A new study just released by Consumer Reports has come to the conclusion that plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles like the Toyota RAV4 Prime will have a lower lifetime cost of maintenance and repair than battery-electric vehicles such as the Chevy Bolt or Tesla Model Y. Interestingly, Torque News came to the same conclusion in a recent analysis published back in August.
PHEVs are vehicles that can drive on electricity alone for many miles. In the case of the Honda Clarity, 47 Miles on a full charge and for the RAV4 Prime, 42 miles. Once this range is achieved, the PHEV then uses its high-efficiency hybrid engine. In our testing of the RAV4 Prime this past month, we observed a 46 MPG result when the vehicle was operated in hybrid mode. Total range of PHEVs is usually twice that of the best battery electric vehicle ranges, and over 600 miles is typical.
Ford, Honda, Kia, Hyundai, and Mitsubishi have all announced two-row PHEV crossovers for next year. Toyota’s RAV4 Prime is on sale now. The RAV4 Prime is presently selling out at dealers, and is one of the fastest-selling automobiles in America.
The Consumer Reports study looked at model year 2020 and 2021 vehicles and leveraged historic data gathered from actual owners of vehicles of various types. It concluded that battery-electric vehicles have the edge in maintenance and repair costs through the first 100K miles. However, it also found that over the vehicles’ total lifespan of 200K miles, the type of vehicles with the lowest cost of maintenance and repairs were plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles.
Consumer Reports bundled various models in each category, internal combustion engine vehicles (ICE), plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEV), and battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) to determine an average cost per mile of maintenance and repair. It found that over the lifespan of the vehicles, the breakdown is as follows:
ICE vehicles have a cost of $0.061 per mile
BEVs have a cost of $0.031 per mile
PHEVs the lowest cost at $0.030 per mile
Furthermore, the study finds that the average lifetime costs of the various vehicle categories for repair and maintenance are as follows:
ICE vehicles have a cost of $12,285
BEVs have a cost of $6,276
PHEVs the lowest at $5,915
In a recent Torque News deep dive, we looked at the difference between modern plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles like the Toyota Prius Prime and traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. A close look at the design of modern PHEVs reveals that most of the maintenance items have been designed out. For example, there is no timing belt to change in a Toyota RAV4 Prime. This accounts for one of the single-largest scheduled maintenance costs in a typical ICE vehicle. The RAV4 Prime also has no accessory belt. Nor are transmission fluid changes required in normal driving conditions. The RAV4 Prime does not use a traditional geared transmission, nor does it use a conventional CVT. These design changes have been proven reliable over many years in other Toyota products including the Prius, RAV4 Hybrid, and Prius Prime.
The study found no meaningful difference in the lifetime repair and maintenance costs of BEVs and PHEVs compare to ICE vehicles. They had the same approximate savings of $4,600.
You can view the summary of the Consumer Reports study here. However, we suggest a longer look at the full study report found here. You may need to be a subscriber. Consumer Reports is a publication that usually requires payment for its content.
John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and automotive supply chain market. In 2008 he retired from that career to chase his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin
Image credits can be seen by hovering one's mouse over the images in the story.