New Study Finds Electric Vehicles Costs Comparable to Gasoline Powered Vehicles in 14 Major Cities

January 3, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Responsible Battery Coalition (RBC) today applauds the release of a comprehensive research project with the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems to compare the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of internal combustion engine and electric vehicles (EVs) across 14 cities. Previous research found that understanding the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of an EV, and not just the initial purchase price, is becoming an increasingly important factor in consumer decision-making and potentially slowing the adoption of electric vehicles. A link to the study can be found here.

Across the cities studied, small and low-range EVs were found to be cost-competitive with their internal combustion engine counterparts, such as compact cars and midsize sedans, while larger or longer-range EVs such as pickup trucks are more expensive when compared to their internal combustion engine counterparts. However, midsize EVs, such as an SUV, can reach cost parity in cities with additional incentives.

The UM research is essential to helping us understand the current benefits and barriers to the use of electric vehicles to power our domestic transportation fleet and decarbonize the transportation sector,” said Steve Christensen, Executive Director of the RBC. "Transportation is the second biggest cost for families in America, higher than even food and healthcare. As America increasingly electrifies, consumers need to know if buying an EV will cost more or less than an internal combustion engine vehicle, and for policymakers to understand what changes they can make to help keep transportation affordable as we lower emissions.”

Cumulative recurring costs (not discounted) for an ICE vehicle, hybrid EV, and 300-mile range BEV midsize SUV in each city over a 25-year vehicle lifetime.

The University of Michigan team examined the 14 cities that represent major vehicle markets and a wide range of climates, electricity markets, gasoline prices and levels of public policy incentives. The cities were Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Manhattan, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C.

EVs are currently a cheaper option in some cities and for some owners driven by policy and environmental factors outside of their immediate control,” said Maxwell Woody, PhD candidate and lead author of the study.As battery costs decline, we expect EVs will become cost-competitive in more locations and for more people.

Overall, the study found that across vehicle ranges, new EVs are more competitive with new internal combustion engine vehicles in cities with low electricity prices, high gasoline prices, moderate climates and direct purchase incentives. Home charging access, time-of-use electricity pricing and how many miles the vehicle is driven per year were also noted as factors affecting the cost of vehicles.

Other key findings include:

  • Location matters: Across the 14 cities studied, the total cost of ownership of an EV can vary over a vehicle’s entire lifetime. For gasoline vehicles, refueling is most expensive in San Francisco and Los Angeles and least expensive in Houston and Dallas. For electric vehicles, charging is most expensive in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston, and least expensive in Atlanta, Chicago and Cleveland.
  • Vehicle and battery size: Small and low-range electric vehicles are less expensive than similarly sized internal combustion engine vehicles across all 14 cities in the study. Larger, long-range EVs are more expensive than their internal combustion engine counterparts, while midsize EVs can reach cost parity in some cities.
  • Incentives: Federal incentives, such as the $7,500 federal tax credit, play a pivotal role in accelerating the break-even point between electric vehicles and gasoline vehicles. In some cities, federal incentives can be combined with state and local incentives.
  • Charging scenarios: Different charging behaviors play a crucial role in the total cost of ownership. Home charging lowers lifetime costs by $10,000 on average, versus public charging stations, and potentially up to $26,000, even when including the cost of installing a charger. Many cities have time-of-use electricity rates, offering lower prices for charging a vehicle overnight.  
  • Accessibility: The higher purchase price of EVs is a challenge for low-income households, but operating costs offer savings compared to hybrid and traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. Ensuring equitable access to home charging infrastructure, especially for renters and those in multifamily dwellings, is essential for the transition to electrified transportation.

This study shows that while EVs initial purchase price is higher, households buying them instead of internal combustion engine vehicles can save money over the car’s lifetime while playing a direct role in decarbonizing transportation sector emissions,” said Dr. Gregory Keoleian, Director of the Center for Sustainable Systems and senior author of the study. “Speeding up the replacement of internal combustion engine vehicles will also make more used electric vehicles available to lower-income households who can also benefit from reduced operating and maintenance costs."

(a) The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of the 25 different combinations of vehicle class (compact, midsize sedan, small SUV, midsize SUV, and pickup truck) and vehicle powertrain (ICE vehicle, hybrid EV, 200-mile, 300-mile, and 400-mile range BEV) used in the RBC/UM study. (b) The 14 cities investigated in this study.

This research by the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems, funded by a grant from the Responsible Battery Coalition, presents additional insights into understanding the long-term economic, environmental and social impacts of decarbonizing the transportation sector.

A link to the study can be found here.

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About the Responsible Battery Coalition

The Responsible Battery Coalition (RBC) is a coalition of companies, academics and organizations committed to the responsible management of the batteries of today and tomorrow. Its goal is to advance the responsible production, transport, sale, use, reuse, recycling, and resource recovery of transportation, industrial and stationary batteries and other energy storage devices. The top priorities for the organization are to promote battery life-cycle management regardless of technology, ensure that current vehicle batteries are properly recycled, and to develop best practices for the next generation of batteries. For more information about the Responsible Battery Coalition and its programs visit