The role of TCO in the decision to purchase an electric car
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As we have recently promised, we analyse the impact of the total cost of ownership (TCO) in the decision to buy an electric car.

In one of the first articles in our Electromobility series, we pointed to the high cost of lithium-ion batteries being a major obstacle to the widespread adoption of electric cars with over 300 km of autonomy, requiring batteries larger than 40kWh.

The good news is that over the last five years, the price of batteries has been halved, and the current technological progress, together with a significant increase in production volume, will lead to lower prices in the near future, albeit at a slower pace, due to rising prices of raw materials, lithium and cobalt.

If we want to benefit from the very good dynamic performance, thanks to the torque and the quietness of the electric car in Romania today, how are things going?

We picked for our comparison two medium-class cars with very close performance and dimensions.

Meet the candidates:

Seat Exeo

Newly purchased in March 2009, with 18,000 euros, with the following characteristics: 1781 cc, 110 kW (150 hp), CO2 emissions 184 g/km. The car traveled 72,500 km (mostly in the city), where it has been driven hard and has an average fuel consumption of 9 liters/100 km. Our friends from Porsib provided the car maintenance book, to understand the cost of parts and labor required for maintenance and repairs during eight years.

Nissan Leaf, 2nd generation

Currently the best-selling electric model worldwide, with following performance data, courtesy of Badsi SRL. Power identical to EXEO 110kW (150CP), similar dimensions (hatchback, four doors), energy consumption 19.4 kWh/100 km.

At first glance, the basic purchase price, 34,000 euros, for the simplest version, Visia, is prohibitive, but taking into account TCO – the total cost of ownership, the situation becomes more nuanced.

First of all, new electric cars benefit in Romania from one of the most generous subsidies granted in Europe, worth 45,000 lei, about €10,000.

Analyzing the financing sources, we determined for Leaf a total interest over five years of €3.174, less than €3.999 paid over five years for Exeo.

The various taxes, insurance, road tax and ITP will be about the same level, with the only exception of the tax, removed for electric cars.

The key question is the resale value. As we do not have data from the second hand market in Romania, we preferred to not include it in the calculation.

Other approximations in the applied methodology are related to fuel price fluctuations, foreign exchange rates and inflation. For gasoline we considered an average price for 8 years and an average leu/euro exchange rate. For electricity we picked the current price and exchange rate, without speculating on the future evolution of prices.

We divided the service costs into two groups: those specific to internal combustion engines (oil, filters, belts, distribution, exhaust, spark plugs, etc.) and those spent for Exeo which can be applied to electric cars (tires, suspension, steering, brakes, windscreen wipers, etc.).

We did not consider the brake system protection due to Leaf’s regenerative braking and did not speculate on potential problems with high-voltage electronics, as they are covered by the generous warranty of 100,000 km granted by Nissan for the LEAF.

Our analysis refers to a total mileage of 72,500 km, about 25% lower than that covered by the LEAF warranty, and an eight-year operation covered by the battery warranty (160,000 km !!!) to eliminate the „fear of the unknown „.

After taking into account all the elements listed above, we charted the cost of acquisition (including five-year interest) and operating costs for eight years, and found out that TCO for Exeo increased much faster than for Leaf, mainly due to higher gasoline and maintenance costs (oil, filters, belts, spark plugs, etc.).

The chart below is for information only and does not represent a purchase recommendation for an electric car, due to simplifications and extrapolations made with the best of intent.

As the team will gather data from the daily operation of a Nissan Leaf, we will come back with clarifications and updates on electricity consumption, charging and maintenance costs.

PS: Another „little” detail… over the 72,500 km, Exeo pumped 13,340 kg of CO2 in the atmosphere, that is ten times the weight of this car!


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