Are electric vehicles cheaper to operate than petrol ones?


The Sunday Nation


25 June 2023


Last week I suffered a serious bout of writer’s block and was totally unable to write this article. For that, I am sorry to all my readers. To avoid a repeat, I asked my tweeter followers for suggestions of what to write about this week. One of them asked this: “At current electricity and petrol prices, are fully electric vehicles cheaper to own/operate? Let's say for two cars bought at 100,000km mileage, and operating to 250,000 km, whereby the electric car battery will have to be replaced at 150,000km while the petrol engine won't.”

This requires three things to be compared: first, the energy costs; second, the vehicle purchase prices; and third, the cars themselves. Let’s start from the last one…

Whenever we compare the fuel efficiency of regular cars, we always do so for two similar vehicles – with similar size of engines and similar carrying capacity. It doesn’t make much sense to compare a 50-seat bus with a 7,000cc engine to a 1,500cc, 5-seat family saloon. But we can compare a 1,500cc car to a 1,600cc one.

When the method of propulsion is completely different – petrol and electricity – it is not a straightforward matter. Nevertheless, we can compare two cars of similar physical size.

In that case, a Toyota Vitz with a 1,300cc engine may be compared to a Nissan Leaf fully electric vehicle. The two cost about the same price in Kenya for used 2017 models.

The Vitz can easily drive for about 20km on one litre of petrol. At current prices of about Sh182 per litre, the energy cost per kilometre comes to about Sh7.28.

The Nissan Leaf has a 30kWh battery of which, only 28kWh are useable. It runs about 170km on full charge. This works to drive about 0.165kWh per km. At current cost of electricity in Kenya (Sh25 per kWh), the energy cost comes to Sh4.10/km.

Clearly, then, on energy cost alone, the electric vehicle is about 44 per cent cheaper to run that an equivalent petrol car. If the two are driven for 150,000km, the cost of petrol will be about Sh1,092,000 and that of electricity will be Sh615,000. The difference is about Sh477,000.

Now, our reader says the battery of the electric car will need to be changed at this point. That work will cost at least one million shillings – parts and labour. That’s the biggest drawback of electric vehicles.

  Back to 2023 Articles  
World of Figures Home About Figures Consultancy