The Hidden Costs of EV Ownership

As we discussed in a previous paper, the Biden administration is making an unprecedented and anti-freedom regulatory push to force consumers to take up a product they just don’t want—electric vehicles (“EVs”).  Proponents of EVs often claim that slow adoption results from a lack of knowledge on the part of consumers, but the fact is that the more consumers learn about EV ownership, the more they see the hidden costs of EV ownership.  This Common Sense Paper examines some of the reasons consumers don’t want EVs—namely, that charging them outside of the home can be exceedingly complicated and time-consuming, they have serious issues matching their advertised ranges, they’re more expensive to maintain than consumers were led to believe, and they can be very difficult (and sometimes impossible) to repair after even minor collisions.  It wasn’t too long ago that EV owners were stranded in freezing weather this past winter or were stuck in long lines at charging stations because the weather impacted charging times.  Simply put, EVs aren’t ready for prime time, and the EV market has a long way to go before the federal government should start expecting mass adoption of this new technology by consumers.

Charging an EV Can Be a Major Hassle

The biggest downside to Electric Vehicles is that their limited range makes taking a road trip difficult to plan.  This is because EVs must be recharged when their batteries get depleted, while Internal Combustion Engine (“ICE”) vehicles just need to fill up with gas, which is readily available everywhere in America.  If the EV owner is just commuting between home and work, she can plug her car in at home and have a mostly or fully charged car in the morning.  But trying to plan a road trip, that great American pastime can be a nightmare.

It is true that in some instances, with the right vehicle at the right charger (mostly limited to Tesla superchargers), an EV can be recharged up to 80% of its range in about half an hour.  But that perfect set of circumstances is the exception, rather than the rule, since there are fewer than 2,400 charging stations in the United States that make this fast charging possible, out of a total of about 64,000 charging stations.  Contrast this limited number of charging stations in the US with the more than 140,000 gas stations, each of which has multiple gas pumps that can fill up a car to 100% of its range in less than 5 minutes.  In a best-case scenario, assuming a driver is lucky enough to have a compatible car and find a compatible fast-charger, she can get her car charged up to 80% in about the time it takes to make a fast food pitstop.  However, this best-case scenario is far from the norm.  In the typical case, an EV owner needs to worry about advertised charging stations actually working (many are out of service at any given time), and then needs to wait an hour or more to get her EV mostly charged, assuming all the chargers aren’t taken when she arrives.  And then, she’ll need to carefully plan her route around where the next available charging station is (and hope that it’s not already occupied, if it even works).  These mental gymnastics alone are enough to turn many consumers off from this product, especially when refueling an ICE vehicle is so quick and effortless.  Even though the hassle of charging isn’t a monetary expense, it is very costly in terms of time and mental effort.

While the Administration has touted its plan to build 500,000 EV charging stations across the United States, after two years and $7.5 billion allocated in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, only seven charging stations have been built. The White House believes it can still achieve its goal by 2026; however, the extremely slow rollout of this program severely impacts consumer choice.

EVs Don’t Live Up to Their Advertised Range

Once our EV-owning road-tripper has managed to stop and get her car recharged, she’s still not out of the woods yet.  Now, she has to deal with the fact that most EVs just don’t live up to their advertised range.  There are a few reasons for this failure to meet the advertised range—namely, that EVs require quite a bit of electricity to run their heating systems (unlike ICE vehicles, which recycle residual engine heat for that purpose), and their ranges are diminished at highway speeds (unlike ICE vehicles, which are typically the most fuel-efficient at highway speeds).  So unless our road tripper is driving at low speeds in weather that’s about 80 degrees, she’s likely to see a reduction of 25% or more in her EV’s range.  This reduction in range is going to cost her both money (for the electricity to recharge her EV) and time (since she’s going to have to go through the entire recharging process again far earlier than anticipated).  It is true that ICE vehicles also don’t always live up to their advertised ranges, but as mentioned earlier, refueling an ICE vehicle is a quick process that’s available within a few miles no matter where you are in America.

EV Maintenance is Far Higher Than Owners Were Led to Believe

After our road tripper has made it through the hassle of keeping her EV charged throughout her journey and gotten home in one piece, now she’s got to confront another hidden expense that the EV company almost certainly didn’t warn her about: tires.  One thing that EV manufacturers failed to warn their customers is that EVs tend to be quite a bit heavier than their ICE counterparts.  Typically, an EV will weigh about 20% more than its ICE equivalent, thanks largely to the additional weight of the battery.  EVs also come with a bit more torque, allowing EV owners to accelerate faster than a similar ICE vehicle.  While extra torque and acceleration can be fun, it’s also terrible for tire wear.  Put these factors together, and the typical EV wears through tires about 20% faster than the typical ICE vehicle, with some reports of EV owners needing new tires after 6,000 miles, or about the same interval as an oil change!  When the EV consumer realizes that the typical oil change costs $30-50, while a single typical tire costs $200-500, they tend to be pretty upset, and understandably so.

EVs Can Be Exceedingly Expensive to Repair

Now that our road tripper has put new tires on her EV after only 25,000 miles, let’s imagine she gets into a minor fender bender while trying to park her EV.  Unfortunately, she might now be in for a big and unexpected surprise when she gets her repair bill.  One “fact” that is often pushed by EV advocates is that they are much cheaper to maintain than their ICE counterparts.  EV advocates base this claim on the fact that EVs have fewer parts than ICE vehicles, which is true by itself—an EV motor has around 20 moving parts, versus an internal combustion engine that has more than 2,000 moving parts.  But that difference does not tell the whole story when it comes to repairs.  Just ask Hertz, the rental car company, which found that fleetwide, vehicle repair costs for EVs were averaging about twice the repair costs for ICE vehicles.  There was even one report of a Fisker Ocean EV being totaled by an insurance company over minor damage to its door, since the insurance company couldn’t find the part needed to repair the door.

As you can see, EVs have many hidden costs, most of which are not communicated to EV purchasers before they make their purchase.  Although it is possible that EVs represent the future of the car industry, it is very clear that they are not yet ready for mass adoption, and they are certainly not ready to be forced into the garages of American consumers by the Federal government.  At this point, the Biden Administration owes it to the American public to pump the brakes on this anti-freedom regulatory EV push.