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It’s (apparently) official: electric vehicles cheaper to own than petrol or diesel cars

By Paul Connolly

A new study has found that electric vehicles are less expensive to run than normal internal combustion-engined cars – even after higher purchase prices are factored in.

The survey analysed the cost of owning petrol and diesel cars – and also hybrid cars – in five countries.

It found that all-electric was cheaper over time in all countries than diesel, petrol and hybrid.

The researchers analysed the costs associated with owning petrol, diesel, hybrid and electric versions of the VW Golf, Europe’s most common car.

There was some ‘bad’ news, however – researchers found that hybrid cars were often more expensive than petrol or diesel due to higher purchase costs.

Over four years, the International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT) analysed the cost of owning all four types of Volkswagen Golf – petrol, diesel, hybrid and electric - in the UK, France, Germany, Norway and Holland.

Thanks to a combination of lower costs, including fuel, maintenance and purchase subsidies,  the study found the pure electric version was the cheapest in all areas.

The Golf is Europe’s best-selling car and so is a good barometer of price and cost across the target countries. The e-Golf is pure electric and the Golf GTE is well known for its hybrid tech.

The report underlines that tax breaks are an efficient way to encourage drivers to switch to electric – and as the cost of making electric cars tumbles with demand, this will make more sense, even if governments start to withdraw subsidies.

Although the research was sponsored by an interest group, it adds to a significant body of research that shows that the dawn of Electric Vehicles (EVs) is finally starting to become real, despite initial scepticism from many.

Sandra Wappelhorst, from the ICCT, said: “Most trips are within an electric vehicle’s range, and it is the battery electric vehicle that turns out to be the most cost effective over four years.

“But if you’re a country doctor, who might have to respond to emergency calls at odd hours in odd places, you’ll have to evaluate a battery electric car differently to a London surgeon.”

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, told the Guardian: “The UK government’s enthusiasm for electric cars is clear, but it must ensure its policies are clear and consistent so private and fleet buyers can make purchasing decisions that aren’t undermined by policy shifts further down the road.”

The report did have a downside, though: it found that the plug-in hybrid Golf GTE was more expensive to own against its petrol or diesel siblings.

This was because a higher purchase price – almost as high as an EV version – off-set fuel savings and lower road tax.

The study also found that UK savings were also somewhat lower than other European countries.

UK drivers could make an overall saving of 5%er by choosing an electric Golf over a diesel, the study found. But this was the lowest proportional saving of any of the countries in the study.

Norwegian drivers could save up to 27%, it found, and the Dutch could save 15%. This was largely due to lower taxes on EVs than on diesel models.

The report does seem in step with market trends. New electric car sales rose by 21% in the UK last year, while diesel sales dropped by 30%.

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