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Electric cars could be cost-competitive with gas-powered in 2017

Renault-Nissan head Carlos Ghosn waves at photographers from a Leaf at a 2011 press event. Nissan sold 2,225 Leaf EVs, in June, up more than 315% from the same month in 2012. (Westmidwest Productions )

The cost of owning an electric car is wriggling its way down to becoming competitive with its gas-powered peers, according to new projections by the Electrification Coalition.

Representatives from the Washington, D.C., advocacy group said during a conference call Thursday that short-range plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are already cost competitive with cars powered by internal combustion engines, as well as hybrid electric vehicles. The recent analysis assumed five years of ownership and about 14,000 miles driven each year.

The coalition teamed with professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to calculate expected costs of several types of compact cars, pitting battery-electric against internal combustion engines, plug-in hybrids and hybrid vehicles. Including cost of purchase, fuel, maintenance, federal tax credits and residuals, the data show the cost of owning gas-powered vehicles continuing to rise through 2024 as costs for hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars decline dramatically.

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“In this analysis, we also saw that battery electric vehicles should have a total cost of ownership that is competitive with internal combustion engines in 2017,” said Jonna Hamilton, the coalition’s vice president of policy.

On the production side, that trend is reflected in lithium-ion battery prices, which have dropped from about $1,000 per kilowatt-hour in 2008, to $600 per kWh today. Hamilton said analysts expected that price to fall even further, to between $300 and $325 per kWh by 2020.

The EV market is already showing gains in popularity among consumers as production costs fall and drivers take advantage of remaining rebates and dirt-cheap leasing deals.

Hamilton said more than 110,000 plug-in vehicles were sold in the U.S. over the last 2½ years. June was the best month to date for plug-in cars, with nearly 9,000 units sold. Nissan sold 2,225 Leaf EVs, up more than 315% from the same month in 2012. GM sold 2,698 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrids, a 53% gain over June 2012, and Tesla Motors reported sales of 1,425 Model S electric sedans.


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