23 October, 2020 electric vehicles

Electric vehicles: Charging is more expensive than filling up

Many countries are currently providing high financial incentives for the purchase of electric cars to boost sales of electric vehicles. Besides this, the low operating costs are being advertised. But this promised long-term advantage of electric vehicles is threatening to melt away.

For months or years, the different governments have been boosting sales of electric vehicles with the help of various premiums. Thanks to the financial incentives, buyers have been able to save thousands of euros when purchasing electric cars – and the actions have paid off: The registration figures for electric vehicles are rising sharply.

At the same time, a significant advantage of electric cars is lost. A fact which many are losing sight of – probably also because of the “premium rain”. The promise of long-term savings through lower charging costs with an electric vehicle is currently standing on very shaky ground, according to a report in “Der Spiegel”.

Experiment: Diesel Golf vs E-Golf

One example: according to the automobile club ADAC, the price of diesel was 108.6 cents on average in June in Germany, i.e. even before the reduction in VAT. For a current VW Golf with a 150 hp two-litre TDI, which, according to the ADAC Ecotest, consumes 4.8 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres, the cost for this distance would thus be 5.21 euros. For comparison, “Der Spiegel” used a current E-model: according to ADAC Ecotest, an E-Golf consumes 17.3 kilowatt-hours per 100 kilometres. With a household electricity price of 31 cents per kilowatt-hour, the cost is 5.36 euros – more than for the regular diesel model.

The difference is even more severe if you do not charge your e-car at home. If you use public electricity filling stations or fast-charging points – especially on motorways, e.g. a kilowatt-hour costs 77 cents per kilowatt-hour at the fast-charging point operator Ionity on the highway. A 100-kilometre drive with the E-Golf, therefore, costs 13.32 euros, more than twice as much as the diesel model.

The operating costs of e-cars must reduce to convince the masses.

This clear cost disadvantage could become an obstacle to electromobility in the future: “The energy costs of alternative drives are developing in the opposite direction to vehicle prices,” Eric Heymann, an economist at Deutsche Bank Research, told “Der Spiegel”. “In the next few years, electric cars will no longer be much more expensive than combustion engines, even in the volume segment,” Heymann continued. However, if you want to convince the mass of buyers of the merits of the electric car, its operating costs would have to be lower than those of combustion engine models. This is because motorists are generally paying more attention to the price per kilometre driven. And although the loss in value is the most significant cost factor in car ownership, it only plays a minor role for many private customers, Heymann said.

Increasing the price of CO2 in transport

Ruth Blanck of the Ökoinstitut, therefore, demanded in an interview with “Der Spiegel”: “The energy costs of a combustion engine must not be lower than those of an electric car. In the long term, electric driving must be cheaper”. In Germany, she said, people are too focused on bringing electric cars onto the market, but they do too little to make internal combustion engines less attractive. However, neither Blanck nor economist Heymann believes that subsidised electricity prices are the right way to go.

The federal government in Germany took a step towards making fossil fuels less attractive in early October: At the insistence of the Greens, MEPs decided on a higher CO2 price for transport and buildings from 2021. Instead of the 10 euros initially envisaged by the Grand Coalition, emissions trading now starts at 25 euros per tonne.

Drivers of petrol and diesel cars will notice this at the filling station. However, Heymann is confident that the CO2 surcharge of around 7 cents per litre of petrol and 7.9 cents per litre of diesel is not drastic enough. If to believe the economist’s prognosis, the problem of the comparatively high operating costs for electric driving will not change next year either.

Source: Automobil Industrie: Laden ist teurer als Tanken

Edition & translation: Christian Pfäffli