Iain Curry refuels the Nissan Leaf at a public charging station.
Iain Curry refuels the Nissan Leaf at a public charging station.

Real world running costs of an electric car revealed

Debate and intrigue follows the Nissan Leaf.

Having the electric car in our driveway over the past two months has led to some interesting discussions and questions.

Running purely on battery power with a combination of highway and around-town driving, the range of about 270km has never been exhausted. Anxiety surrounding safe arrival on long journeys remains, but the level of angst has eased with experience.

Curiosity from friends, family and onlookers has piqued. Electric vehicle adoption remains slow across Australia, although if our experience is any indication more mainstream buyers are looking seriously at the alternative to combustion engines.

The “zero emission” badge on the Leaf starts many conversations.

Nissan’s Leaf trumpets its credentials.
Nissan’s Leaf trumpets its credentials.

One bloke was intrigued about how you drive with “one pedal”. He had heard about the one pedal driving was surprised to find there are still two pedals — the standard accelerator and a brake. When engaging the “epedal” via a console toggle the driver rarely needs to brake: simply lift off the accelerator and the Leaf quickly loses speed.

Driving an electric vehicle remains just about identical to a run-of-the-mill car.

Apart from no engine noise at start up, and the whirring soundtrack when under way, the experience behind the wheel remains similar. Electric power does provide instant power with maximum torque available from the get-go.

The only thing loud is the naysayers and those keen to debunk the chances of change any time soon.

The 2019 model Nissan Leaf has a real-world range of about 270km from one charge.
The 2019 model Nissan Leaf has a real-world range of about 270km from one charge.

Around the Christmas lunch table there was talk about the well-to-wheel emissions — that’s looking at how much CO2 is generated to actually build the Leaf and its lithion-ion battery. Throw into the mix where our electricity is generated and the green credentials don’t appear as squeaky clean.

The fact remains that once on the road, electric vehicles quickly become more efficient than their combustion engine counterparts in terms of overall CO2 emissions — even faster if the power being pumped into the battery comes from renewables.

During our tenure, we’ve been using solar power sourced at home to reduce the cost and our carbon footprint.

Throughout the two months our average usage has been 15.3kW/h for every 100km at an average speed of 43km/h. With our price of electricity, that equates to a cost of just below $4.

Most of our charging via the standard household 10-amp power point has been during the day, while we have also used free public charging stations. The could be as low as $1.50-$2 to cover 100km.

The 2019 model Nissan Leaf has a real-world range of more than 240km from one charge.
The 2019 model Nissan Leaf has a real-world range of more than 240km from one charge.

Compare that figure to combustion engines and the electic running costs are much less.

Consider the average price of unleaded at $1.33 and using the ABS’s average car fuel usage of 10.8 litres/100km, that equates to $14.36 for every 100km.

Fairer comparisons would be with a Toyota Corolla or a Mazda CX-5. A Corolla averages about six litres for every 100km, a cost of $7.98, a front-wheel drive CX-5 is $9.17.

Registration costs for electric cars are less expensive in Queensland. Electric cars are the same price as those with one, two or three cylinders ($258.40). Vehicles with four-cylinders are $328.60, while five or six cylinders are $520.30 and V8s are a whopping $728.65.

NSW bases its registration fees on weight, but there are concessions for electric and hybrids.

Maintenance costs are often cheaper on EVs due to having less moving parts. Although Toyota Corolla owners boast the least expensive maintenance at an average price of $180 over four services. The Leaf costs $282 for each maintenance visit, while a Mazda3 with the a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine is $337.

The Nissan Leaf.
The Nissan Leaf.

Yet the greatest disparity remains the drive-away price.

At $53,200 drive-away, the Leaf requires a sizeable initial investment.

Compare that to a range-topping ZR Corolla ($35,764 for the petrol engine and $36,972 for the hybrid) or a Mazda3 G25 Astina ($41,787), the running cost savings would take some time to recoup the additional outlay.

Obviously, the cheaper the combustion engine car the longer it would take to achieve parity.

Government statistics show Australians travel on average 13,000km a year. Using that distance as the benchmark, and combing the servicing cost, the Leaf would set owners back $5453 annually.

Suzuki’s circa $20,000 Baleno has long been regarded as one of the cheapest cars to run. Our calculations show the annual bill would be $9579 using the same formula — which equates to at least eight years to make back the extra investment.

Penny-pinchers would find the Toyota Corolla Hybrid outlay and ongoing costs far easier to swallow.

But where electric cars trump all alternatives are zero emissions. Those able to use power from renewable energy, the most accessible for most is solar from their own roof, will find vehicles like the Leaf add up in terms of daily operation and environmental impact.