A car calculator to get you started

Calculate The True Cost Of Electric Cars

BeFrugal offers potential electric car drivers a useful tool in doing the math when comparing which electric car would best fit their needs.
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I met with Jon Lal, BeFrugal’s founder and the person behind the electric car calculator. Finding out if an electric car, EV is right for you is not very easy unless you do the math correctly. BeFrugal has the right tool to get you started, an EV calculator

Hi Jon, I wanted to know what got you started on the idea of an EV calculator?
At BeFrugal.com, our mission is to help people save money and with our online and printable coupons section, weekly ads, and we realized we needed to also offer calculators to help people do the financial analysis for their largest purchases – home, cars, and travel.

The re-introduction of mainstream electric cars got me thinking about the economic value proposition they offer. Coming from a BeFrugal point of view, I wondered about their economic rationale compared to an internal combustion engine, ICE car. This led to building the BeFrugal.com Electric Car Calculator, which aims to help people compare the overall costs of electric cars versus that of hybrids, gas or diesel cars. Since then, we added more calculators to our BeFrugal site.
How do you differentiate between different utilities and their electricity price?

Determining precise electricity costs for every zip code is an enormously daunting task. It is further complicated by the fact that rates vary by hour-of-day usage. We provide a good estimate of electricity costs by analyzing average cost by State and then ask the user to select the State they reside in, while using federal data for average household electricity cost to provide an estimate. We felt this was the best coherent strategy for a potential EV driver.

In order to get an even more precise estimate, individuals can see their actual electricity cost by looking at their current electric bill. They can see how much they are billed per kWh at the time-of-day they would be charging their electric car. By entering that precise amount into our BeFrugal Electric Car Calculator, they will get a very close estimate as to the overall finances for their upcoming EV.

How do you calculate total CO2 emissions per car? Do you take into consideration manufacturing and transportation to the car lot or just the regular operation?
Our total CO2 emissions calculation is based on your driving habits, as well as proportion of city versus highway driving, miles driven per year, the car’s fuel type, i.e. electricity, gas or diesel, and the car’s efficiency in terms of MPG or kWh per mile. We also take into account both tailpipe and upstream CO2 emissions. For those who would like to better understand the calculation, we provide sources and documentation as to the calculations on our site.

Are there more features you are thinking about adding on at a later date?
We are always looking for ways to make our BeFrugal better and add features. At the moment, we are aggressively building out our cash back program, which was launched in the fall of last year. We already offer an average of 5% cash back on over 2000 various merchants.

With the Electric Car Calculator, we look forward to incorporating manufacturing costs into the calculator. And of course, we welcome feedback and suggestions from the TorqueNews audience and that will also shape future features.

Do you see a usage that leans more toward electric cars, or hybrids or just gas cars in general?
So far, the interest level in electric cars is very high, but usage has not caught up yet. Electric cars are early in their development, and are mostly being purchased by early adopters. As with many technological innovations, electric cars may need to go through some improvements before there is a mass adoption.

From a purely financial point of view, currently gasoline or diesel cars are frugal enough for most people. Conventional gas cars generally offer a lower initial purchase price but total operating cost rise through the years, contrary to that of an electric car. EV low operating costs are not sufficiently low enough to offset their higher purchase price.

In the end, the purchase of an electric car is not strictly a financial decision, as potential EV drivers often care about external factors, such as the sourcing of oil, emissions problems and security questions. BeFrugal’s Electric Car Calculator is regularly updated with current variables, such as gas, electricity and car purchase prices, in the hope to help potential car buyers make the right choice for their needs.


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Comments

Lovely calculator, just compared the model S to the BMW 335 In California and the calculator suggests break even at 5 years 4 months after which the model S becomes cheaper. However I noticed an anomaly, when I chose California the electric rate increased from 11.5 to 15c, California does have more expensive power. However the gas rate remained at the national average of 3.72 despite the EIA chart you link to showing California's average regular gas price to be 4.35. Putting in the correct gas price reduces the break even point to 4 years 4 months, a 20% reduction. It doesn't seem fair to boost the electric costs when you choose states but leave the gas price the same as that clearly favours gas vehicles.
Thanks Rob for picking that up. I'm sure Jon at BeFrugal is reading this and will work on it very soon. As jon told me there are always tweaks and new features to add to it. Yes, the price of electricity and gas, including CNG should reflect the local reality. I felt it was a good starting point. If you recall, a few year ago, we had to do this by hand, go to a few websites, and that was just the beginning of the math... Thanks for the comment. Nicolas
To add to what Rob pointed out, most utilities in CA offer a time of use (TOU) rate for EVs that prices off-peak energy at about 10 cents/kWh, instead of the 15 cents used by the calculator. This should make the differential even closer. I'd also question the comparison car, the BMW 335. It's not even close to the styling of the Model S, and even though it boasts a similar 0-60, you'd have to endure the noise, vibration and pollution generated to make that happen. With the Model S, you would have none of that. These are attributes for which many people are willing to pay extra.
Hi Paul, good to see you here. To add to this, a Model S doesn't have to have it's oil filter changed ever :) I just went through that painful experience on our gas cars... No, indeed, you can't compare a Tesla to a Beemer or another gas engine car, hybrid, plug-in hybrid or not. Thank you for your comment, Nicolas
You're preaching to the converted with me guys. But I'm aware of some of the cultural and vested business interests who wish to see EVs stagnate or fail. These people are quick to accuse EV proponents of showing favoritism and deny that there's any proof that maintenance will be cheaper for EV's. Therefore if we can show that "ultra expensive" EVs actually end up cheaper within 4 years once basic fuelling costs are taken into account without even including subjective factors like maintenance then it's much harder for them to deny it. The reality is those other factors will only sweeten the deal further. The only tactic people can use against objective factors like fuel economy, gas prices and electricity rates is that Mr Gingrich might win and be successful with his plan to restore $2 gas, but I suspect anyone who believes that probably isn't worth a lot of effort to try and convince of the benefits of EVs.
Goo point Rob, $2 a gallon gasoline would be sold at a loss. Wait, unless we subsidize petroleum companies. Oh but wait, we do in indirect ways. I think this is where Tesla Motors is on the right track. A luxury EV that rivals a gas one in operations and maintenance would seal the deal. Thank you for your comment, Nicolas
You're preaching to the converted with me guys. But I'm aware of some of the cultural and vested business interests who wish to see EVs stagnate or fail. These people are quick to accuse EV proponents of showing favoritism and deny that there's any proof that maintenance will be cheaper for EV's. Therefore if we can show that "ultra expensive" EVs actually end up cheaper within 4 years once basic fuelling costs are taken into account without even including subjective factors like maintenance then it's much harder for them to deny it. The reality is those other factors will only sweeten the deal further. The only tactic people can use against objective factors like fuel economy, gas prices and electricity rates is that Mr Gingrich might win and be successful with his plan to restore $2 gas, but I suspect anyone who believes that probably isn't worth a lot of effort to try and convince of the benefits of EVs.