engine with a motor, or even to place motors inside your wheels. I like these guys in Utah:


    Their new lithium kit is really cool, and way faster than the original gas engine. I would buy a VW Beetle EV before buying one of the newer EVs purely from a cost standpoint. Plus, a 70s Beetle EV is just cooler.

    I don’t know if it’s because I live in the cold mountains (block heaters), but every house and every business I work with has outdoor AC outlets. It would be very easy for me to park my car at a business or friends house, and plug right in. People freak about not getting enough range. Well, if your car is sitting at your office for 8 hours a day charging, then you’re doubling your range. Yes 110v charges slower than those big optimized 220v chargers for your garage, but if it’s sitting at your office all day, it doesn’t matter.

    I think once these concepts take hold, people will come around. But we need the affordability of the used market. Since there isn’t a used market, something similar needs to be created.

  • RichUncle EL September 13, 2012, 8:27 am

    Thanks for the price per mile break down and chart. I am excited to see how much better EV’s will get in the future. My commute is about 65 miles a day, so it will be better to get something with a 120 mile range, as to help me remain calm and have a buffer for other errands.

  • Mr. Everyday Dollar September 13, 2012, 8:34 am

    It’s awesome that electric cars do not need the same service that would accompany a combustion engine. In fact, it is one of the reasons the GM EV1 got killed as pointed out in the movie Who Killed The Electric Car. Servicing cars with combustion engines and their 100’s of moving parts is big business! Servicing an electric car with 5 moving parts is not.

    I am planning on purchasing a 100% electric vehicle as a replacement for my current vehicle. But, I am going to wait until there is a sufficient used market and the more time I wait the better and cheaper the technology/electric cars will get. I am figuring in about 10 years electric cars will be much more widespread therefore creating a decent used market where they will be as cheap as a conventional combustion car.

  • Josh Tolle September 13, 2012, 8:59 am

    Terrific post! The range issue has always worried me with electrics since I have always had regular 60-150 mile drives on weekends (to visit family and friends), but I LOVE the idea of it and would jump at an electric vehicle if I didn’t have regular long drives in my life.

    On another note, have you ever looked at diesel vehicles and alternative fuels for them? I recently ran across this (http://www.dieselsecret.com/index.html), and it piqued my curiosity, but I worry that it’s snake oil. (I studied a bit about biofuel years ago, but shrugged it off since it was more involved than I wanted to get at the time.) However, I love diesel engines for their longevity (at 500k miles it is just getting broken in, which seems very Mustachian), so I continue to daydream about them from time to time.

    • Matt September 14, 2012, 1:45 am

      The main problem with burning veg oil in your diesel car is the stuff is much thicker than ordinary diesel fuel. This puts extra strain on the fuel injection pump and can clog the injectors. The stuff you mentioned is simply a solvent that thins it out.

  • Chris September 13, 2012, 9:14 am

    I’m excited about the electric car technology, however, I’m waiting for them to start hitting the used market before I partake. Until then, I’m sold on a used/salvaged 07 Prius (with a hitch and cargo carrier) and just picked up a 2003 Jetta TDI.

    Prius-48 mpg
    TDI-42-45 mpg (I’m expecting, still burning the first tank of diesel)

    The ultimate for me right now will be the success of my Biodiesel (B100) project. Just processed the second batch in my garage with plans to switch over to B100 in my TDI as my commuter car. If I’m successful, the first tank will cost me 2.37/gal (not buying chemicals in bulk). If I find success and buy my chemicals in bulk, I should be able to get down to 1.XX/gal range.

    In reference to range anxiety, the only thing Americans’ truly fear is a lack of convenience.

    • Bella September 13, 2012, 9:45 am

      The only thing American’s truly fear is a lack of convenience.
      Wow – I don’t think truer words were ever spoken. and the reply ‘ we need convenience because we spend so much of our time WORKING’
      is short on it’s heels.

  • Gina W. September 13, 2012, 9:19 am

    I don’t want to be the neigh sayer or sound like the whiny ass pants. Just want to see if anyone can comment on this?

    “interested in enjoying a high-tech luxury toy with minimal environmental guilt, this is an ideal candidate” – So, have you considered that the elements being mined to make lithium batteries are limited and the mining for them is pretty harsh? Does that sway you at all?

    Also, Mr. MM, I work in CO for a transmission and dist. company. The amount of renewable energy that a utility provides has been mandated by the government and has been pretty stagnant in the last year. A few years ago it seems that new wind/solar farms were connecting on the system all the time… not so much anymore. Seems we’ve either hit the required amount and stopped or the financial gain from creating these farms isn’t what it was cracked up to be. Either way, regardless of whether you pay and extra 2 cents per kW, that energy is there… and there’s no way to direct wind only power to your cozy little house. If it makes you feel better, pay away. :)

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 13, 2012, 9:55 am

      Hi Gina:

      Regarding elements and batteries: you are right, buying almost anything causes important bits of the Earth to be used up. On the other hand, I’ve read an analysis that the carbon footprint of a Prius or EV still ends up smaller because of the thousands of gallons of fuel that are saved over its lifetime.

      Even more important than this, is the point I made about advancing a new industry. SOMEBODY has to buy the first expensive electric cars, so they can eventually become cheap and mainstream, with smaller eco-footprints than the ones today. So, you view the purchase not just in the context of your individual car, but in the effect it will have for future travelers.

      Re: renewable energy – in my area, the utilities are required to add new supply to match any amount of new subscribers who check the box. It’s not just fake as you imply. Your situation would only occur if there were a shortage of subscribers to meet a mandate on minimum renewable energy target. Which there might be – most people don’t realize that they can and should buy renewable energy through their power company, which is one of the reasons I’m writing about it here.

      • Noel September 13, 2012, 10:04 am

        Apparently Xcel got in trouble with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission for overselling its Windsource program a few years ago and have since been required to buy credits to meet the extra demand.

      • jet September 14, 2012, 1:17 am

        “in my area, the utilities are required to add new supply to match any amount of new subscribers who check the box. ”

        That is so cool. I know it is not the case here (Western Australia), and I’ve always maintained that ‘green energy’ is a hoax because they are not adding to the renewables in response to how many people tick the box.

    • Andrew September 13, 2012, 10:04 am

      > So, have you considered that the elements being mined to make lithium batteries are limited and the mining for them is pretty harsh?

      The key is that lithium batteries are recyclable at the end of their useful life… it’s not like fossil fuels that get burned up.

    • Jamesqf September 13, 2012, 12:53 pm

      Lithium is in fact fairly common and easily mined. It (and the other elements used in the batteries) are also easily recycled. So say your battery weighs 1000 pounds, and lasts 100,000 miles. To drive a gasoline-powered car getting 25 mpg the same distance requires 4000 gallons of gas, which weighs around 6.25 lbs/gal. That means 25,000 lbs of gasoline… But a gallon of crude oil only yields 20-35% gasoline, so that means 75,000 lbs of crude oil have to be “mined” to replace that 1000 lbs of lithium &c.

      Then you can get into all the other stuff that has to be mined to e.g. build oil tankers & pipelines, and move the oil around…

      • Dillon September 13, 2012, 1:23 pm

        Alright sweet, save 75000 pounds worth of crude oil from being “mined” for just 1000 pounds of lithium!

        However, are you assuming that 1000 lbs of ready-to-be-used-in-a-battery lithium comes from exactly 1000 lbs of lithium ore? Is it readily available? I have no knowledge on the terrestrial extraction of lithium and am curious. If I remember from chemistry, I’m pretty sure lithium doesn’t just exist in its elemental state naturally. Due to its highly reactive nature it is found in compounds I would guess. Are some compounds just chock full of lithium that the ratio of battery grade lithium : lithium ore compared to gasoline: crude oil is still far in lithium’s favor? I hope so but like I said, I know nothing about the mining process of it. The recycling factor is still cool either way I guess.

        • Jamesqf September 13, 2012, 10:40 pm

          Most of the new lithium deposits seem to be brines pumped from under dry lake beds, so there’s not much actual mining involved.

      • ForuMMM August 19, 2014, 5:20 pm

        The Leaf battery is about 600 pounds and only a few percent of that weight is lithium. Partly because lithium is such a light element (one big reason why it’s used in EV batteries). A lot of the weight is stuff like steel to case the batteries, wires, anodes, cathodes, etc.

  • Jarvis September 13, 2012, 9:20 am

    I’ve always loved electric cars. I still dream of doing an electric car conversion once I’m free from full-time employment. Something like this: http://www.e-volks.com/about.html

  • Eric September 13, 2012, 9:23 am

    Of course, when I think of electric cars, my mustachian guilt takes over – well if the electric range is so little, then I should just bike and save the money.

  • Noel September 13, 2012, 9:29 am

    Mustache, I hear you. Way cool cars. Someday for me. In the mean I would like to recommend a book I got from the library that talks a lot about innovation in vehicles (among other things) and what it will take to really electrify our transportation and how it’s actually less expensive than doing things the way we do now. Anyway, the book is called Reinventing Fire. I’d be interested to hear what you think about it.

  • kaeldra September 13, 2012, 9:37 am

    If we’re talking badassity, my rockin’ sister converted a gas car (Volkswagon Rabbit Truck) to electric a few years ago and documented it on a blog: http://sveltrongoeselectric.blogspot.com/ Lots of photos, a cost breakdown (not entirely sure that includes everything, I think she had to buy a new engine later), and links to how-to references.

    While I am very impressed by her skills and the end product is a totally cool Giants-mobile (she lives in the SF Bay Area), it sounded like a hideous, frustrating project that took twice as long as expected and cost more than anticipated. My sister, dad, and mom, who are all very DIY / handy, spent two years laboring on this beast and made uncountable trips to Pick n’ Pull. That said, I think a lot of the issues were with the car body she picked to convert, so if you picked one in better shape it probably wouldn’t be such a pain…

    Worst of all, it doesn’t perform as well as all the instructional websites and forums they read said it should. The range is half of what the forums said, top speed is lower than anticipated, and the power is very weak (my sister thinks that maybe she got too small an engine). She had wanted it to be a commuter car from Marin into San Francisco, but it can’t make it up the hill into the city, and would need a charge before coming back.

  • Russell September 13, 2012, 9:48 am

    I disagree that battery technology is following Moore’s law. Although batteries are getting cheaper, I think it is mostly manufacturing efficiency, rather than advances in the technology. There are some fundamental scientific issues, rather than just engineering challenges. A good source of battery information is http://thisweekinbatteries.blogspot.com/ It’s written by a battery scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Unfortunately, it’s not still being updated, but there are lots of good archive articles.

    On another note, here is a hypermiler’s very positive review of the Leaf: http://www.cleanmpg.com/forums/showthread.php?t=44945

  • Trevor September 13, 2012, 9:57 am

    Thanks for the post, really exciting technology out there.

    Just wanted to suggest a couple of related links for your Canadian readers.

    If you’re interested in having clean energy at your home or business check out:


    Definitely not as cheap as MMM but worth the extra $15/month I pay at my house to clear my conscience.

    In Ontario, if you’d like to generate your own power, you can sell it to the grid at a profit using this program:


    Lastly, I’ve posted this link before but is relevant here since Canada’s Greenest Home has a post about building homes that are future ready. It has a built in charging station! (scroll down the blog to where it’s labelled Electric Vehicle Future) Again, what’s more Mustachian than generating your own power, collecting your own water, and treating your own waste? Impressive!


  • Tyler Karaszewski September 13, 2012, 10:00 am

    I leased a Chevy Volt earlier this summer (just a few weeks before I became acquainted with this site and jumped on the Mustachian bandwagon, actually). I did get a fairly good deal on it, my lease payment is $237/month for 24 months, and my employer actually pays me an extra $250/month to drive it, so that really brings the cost down for me. I did have to put $5000 down (including tax, title, and such) upfront, though.

    These cars are a better deal economically the more you drive, because the upfront cost is quite high, but the cost per mile is quite low. I currently drive a lot (my office is 52 miles away, I drive in three days each week), but I plan on cutting this down as much as possible in the near future. Hopefully by the time the lease on the Volt expires I wont have to be in the office more than one day per week (if I can’t make that happen, there’s a good chance I’ll be looking for a closer office).

    As it stands now, with the large amount of commuting I do and the employer subsidy, getting an electric car was a pretty decent financial decision, I think. What I’m not sure about is what I’ll do when the lease on the Volt expires. If I really am only going in one day per week, the Volt loses a lot of its appeal, since I’m driving so much less. It might make more sense at that point to buy a used Chevy Cruze for half the price or less than buying out the lease on the Volt.

    I do love the Volt, though. It’s a great car. I can do the 104 mile round trip to the office and back on almost no gas. My record for a one-way trip is 0.07 gallons of gas. I want to figure out a hypermiling technique that will let me get all the way there on electricity. Also, the Volt’s 38 mile range is an under-rating. I routinely get 46-48 miles on a charge. I hear about people getting roughly 75 miles out of their Leafs, so the range gap between the two cars isn’t nearly as big as you might think. And the Volt overall is just a quiet, comfortable, pleasant car to drive in. I really would like to keep it when the lease expires, but the buyout cost will still be about $28k.

    • da55id September 13, 2012, 1:52 pm

      We are also easily achieving 45 all electric miles per charge in our Volt. We have a 240 Volt charger, so we can get 2.5 – 3 full charges a day. No gas is a gasss!

  • James Kiffmeyer September 13, 2012, 10:18 am

    I would love a small electric vehicle to drive to work. My hospital provides outlets in the parking lot, so I could just leave it plugged in all day at work and then not plug it in at home. But the entry price is just way too high right now, I’ll have to wait until I can get something used. I’m hoping the used market will start providing some decent deals in a couple years.

  • Colin September 13, 2012, 10:33 am

    I’d be willing to bet that in 20 years EV and hybrids will be >50% of the market, but until condo and apartment buildings start installing charging stations in their parking lots/garages this technology seems unattainable for most renters and condo owners. That is a huge market that simply cannot buy one (yet).

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 13, 2012, 10:54 am

      Good point Colin – I remember reading one New York Times reporter’s evaluation of the Leaf, and he had to string a long extension cord down from his 3rd floor apartment, to his outdoor parking space. I would have done the same thing.

      Then again, many of the biggest US drivers who would benefit from cheap-per-mile transportation, live in suburbs and have houses. City folk can use their bikes or feet.

      In the long run, I still maintain that the real solution is living close to work. Until you have enough control of your career to work from home, retire, or decide where your OWN corporate headquarters will be.

      For example, I’ve recently moved the MMM World Headquarters to a large East-facing window in my daylight basement, because the morning sun is lovely at this time of year :-)

      • Jamesqf September 13, 2012, 1:01 pm

        For me, the range problem is just the other way around. Work is at home, and driving is done to get to all the different places I want to play. Unusual now, but I think it will become a lot more common in a post-urban future.

      • Colin September 17, 2012, 11:56 am

        good point – renter’s in big cities often have no need for a car.

  • Michael Langford September 13, 2012, 10:48 am

    I think a much more Mustachian car would be a used prius converted to a plug in:

    http://www.toyota.com/prius-plug-in/ for the new model

    http://www.pluginsupply.com/products/ for those looking to convert a used one (a better value)

  • Steven Kern September 13, 2012, 11:33 am

    I love the sales pitch in the volt video. “You will feel the torque throwing you back into the seat as you accelerate forward”. Wouldn’t it be more fun to feel the torque of your crankset as you fight to overcome natural forces and propel yourself up to speed?

  • Heath September 13, 2012, 12:06 pm

    It always blows my mind how many comments you get (and so quickly!) when you write a post about cars. It appears to be the Mustashian Community’s favorite subject :-)

    I haven’t owned a car in the past few years (living in Brazil, and using public transportation, taxis, or just walking), so they don’t really apply too well to me yet. However I AM planning on picking one up when I get back to Phoenix, as the city is so darn spread out that I’m sure it will be necessary… in conjunction with a bike, of course!

  • Jason September 13, 2012, 12:24 pm

    Check out http://www.arcimoto.com. Last I heard, they’re aiming to enter the market at under $17k.

    • Walt September 14, 2012, 8:09 pm

      But that’s kind of expensive for a motorcycle.

      The reason so many of these tiny cars have three wheels is so they’re considered motorcycles.

      Why do they want to be considered motorcycles? Because motorcycles don’t have all the safety requirements that cars do.

  • Tim Stobbs September 13, 2012, 1:40 pm

    Oh too damn funny. You put up this post the same day I put up mine about buying a Camry Hybrid last weekend.


    I also have a problem with the range of EV as we do tend to road trips which exceed the range of EV. It’s not worth keeping a second car for those trips as I checked out the insurance costs.

    So we went to the hybrid, it’s a bit of luxury item, but I’m ok with that. The savings at the pump is just extra for me.


  • TrekMan September 13, 2012, 1:59 pm

    There were these off name companies that were making electric cars. I was watching a bid on ebay for a think city electric car. This was a 2011 that had only 6500 miles on it that sold for 12,600. At that price the pay off time vs my 2001 Chevy Malibu would have been pretty quick.



    I ultimately didn’t bid because I found it on the last day and didn’t have time to do enough research.

  • Gus September 13, 2012, 2:21 pm

    Hi MMM,

    I used the numbers that you have provided in the table above and those from your “True cost of commuting” article to compare the cost of running an electric vehicle versus a gas vehicle.

    I used the Ford Focus as a comparison because it was the easiest given that there is a direct Gas equivalent. About $28K for the EV and about $22K for the gas equivalent (I pulled the gas equivalent price out of thin air based on comparables in Canada. I could be off).

    What I found out is that, based on your cost of 12.2 cents/mile for the EV (battery + electricity) and 11.5 cents/mile for the gas equivalent (fuel @ 35MPG + oil + maintenance as per your other article), the EV is NEVER cheaper than the regular version. If you consider that the EV has a sticker price $5,000-10,000 higher than the regular(including the incentives), this makes it a pretty bad deal.

    Even if we triple the non gas related expenses for the regular car (4.5 instead of 1.5 cents/mile as described in the “True cost of commuting” article), giving a total cost of 14.5 cents per mile, you need to drive 261 000 miles just to break even with regards to the purchase price!!! That is enough to circle the earth 10 times! At an average of 15 000 miles per year (highly non mustachian), it takes 17.4 years to break even.

    Even without considering all the limitations of an EV, the higher initial price is killing the possibility of having a “frugal” EV.

    Maybe in a couple years when the used car market starts offering them would be a better time to get in.

    Thanks for the informative article!

    • Karawynn @ Pocketmint September 13, 2012, 7:29 pm

      FWIW, Consumer Reports says that the Leaf is better enough than the Miev to warrant the price difference. That’s partly due to the ~15-mile difference in range (which like MMM I care less about) but also a larger interior and more comfortable ride. YMMV (literally!)

      We had to replace our car rather abruptly (ouch) almost two years ago. We both desperately wanted to buy electric, but couldn’t make the math even come close to breaking even.

      Ended up replacing our totalled 1999 Civic with a 1999 Prizm. With around 30mpg city and low maintenance costs, it was vastly more economical for our circumstances than any hybrid or electric car.

      Anyway, MMM, thanks for posting about cars despite your preference for bikes. My bad knee makes bike-riding physically impossible (and puts limits on my walking), so a powered vehicle is an actual necessity for me.

      I still hope that when we next need to replace our car an electric model will be economically viable.

  • Meggie September 13, 2012, 2:30 pm

    I drove one of those Mitsubishi Miev cars a few years ago. We had one at an old job for a few months, before it was even on the US market(steering wheel on the opposite side and everything). I was surprised that despite its silly look, how smooth the drive was and how silent the car was. I would definitely go for an electric car in the future and hope that charging stations start popping up everywhere to make it easier for people to transition.

  • Erika September 13, 2012, 2:52 pm

    Thanks MMM for the great article! We recently sprang for a Nissan Leaf, and it is charged with the solar panels on our roof. Now that my husband was recently laid off and found a new job with a longer commute (20 mi each way), we are VERY happy to have the Leaf!

  • mike crosby September 13, 2012, 3:01 pm

    Totally not related, but here’s a story about a truly mustachian 14 year old girl:


    (Not to my blog either, just a great story.)

  • Tyler Karaszewski September 13, 2012, 9:34 pm

    I realized there’s an error in the table showing cost per mile. While the Volt does have a 16kWh battery, it never discharges the battery by more than 10.8kWh, to improve the long-term life of the battery (the batteries wear out more quickly if you let them discharge completely).

    So the car is going 35 miles on 10.8kWh, not 16, and the cost per mile 3.1 cents, not 4.6.

    • Chris July 5, 2015, 7:00 pm

      This is correct – one change, <2014 Volts got 10.6kw / 38 miles, 2014-2015 use 11.1kw/41 miles.

  • Madison September 13, 2012, 10:08 pm

    I have a Nisson Leaf. We found a previous year’s demo model they really wanted to get rid of for very cheap, cheaper than the used we were looking at – which means we also get the tax credit since technically its new.

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE IT! My BF and I share a car since I bicycle to work. We’ve even gone on trips of longer than 100 miles by stopping mid-way and charging while seeing a movie and sightseeing.

    • Cdub June 17, 2013, 11:57 pm

      I have a Leaf too – bought in 2011 new – but it’s fully paid for.

      It is without a doubt the best car I’ve ever owned – and now that there are QC stations at Nissan dealers here in SoCal I can take it on longer trips!

  • JZ September 14, 2012, 7:47 am

    As a doctoral student in the relevant field, I have to insert a note of caution about these. It is, however, not a note of caution that you can avoid by not buying one.

    People do not have a good concept of exactly how much energy they put into driving around, since the fuel for the car is a liquid, and everything else plugs into the wall. Car transportation, however, is easily the largest power consumer in a normal household by a vast margin.

    The problem with electric cars is not with an individual car, it is with what is going to happen to the cost of electricity if/when they catch on. The country has nowhere remotely near enough electrical power to support everyone coming home from work and plugging in – if we want to have that, we need to commission several hundred nuclear power plants to be built immediately without oversight tomorrow.

    As these things start to catch on, expect the cost of electricity to skyrocket and gain things like “on peak/off peak” differential pricing until the people who bought electric cars are financially more or less no better off than they were filling their gas guzzlers with fuel, except that now they can’t afford to run their refrigerator, either.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 14, 2012, 9:17 am

      JZ, I think it’s great to hear from someone working at a high level in a related field (what is it, by the way?)

      However I feel that your analysis might be missing the perspective of an economist: the shock caused by changing supply and demand depends entirely on the speed at which people increase their electric consumption for EVs .. compared to the speed at which the power grid can increase its production. (Minus the amount of production we get for free due to off-peak charging, and the amount we can save due to good old-fashioned conservation).

      Commuting 30 miles round-trip in one of the larger EVs like the Nissan Leaf will use about 10 kilowatt-hours of electricity, a little under 1/3 of a typical US household’s current energy consumption. This is also equivalent to running a whole-house A/C for about 3 hours.

      So if everyone switched to Leaf commuting overnight, we might see a 33% jump in power consumption, possibly at off-peak hours. Big, but not shockingly big. Now factor in the reality, where it will take at least 20 years to make a transition like that, and you see power use increase at 1.5% per year. Meanwhile, LED light bulbs, better fridges, and generally just not wasting as much as the US populace converts to Mustachianism can easily cut power consumption by about 66%:




      • Jamesqf September 14, 2012, 10:37 am

        Not to mention people like me, who’d install PV electrics if they had an electric car or PHEV. I would now, but with electric bills in the $40/month range, why bother?

      • JZ September 15, 2012, 4:42 pm

        urban planning; I did my Masters in public transit and now focus on how people decide to walk places
        Yes, it is true that if a nation of Mustachians were to take to electric cars, that we will have no great issues. The problems here are mostly coming from the fact that most people do not think like we do:

        First, oil prices are a bit volatile at this point, and there are factors that can leverage prices up relatively fast at this stage, so we always have a potential for something to happen that leaves people acting in a panic.

        Second, most people do not think to plug their car in “off peak”. The peak is defined to a large extent by people getting home and plugging things in for the night. The car is no exception.

        Third, if price per mile for an electric car is low, we tend to see an induced demand effect. It has been shown that “normal” non-Mustachians who acquire a more efficient car tend not to lower their fuel bill as much as they would be expected to do; instead, they think “Wow, it’s really cheap to drive around! I’m going to take a bunch of extra frivolous trips!” How far people chose to drive turns out to have a lot of results that leave rational people banging their heads on the wall at the absurdity of it all.

        • Jamesqf September 15, 2012, 10:11 pm

          There’s a fairly easy solution to this: the car, the house, and ultimately the grid, have to be smart. So you, one of the marching morons, drive your new EV (with simulated engine sounds) home and park it. The car figures out “Hey, I’m home, better charge me up before Bozo wants to go to work in the morning.” The house says “Well, I’ve got about 20 KWh extra in my batteries ’cause it was sunny today, and Mr. Grid says he’ll have excess hydro capacity starting about 3 AM.”

    • ForuMMM August 19, 2014, 5:31 pm

      I have a Leaf and peak/off peak/super off peak pricing. It’s about 1 cent/mile for super off peak, and about 7 cents/mile for peak. That’s still cheaper than the 13 cents/mile in gas for my Corolla. Relatively speaking, it’s easier to build new power plants than find/tap new oil reserves, and domestic power plants aren’t subject to the same kind of international instabilities as the oil market is. The cost of electricity will continue to be lower than gasoline for vehicles, and the distance should keep growing.

  • Ben September 14, 2012, 7:51 am

    Regarding the pollution comparison between gas engines and coal power plants– Aren’t coal-burning plants burning coal all the time, whether or not we’re charging cars? So why not plug in and capture some of of that waste?
    And if a few EVs max out plant capacity, then the power companies will have to improve their efficiency even sooner.
    Don’t worry, the nation won’t suddenly switch to electric cars. There should be plenty of time to work on HOW power is delivered rather than worrying about HOW MUCH.

    • Dillon September 14, 2012, 8:05 am

      The amount of coal being burned is correlated to the energy output of the power plant. If you plug your car in, now the power plant has to burn more coal to compensate since the car is no longer getting the energy from gasoline combustion. Coal may be burning all the time, but it will have to be burned at a higher rate to replace the energy source of cars.

      It’s not just about efficiency for coal power plants. While coal pollution per unit of coal burned has decreased in the past 150 years, it still isn’t exactly sexy to burn a ton of coal in a polluting way so we can plug in our cars. Look up the wiki on FutureGen. Near-zero emission coal power plants are possible but they too, just like electric technologies, need public support to survive. It’s not just about having electric cars. The energy game has many components that will change and could be better including coal power plant pollution.

      • Jamesqf September 14, 2012, 10:43 am

        Zero-emission coal plants are not possible. Burning coal produces CO2, no matter what you do. However, it is perfectly possible to build near-zero nuclear power plants & wind turbines, or put solar panels on your roof, etc. Even if you stick with coal, the emissions per mile from an EV running on coal-generated electricity are less than a gas or diesel powered car. And only about half of US electricity currently comes from coal.

        • Dillon September 14, 2012, 11:15 am

          Sure, it produces CO2, SO2, mercury, and all sorts of other things that make our lungs and Mother Nature cringe IF released. But if it (or nearly all of it) is recaptured in the process and never emitted to the atmosphere like the new generations of coal power plants are trying to do, does it matter? Nuclear plants produce their own host of waste products but if they aren’t released into the ground/atmosphere, then what does it matter? I’m by no means a coal-only energy advocate. Bring on the wind + solar! It’s always a good feeling to see a semi flatbed loaded down with an 80 ft wind propeller going to its new destination while cruising on the interstate. I’m just saying, if coal IS 50% (or 1% or 100%, doesn’t matter) of our energy source right now, might as well deliver that energy in a much cleaner, smarter way than in the past.

          • Jamesqf September 14, 2012, 2:18 pm

            It’s simply not possible, with any level of technology short of magic, not to eventually release the CO2 into the environment. Carbon capture & storage is like the Bush administration’s “hydrogen economy” (remember that?), a promise of pie in the sky, bye and bye.

    • JZ September 14, 2012, 8:14 am

      I expect the change might be faster than you think. Right now, the U.S. is massively invested in automobility and is the example to the world of “This is what middle class living looks like.” Next up to develop a middle class is China and India, countries which dwarf America in terms of population.
      OPEC cannot control prices like they did, as every indication is that they are pumping at full speed – and their output is descending along the inevitable back end of the curve. Fuel prices are going to continue to rise, and the margins to protect against price shocks such as happened in 2007 are getting smaller and smaller.

      If supply refuses to rise, and suddenly several billion Chinese and Indian citizens decide that they want a car in their garage, the price will suddenly spike. This affects the cost of food as well, since fertilizer is a petroleum product.

  • win September 14, 2012, 8:04 am

    My brother used to work at home and had an old Lincoln Towncar. Now he is a traveling salesman and he bought a Honda Insight and he gets 50 mpg now.


  • Chris Gammell September 14, 2012, 8:51 am

    If anyone is interested in the technical side behind building electric cars, we just interviewed someone doing electric car conversions (high end, unfortunately). However, Bob (the guest) answered the question about coal. Multiple studies have added up the emissions and even using power from a coal plant to power your car reduces emissions by 30%. He uses solar panels on his roof to power his car (and then sells surplus to the grid). I think this is an interesting example overall of a large capital outlay that pays off over a long time period. The maintenance costs are low (brakepads and tires mostly) and you’re doing good at the same time. Oh and saving a crapload. Win win win.


  • ben September 14, 2012, 9:14 am

    are you sure an electric car doesn’t need any (moving) parts or lubricating liquids that will require maintenance?

    and are you sure batteries are adhering to moores law? you think they’re halving in price or doubling in kWh per unit volume every 18 months?

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 14, 2012, 9:26 am

      I’m sure there are other kinks with an EV – for example, you’ve still got suspension and brakes and tires, which always take some work. Maybe a real EV engineer can comment more on the actual drivetrain.

      Regarding Moore’s Law – probably not the “doubling every 18 months” situation, since it is an entirely different field which includes chemistry and other funny stuff.

      But it sure is advancing faster than gas engine technology has over the last century, and the automotive industry in general (they were still selling vehicles with “Cassette Decks” as late as 2006, and today you can still find “Cd Players” in 2013 models).

      I mean, I’m no spring chicken myself at almost 38 years old, but shit – I haven’t fired up a CD player in probably ten years, and even that was just to rip my old “Young MC – Stone Cold Rhymin'” disc to high-bitrate MP3s to add to my hard drive.

    • Matt September 17, 2012, 4:47 am

      An electric motor has one moving part, the output shaft. Inside the motor there are no conrods, pistons etc. and in fact there’s an air gap between the 2 main components that produce the drive. The only thing that wears are the contact brushes which are often made from carbon which self lubricates anyway. So no. No fluids are needed, and even bearings don’t need greasing these days as they are often supplied “sealed” and ready to go.
      On your comments regarding Moore’s Law, I think Mr MMM’s right. It’s not just auto manufacturers that are pushing the limits on this, think about your mobile phone…

  • James September 14, 2012, 2:02 pm

    @MMM ew, “I believe that paying the premium to be an early adopter, … , can actually be a fairly Mustachian choice to make.”

    I ended up here after Jacob recommended you and I have been reading up on a lot of your posts, a lot. I have a ton of respect for you, but it is less respect than I had before you wrote this. I want to be frugal so that I can be free, and my minimal consumption, my reducing, re-using, and recycling is going to save the planet, woot to that BONUS, the main goal here is financial freedom, no?

    Shouldn’t we just be waiting for great technologies like this to come down? Maybe I’ll be purchasing a ten year old MiEv 20 years from now for 8K, but maybe not, either way, you get to retire early by “lagging behind the cutting edge” and let the early adopters do your beta testing for you.

    just saying, mucho respecto mr. mustachio.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 14, 2012, 3:45 pm

      Hey James.. I think you’re getting most of the message, but you just missed a subtlety in what I was trying to say there. Go back and read it again:

      …”But for those of us who have far more money than we need anyway”..

      This blog is not just read by people blasting down the road to financial independence. Many of us are already there, and have been for quite some time.

      Some of us have accidentally gotten far beyond that point of wealth, and are looking for things to do with our money that benefit society in an efficient way. There’s a whole series of charitable/philanthropy posts coming up in that area, in fact!

      So, yeah – the richest Mustachians are allowed to buy the electric car right now (if it will displace a gas-burning car that gets a lot of miles for some unavoidable reason). 10 years from now, one of them may even end up selling that car to you!

  • Robert Coffin September 14, 2012, 4:21 pm

    I’m glad to see that MMM is a supporter of new and innovative Idea’s like the Electric Cars (even though they are pricey). I purchased a Volt right around the time I discovered this blog and as I read through every article I slowly started to regret my purchase. I save about $125 Dollars a month compared to the 2009 Mazda speed 3 that I financed before the Volt purely on the car note and gas. At the current distance from work I am able to make it home on pure electricity at a total round trip distance of 45 miles (take that EPA!!). I have owned the car since the end of March and I have burned a total of 27 Gallons of Gas mostly driving around trying to find a house closer to my work. My ROI at 45 miles per day in Gas saving is about 8.5 years compared to my old car. Obviously, if I bought a Scion xA (which I’m thinking about) The ROI would probably never come around, and the same applies if I move close enough to work that I can ride a bicycle. The funny thing is I know that I can save more money by selling the car and getting something else but so far I can’t bring myself to do it. Chevy invested a lot of time and money into designing this vehicle and I believe that this car can last significantly past 8 years and 100,000 miles but that’s just hope and blind faith on my part. I also feel good driving around knowing that I only have to use gas in the direst of circumstances and when I go on a trip to visit my family. Driving is better since there’s no headache in the Airport and Airplanes are horrible regarding Greenhouse gases (worst way to travel for the planet in my opinion). Ultimately, I think I’m going to keep this car until the battery falls off and then I will probably replace it with a better battery and drive till I’m dead. Who would have thought that I would buy my retirement car at 33? LOL, wish me luck.

    • Jamesqf September 15, 2012, 10:17 pm

      The problem here is your standard of comparison. The Volt may be pricy compared to your Mazda, but that Mazda is not what people with plenty of disposable income are usually buying. Compare the Volt to a BMW, Escalade, Corvette, &c, and it starts to look pretty cheap.

      And on the flip side, if your primary interest is saving money, you should not be buying any new car, or even any used car that you need to finance. Buy a mid-90s Honda or Toyota instead.

  • Jen September 15, 2012, 10:30 am

    Thanks for the great article… I have electric car and motorcycle and it hasn’t been easy (I’m one of the firsts in my city to get these) but totally worth it.


  • Funny about Money September 22, 2012, 9:04 am

    Great post!

    I dunno about the battery issue. While it may be true that over time you save as much on oil changes and all the other maintenance entailed with a gasoline engine, those costs are small and incremental. If we didn’t have to spend 20 bucks here and 60 bucks there to keep the car running, most of us would regard that savings as something to roll back into the monthly budget. We’d spend it on food, clothing, and other necessities.

    A change of batteries in one of these vehicles, however, is incredibly expensive. Friends had their five-year-old Prius stop dead in the middle of the road one day, and learned they had to buy all new batteries. It cost them over $3,000!

    I’ve been driving my Toyota Sienna for 12 years and never had a $3,000 bill. To cover that kind of maintenance bill on an electric car, I’d have to figure how much I spend on the Sienna’s gasoline-engine maintenance and self-escrow it every month, so that after five years I’d have enough to buy new batteries. Or not…I’d be very surprised if I’ve spent that much in routine maintenance on my Sienna over its entire lifetime. It’s extremely unlikely that anyone spends the equivalent of a new battery pack on routine car maintenance over the lifetime of the batteries. To cover that cost, you’d also have to self-escrow the amount you’d spend on gasoline.

    By the time you’ve done that, what’s the point? You’re still having to crimp your lifestyle so you can get from place to place. You might be better off with a bigger, safer vehicle, even if it does run on gas.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 22, 2012, 9:24 am

      “most of us would regard that savings as something to roll back into the monthly budget. We’d spend it on food, clothing, and other necessities”

      Haha.. welcome, new reader!

      Once you’ve read enough of this blog, you will realize that any increase in income or decrease in spending does NOT go back into more spending. It goes 100% to savings! A normal spender might call this “self-escrow”, whereas here on MMM we call it “being conscious of your spending, regardless of how high your income is”.

      As for the Sienna and the Prius: those friends of yours had a highly unusual experience, and they also paid too much for the battery:

      Toyota Sienna is a reliable minivan, but you’ve spent an incredible amount in gas over those 12 years – most of it unnecessary if you ever used it to commute or get groceries. When it comes to minimizing total cost of ownership, the future battle will be between used EVs and used compact gas cars.

      Safety in modern cars is a non-issue, you’re much better off working on your health (and achieving financial independence) if you care about years of life or quality of those years: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/06/07/safety-is-an-expensive-illusion/

  • Kath1213 September 29, 2012, 12:19 pm

    Was driving thru the MMM neck of the woods last weekend and what do you know? I saw the very same Miev you mentioned!

    A month ago I moved a heck of a lot closer to work. What used to be a $320/month gas bill is now $80 month. Even with the extra $100 I’m paying in rent, still a win.


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