Is the time finally right to buy an electric vehicle? Gas prices have risen quickly over the past few months. Meanwhile, several new mainstream electric vehicles options are available. The two most recognizable are the Chevy Volt and the Nissan LEAF. In order to determine whether current gas prices suggest that electric vehicles are ripe for purchase, we need to compare them to a similar gasoline option and do a little math.
So that's what I've done in the chart below. I compared the Volt and LEAF to the Hyundai Elantra. The assumptions I made are at the bottom of the post. I tried to use generous assumptions to benefit the electric cars as well. I don't, for example, consider battery replacement costs. I even consider the Volt's fuel efficiency only in terms of its electric capacity, so gas doesn't even come into play. I got the statistics I used from the automakers' websites.
As you can see, at $4 per gallon, these vehicles still aren't very good deals for most Americans. At that price, you'd have to drive the LEAF over 140,000 miles to break even compared to the Elantra. You'd have to drive the Volt over 245,000 miles.
But when gas hits $5 per gallon, the LEAF begins to look more attractive. Then, you just need to drive a hair over 100,000 miles to break even, which isn't so outlandish for many Americans. But even at $5 per gallon, you'd need to drive the Volt more than 175,000 miles to justify its purchase over the Elantra. In fact, if you only plan on driving the Volt a little over 100,000 miles, its electric capability doesn't justify its price tag until gas nears $8 per gallon.