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Argonne study finds BEVs can have lowest scheduled maintenance costs, but highest cost of driving

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory, with colleagues from Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge, and National Renewable Energy labs, and the University of Tennessee, have published a comprehensive analysis of the total cost of ownership (TCO) for 12 sizes of vehicles ranging from compact sedans up to Class 8 tractors with sleeper cabs.

The study considers five different powertrains (internal combustion engine, hybrid-electric, plug-in hybrid-electric, fuel-cell-electric, and battery-electric) and 12 cost components (purchase cost, depreciation, financing, fuel, insurance, maintenance, repair, taxes, registration fees, tolls and parking, payload capacity and labor).

Previous analyses of TCO, particularly those dealing with alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs), have often focused on the purchase cost and the fuel cost. While these are two of the most important factors making up the cost of the vehicle, we find sizeable variations in other operational costs across powertrains, size classes, and usage parameters. We use vehicles modeled in Autonomie to estimate vehicle costs and fuel economy along with fuel price projections from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), and focus on developing internally consistent estimates for other relevant cost parameters.

Important additive analyses in this study include systematic analysis of vehicle depreciation, in-depth examination of insurance premium costs, comprehensive maintenance and repair estimates, analysis of all relevant taxes and fees, and considerations of specific costs applicable to commercial vehicles. This study, which considers these additional cost components, provides a more holistic and comprehensive perspective of TCO for a wider range of vehicle sizes, types, and vocations than have previously been analyzed.

—Burnham et al.

Among the many findings was that the estimated scheduled maintenance cost for a light-duty battery-electric vehicle (BEV) totals 6.1 cents per mile, while a conventional internal combustion engine vehicle (ICEV) totals 10.1 cents per mile.

A BEV lacks an ICEV’s engine oil, timing belt, oxygen sensor, spark plugs and more, and the maintenance costs associated with them. The hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV) and the plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle (PHEV) share costs with both the ICEV and the EV but save money on brake maintenance.


Per-mile maintenance costs by powertrain. (*Service intervals that vary by powertrain) Burnham et al.

After aggregating the cost components, the team calculated a lifetime TCO for comparison across vehicles of different types and attributes. For a small SUV in 2025, modeled using Autonomie, based on the assumptions chosen, the hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) has the lowest cost, followed by the conventional gasoline-fueled spark-ignition internal combustion engine (ICE-SI).


LCOD across powertrains for light-duty SUV, MY2025. Burnham et al.

The fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV), the diesel-fueled compression-ignition internal combustion engine (ICE-CI) vehicle, and the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) have similar costs, while the BEV is the most expensive. The researchers found that the lower operating cost (especially fuel and maintenance) is not sufficient to offset the higher incremental cost of purchase.

For the non-combustion vehicles, the cost of ownership is high due to batteries (for plug-in electric vehicles) or the cost of hydrogen fuel for fuelcell electric vehicles (FCEV).


  • Burnham, Andrew; Gohlke, David; Rush, Luke; Stephens, Thomas; Zhou, Yan; Delucchi, Mark A.; Birky, Alicia; Hunter, Chad; Lin, Zhenhong; Ou, Shiqi; Xie, Fei; Proctor, Camron; Wiryadinata, Steven; Liu, Nawei; and Boloor, Madhur (2021) “Comprehensive Total Cost of Ownership Quantification for Vehicles with Different Size Classes and Powertrains.” United States: N. p., 2021. Web. doi: 10.2172/1780970



The chart "Avg. 15-year per-Mile Cost of Driving" is more than just misleading. I know for a fact that just an average-sized FC in a FCEV is far more dearly priced than a complete ready-to-drive BEV. However, the acquisition of a BEV is depicted as being far more expensive than a complete FCEV. My days of blind believing have passed long ago. I consider that graph as a blatant lie.


15 yrs out is hard to project. Will gasoline prices rise or fall 10 yrs from now?
Same with electricity.
Also, heavily depends upon how many miles driven, and non-SUV vehicles may have different graphs.


Toyota reckon they can make a FCEV for the same price as a regular hybrid within the next few years.

The cost of hydrogen from renewables is falling rapidly.

Those who are blind to the virtues of FCEVs are in for a shock!



Here is the full report:

I look forward to your detailed, line by line critique!

I am sure it will be remarkable.



The chart you are criticising is projected costs for 2025, not current ones as you seem to imagine.


Here are their costs for a vehicle bought in 2025 for a projected life of 15 years (pg109-110)

' Comparing across powertrains, the HEV is the vehicle powertrain with the lowest cost of ownership over a 15-year span, at 44.6¢/mile. The ICE-SI, ICE-CI, FCEV, and PHEV50 all have costs around 48¢/mile. The BEV300 has the highest cost, at 51.8¢/mile, though the shorter-range BEV200 (not pictured) has a cost of 45.3¢/mile. The comparatively high costs for BEV300 come from assumed battery costs of $170/kWh in 2025 in the Autonomie model (Islam et al. 2020), though BEV would reach cost parity with HEV at a cost of $102/kWh. For allpowertrains, the vehicle cost is the single most expensive cost over the 15-year analysis window.Maintenance and repair taken together is the second most expensivefor all powertrain types except FCEV.For petroleum-fueled vehicles,this is followed by fuel,then insurance.For electric-fueled vehicles (both BEV and PHEV)and hybrids, reduced fuel costs lead to higher insurance costs than fuel costs.Hydrogen fuel cells have a different cost breakdown, where the cost of fuel is higher than maintenance and repair and insurance. This is due to the high price of hydrogen as described in Section 0.'

IOW, for BEVs, it is all down to what happens with battery costs.
For FCEVs, it is all down to what happens with hydrogen costs.


I should have added that the above is about a small SUV


@ Davemart:
In numerous posts I have stated and highlighted countless times that the well-to-wheels efficiency of a complete H2 infrastructure is horribly inefficient beyond description. Increasing this overall efficiency by perhaps 2 - 5% is surely not going to win a Nobel-Prize.
You may not understand me but I detest waste as much as I do D. J. Trump. If H2 at all, then only there where there is absolutely no alternative. It seems to me that wasting resources (incl. energy) has become a provocative hobby of many individuals. It's no surprise at all that our environment / planet is in such a desolate state.
I, personally, am neither an advocate nor a proponent of big-oil or any derivatives or successors thereof. Let them RIP, they've had their chance.

“ The comparatively high costs for BEV300 come from assumed battery costs of $170/kWh in 2025 …, though BEV would reach cost parity with HEV at a cost of $102/kWh.”

Tesla is there now, VW expected to be there by 2025.

As battery energy densities increase, cost per kg fall proportionally - or better, as expensive materials like cobalt are replaced with silicon, sulfur, etc.

Thank you for posting the link to the full study, Davemart.

“ … no costs external to purchasing and operating the vehicle, such as costs due to congestion, pollution, or noise impacts were included. “

The smoking gun, so to speak.

Easy to make your product look competitive when you externalize the cost of dumping your waste product.



You can't argue with religion, and I don't propose to.
However it is somewhat tedious when you simply repeat your credo.

Easier than thinking though, for sure.


@electric car insider.

Costs for a complete battery system are very different to those for a pack, let alone a cell, and cost is very different to the needed sales price.

If Tesla or anyone else was at $102KWh at the pack or system level, with what is charged for BEV cars and subsidies, let alone replacement packs, profits would be showing up in the 10Ks.

No such profits are to be found in the accounts.

BEVs still lose money copiously.

And with material prices rising, not falling, largely due to the huge quantities required by even present low levels of BEV production, and materials representing 80% of battery prices, expect prices to be rising, not falling, at least for a few years, as suppliers like Hyundai have noted.

And yes, that takes account of increased volumes, and technical progress, now much, much slower at this part of the curve.

This is from a Dec 2020 article from Bloomberg’s BNEF:

“The average price per kilowatt-hour for a lithium-ion battery pack, according to the survey of nearly 150 buyers and sellers, has fallen to $137, down 13 percent from $157 in 2019. A decade ago, these batteries sold for more than $1,100 per kilowatt-hour. The threshold for price parity with gasoline engines, according to BNEF, is around $100/kWh. In the report, BNEF analysts said they expect battery makers to hit $101/kWh in 2023. For the first time, the survey found some prices reported at the cost-competitive level, with batteries for e-buses in China selling at $100/kWh.

Tesla, the world’s largest EV maker, pays an estimated average of $115 per kilowatt-hour for batteries, according to the BNEF survey, down from $128 last year. “


@ Davemart:
Hail thee H2 and your omnipotent Fool Cell partner. That's truly religious.

The trend is toward greater efficiency, further increasing the effective range at lower cost. Tesla’s new Model S Long Range, for example, gets an increase to 407 miles of EPA range on a battery that is actually ~4% less capacity than its predecessor (100kW vs 104kW).

FCV drivetrains are improving too, and may eke out a survivable niche for some freight applications, but it’s very unlikely that they will compete with BEVs on acquisition cost or TCO before BEVs completely walk away with the game.

Just plot out the price performance curves and come to your own conclusion.

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