This story will look at some of these considerations, and also outline some other factors that might help determine whether an electric vehicle will save you money with operating costs.

    For this story, we have based our analysis on four popular and noteworthy models that are currently on sale, and have focused on SUVs as these vehicles are currently in vogue. Representing the EV side of the coin is the popular Tesla Model Y in entry-level rear wheel drive specification, as well as the recently launched, and much more affordable, BYD Atto 3 in cheaper Standard Range guise. 

    On the hybrid side of the coin, Toyota’s RAV4 and Corolla Cross are comparable in size to the Model Y and Atto 3 respectively, with regard to exterior dimensions. 

    There are two important caveats to this analysis. As this story is focused on operating costs, the initial purchase price is excluded from this comparison. Obviously, this will also be a key consideration when determining which vehicle to buy. Secondly, that this is a general, high level comparison, and should be used as a rough guide only. Many of the factors described below could be influenced significantly by your personal circumstances, which could sway the equation for whether an EV is cheaper to run than a hybrid or other option. 

    Charging and refuelling costs

    The average Australian motorist drives around 15,000 km per year. Let’s assume a ‘worst-case’ scenario whereby the owners of the EVs described above do not have access to home charging, and instead exclusively charge at public DC (direct current) fast-charging stations. Chargefox is one of the most popular providers of these fast-charging stations, and its (relatively) commonly available 50kW DC fast charging network currently asks $0.40 per kWh to charge an EV. Of course, the price of electricity for you may be significantly cheaper if you have access to slower, but cheaper and more convenient at home AC charging.

    Let’s have a look at the entry-level Tesla Model Y first. While not confirmed by Tesla Australia, this EV is widely known to feature a 62.3kWh battery pack, with a WLTP-tested range of 455km. 

    All of this equates to an annual charging cost of Annual km drivenWLTP range (km) × (charging cost per kWh × battery capacity in kWh) = 15,000455 × (0.40 × 62.3) = $822.54. 

    Let’s compare this to the RAV4 in popular front-wheel-drive hybrid guise. Assuming the driver fills up with E10 price at $1.812/L (annual average from November 2021-November 2022 in NSW, based on data from the FuelCheck app) and a combined fuel economy of 4.7L/100km, it would cost fuel economy in L per 100km ×fuel cost in $ per L× 150 = 4.7× 1.812× 150 = $1,277.46.

    This means that it would be $454.92 cheaper to charge a Tesla Model Y than refuel a Toyota RAV4 hybrid. Note that these are based on several assumptions such as the type of fuel and charging used, so your experience might vary. 

    Does a similar saving also exist between the standard range BYD Atto 3 and front-wheel-drive hybrid Corolla Cross? Plugging in the numbers using the same formulas above, with a WLTP range of 345km from a 49.9 kWh battery for the BYD Atto 3 Standard Range, and a fuel consumption of 4.3L/100km for the Corolla Cross, yields an annual charging cost of $868.17 for the BYD, and an annual refuelling cost of $1,168.74 for the Corolla Cross, resulting in a saving of $300.57 in favour of the BYD. 

    Servicing and other maintenance costs

    It is a widely held belief that EVs do not need that same level of servicing and maintenance as hybrids and other combustion-engined vehicles, however, this varies significantly depending on the brand of the car.

    Tesla, for example, does not prescribe a set servicing schedule for its vehicles, while BYD has an annual service schedule for its Atto 3 that averages to $298.75 per service, or $2390 in total over eight years.

    Toyota, in contrast, offers capped price servicing for both the Corolla Cross and the RAV4 at $230 per service for the first five years. 

    Other factors to take into account

    There are a range of other factors to take into consideration that contribute to the total cost of ownership for all of these vehicles. 

    In particular is the cost of insurance. Although more expensive and performance vehicles are generally also more expensive to insure, the cost of insurance will vary widely depending on your personal circumstances.

    Other factors to consider include the cost and availability of spare parts in the event of a failure or accident, as well as vehicle resale value and depreciation. For brands that are currently less well-known such as BYD, the resale value of the vehicle is likely to be lower than a brand with an established reputation, such as Toyota.              

    Vivek Shah
    Vivek Shah is a Contributor at CarExpert.