From Hybrid to Full Electric — A Difficult Journey?

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When I made the transition from a petrol-powered Hyundai V6 Sonata to a Tesla Model 3 SR+, my main reason was concern for the planet. Since driving the car for over 90,000 km (56,000 miles), I have discovered that there are many other reasons to switch. These include total cost of ownership, fun, tech, and sheer driving pleasure.

I attend many EV showcases and have had thousands of conversations with the public. I have found it is best to concentrate on the fun and economics, as there is still a lot of divided opinion on climate change. But a thought popped into my head, that it might be hard to justify the high cost of a battery electric vehicles (BEVs) if one was already getting low cost of ownership with an economical hybrid electric.

This morning I had a good chance to chat with Felicity, who has just bought a Toyota Yaris hybrid (HEV). “The colour is called ‘atomic rush.’ That’s what sold me. Fancy car talk for red,” she told me. She would love a full electric (BEV), but the cheapest in Australia is still A$10,000 more than her new Yaris — that’s the MG ZS EV. (All dollar amounts going forward are in Australian dollars.) Even the $3,000 rebate from the government wouldn’t tempt her.

So we did the maths. What could she have saved by going electric? The Yaris cost $36,000; the MG ZS EV would cost $46,000, less the government grant of $3,000. So, the EV is $7,000 more expensive that the HEV. What about petrol costs? Surely that would bridge the gap? Felicity will drive about 10,000 km (6,000 miles) per year in a Yaris, which has an advertised consumption of 3.3 L per hundred km. So, in a year she is likely to spend $660 (at $2 per litre). Assuming she keeps the car for 10 years, that’s a cost of $6,600. This almost bridges the gap between the cost of the two vehicles — after 10 years.

What about servicing, I asked her. Well, Toyota is giving free servicing for the first two years and she expects that servicing will cost approximately $200 per year for the next 5 years. The following 3 years are an unknown. Servicing plus petrol costs now equals $8,200.

Her insurance company, Alliance, wants to support EVs and classifies the Toyota hybrid as an EV and thus reduces her premium by $360 per year. But, if she bought a BEV, that would be the same.

I haven’t factored in the cost of electricity, which should be about one sixth the cost of petrol (or less if Felicity has solar on her roof). This should come in at about $1200. If we take the $1200 from the $8200, we get $7000 as the difference between the two cars, which is what we had at the start.

It would be difficult to justify switching from a cheap HEV to a more expensive BEV on economic grounds alone. Add to that the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) cast on the new BEV tech. From HEV to BEV could be a difficult journey indeed until we get price parity at point of sale between BEVs and HEVs. In Australia, this is likely to happen next year to some degree with the import of the MG 4 and the BYD Seal.

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David Waterworth

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

David Waterworth has 719 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth