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Compelling new research has challenged the long-held theory that electric vehicles are too expensive to run when compared with equivalent petrol or diesel models.

British researchers looked at the total cost of ownership over 4 years within the UK, US and Japan – focusing on the purchase price, maintenance costs, fuel, insurance and taxation. Pure form electric cars convincingly came out on top, largely due to electricity being a cheaper fuel source and that the engines and brakes systems on electric vehicles are a lot simpler to maintain.

Lead researcher James Tate, of the Applied Energy journal of the University of Leeds, said the research was reflective of the growing support for electric vehicles globally.

“We were surprised and encouraged because, as we scale up production, [pure] electric vehicles are going to be becoming cheaper and we expect battery costs are going to fall,” Mr Tate said.

“It is a really good news story.”

But the news wasn’t so good for plug-in hybrids, where the cost of electric vehicles was found to be significantly more expensive.

The researchers found that buyers are more or less paying for the ongoing maintenance of two separate engines rather than one, limiting its ongoing affordability. The study also identified that current subsidies and government incentives have typically been much lower than on pure form electric models.

“With a larger battery and features such as regenerative braking, engine stop-start and a novel transmission system, hybrid and electric vehicles have a higher manufacturing cost than conventional vehicles,” researchers said.

“Conversely, running costs are often lower stemming from cheaper annual fuel costs, taxes and maintenance.”

For any fleet, the move to electric vehicles is one that needs to be considered both now and into the future. The ongoing transition away from petrol and diesel fuel sources presents a considerable opportunity for fleet professionals to improve their environmental commitment and also improve their fleet’s bottom line over an extended period of time.

As with all fleet decisions, consider the long-term benefits of electric vehicles and consider how these could be included in your day-to-day operations.

For more details on the original Applied Energy study, click here.