Electric cars cost $1,200 a year less to run

Drivers of electric vehicles such as General Motors Co. (GM)’s Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Motor Co.’s Leaf may save as much as $1,200 a year on fuel compared with a new gasoline-powered compact, a scientists’ group found.

Assuming gasoline costs $3.50 a gallon, drivers who plug cars into electrical outlets would save $750 to $1,200 a year instead of buying gas for a new model that gets 27 miles (43 kilometers) a gallon when driving 11,000 miles a year, the Union of Concerned Scientists said in a study released yesterday.The study didn’t attempt to compare total costs of ownership of electric and gasoline-powered vehicles, and didn’t determine how long an electric-vehicle owner would have to keep their car for the added cost to pay off.

“The cost of the electric vehicles today vary pretty widely based on the models that are out there,” Don Anair, the study’s author, said on a conference call with reporters. “It’s important for consumers to understand what the potential savings are on fuel costs, and that can help them make a decision about buying a vehicle.”

Ford Motor Co. (F), maker of a Focus electric car already sold to fleets including those owned by Google Inc. (GOOG) and AT&T Inc. (T), said last month the price will start at $39,995 before a $7,500 U.S. tax credit. That compares with the $16,500 base price for the gasoline-powered version.

A high-end Focus sells for about $27,000, or about $5,500 less than a plug-in version after the tax credit, Eddie Fernandez, a Ford spokesman, said in an e-mail.

Mileage, Emissions Differences

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rates the fuel economy of the Focus SFE, a gasoline-powered model, at 33 mpg for city and highway driving. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certified the electric Focus as offering the equivalent of 105 mpg.

Electric vehicles also are responsible for fewer emissions than gasoline models even when taking into consideration the output from coal-fired power plants and other generating sources, the scientists found. The environmental advantage varies by part of the country, they said.

Forty five percent of the U.S. population lives in regions where emissions related to a plug-in electric vehicle equate to those from a gasoline-powered car getting more than 50 miles a gallon, the scientists found. Those places include most of the Northeast U.S., most of California and all of the Northwest U.S.

Cost Almost $30,000

Edmunds.com, an auto-researcher, predicts electric vehicles may reach only 7 percent of U.S. auto sales by 2017 even when consumers take rising gas prices into account.

The average U.S. gas price was $3.91 as of April 15, according to U.S. motorist group AAA. That’s a 19 percent increase for this year.

Passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. have been getting more fuel-efficient, with the average miles-per-gallon rating rising to 24.5 last month compared with 21.4 four years earlier, according to data compiled by Edmunds.com. Small cars as a percent of U.S. sales gained 3 percentage points to 23 percent, according to the data.

In that time, the average transaction price for an advanced-drive vehicle rose 6.5 percent to $29,493 from $27,693, according to the Santa Monica, California-based researcher.