Your Cost to Buy an Electric Car? The Wall Street Journal Calls it $0.00


Nissan Leaf FREE

New tax incentives are combining with lower retail prices to make the cost of choosing an EV as your next new car almost zero. That claim comes courtesy of the Wall Street Journal, which cites a new round of discount leases on mainstream-brand plug-in cars like the hot-selling Nissan Leaf and Fiat 500e that can be combined with federal, state and local incentives to buy an electric car “could make a battery-electric car an extraordinarily economical way to get around for drivers.”

The esteemed WSJ isn’t saying electric cars are free, of course. What they’re doing, instead, is refuting one of the favorite talking points of “EV haters” (aka “knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing troglodytes”). That being “electric cars cost more than their gas-powered counterparts, and you’ll never drive it long enough to get your money back.” It’s a stupid, ridiculous, and laughable “argument” I know, but most people are bad at math and “feel like” that makes sense “to them”. So, rather than explain the situation for the umpteenth time, I’ll let the Wall Street Journal present their own anecdotal example, in their words.

Bronson Beisel, 46, says he was looking last fall for an alternative to driving his gas-guzzling Ford Expedition sport utility around suburban Atlanta, when he saw a discounted lease offer for an all-electric Nissan Leaf. With $1,000 down, Mr. Beisel says he got a two-year lease for total out-of-pocket payments of $7,009, a deal that reflects a $7,500 federal tax credit.

As a resident of Georgia, Mr. Beisel is also eligible for a $5,000 subsidy from the state government. Now, he says, his out-of-pocket costs for 24 months in the Leaf are just over $2,000. Factor in the $200 a month he reckons he isn’t paying for gasoline to fill up his hulking SUV, and Mr. Beisel says “suddenly the car puts $2,000 in my pocket.”

Yes, he pays for electricity to charge the Leaf’s 24-kilowatt-hour battery—but not much. “In March, I spent $14.94 to charge the car” and a bit less than that in April, he says. He also got an electric car-charging station installed at his house for no upfront cost.

“It’s like a two-year test drive, free,” he says.

So, what will it take you to buy an electric car, if not “a two-year free trial period”? Math like this, combined with the realization that EVs seem to be much more durable and long-lasting than previously thought, simply adds to what we’ve been about electric cars over the years, and will give mainstream car-buyers a chance to see for themselves that they’ll be just fine with electric cars, about 99% of the time, without taking a big up-front price hit compared to a similarly sized “conventional” car. You can head on over to the Wall Street Journal’s original article, or check out their cost-breakdown infographic, below.


Cost of Nissan Leaf Infographic

Source | Infographic: Wall Street Journal.

About the Author

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.
  • UncleB

    Do the low moving parts count electric systems last longer than their piston engined counterparts? Can the batteries be replaced with newer better ones as they come out? Will gasoline and oil prices continue to rise in the future? Can we organize happy lives around the short haul electrics and use public transport for the long hauls now?

    • Jo Borras

      No. They do not. Parts count does not directly impact longevity, it just seems that way because “more things can go wrong”. It’s a logical fallacy along the lines of flipping a coin: just because you flipped heads the last 6 times, that doesn’t make the 7th flip more likely to be tails.

      PS: if you think it DOES make the 7th flip more likely to be tails, then you should not go to Las Vegas.

      • Thor

        Your Fallacy argument is Fallacy, it has nothing to due with singular outcome. Since there are MORE CoinFlips (moving, lubricated parts) in a ICE it stands to reason that more will end up failing (not a 50/50 like a coin flip). If you have 1000 Coins Flipped, you will almost certainly have more “Tails” and “Heads” as 100 Coins Flipped.

        • Jo Borras

          I think you don’t understand the words “along the lines of” or “fallacy”. Fallacy doesn’t mean “incorrect”.

          Here, learn:

    • shecky vegas

      UncleB –
      low moving parts? no.
      batteries? yes.
      gas and oil? yes.
      happy lives? yes and no. it depends on how you want to live it.

      • Wouldn’t it be nice if all it took was an EV to have a happy life?

  • Magdoc

    Don’t forget no expensive tune-ups and oil changes. Also less brake jobs due to regenerative braking. And don’t forget an electric motor will lass longer than a gas engine ever will.

    • Jo Borras

      As much as I love the enthusiasm, regen braking hardware is pricey and there’s no reason to say an electric motor will outlast a gas engine. Coils crack, corrode, and wear and can’t be easily over-bored and put back together, you know?

      • z0ner

        I’m sorry Jo, how many “breaking regen” assemblies have you blown through in your years of EV ownership? What about the enclosed motor? I’ve put 30K miles on mine so far with absolutely ZERO maintenance issues. I have about 10K more miles before I have to replace tires, but that is it.

        • Jo Borras

          In my years of ownership? None. In my years working on Nissans and Mercedes with the systems installed? Maybe a dozen.

          I think it’s cute that you didn’t think of that possibility. Ask me why I won’t buy an EV next! That should be fun.

          Also, I can’t think of a single car that would have issues in 30K miles. Call me in another 70K or so and let me know how it’s going, though. (just kidding, don’t call)

          • z0ner

            I’d say at least half of the LEAF owners are on, and there has not been a single issue regarding a brake pad replacement not to mention an entire assembly having to be redone.

            If you can’t think of a single car that needs maintenance in 30K miles then you are in the wrong profession. Have you heard of replacing oil every 3K miles?

            You’re obviously jaded because your job as a mechanic is threatened due to the lack of EV maintenance work. Maybe you can take up work as a gardener?

          • emenot

            I think you had been living under some rock…3k miles had been disproved some time ago!

          • z0ner

            Please stay with us, emenot. We’re talking about maintenance within 30K miles. I haven’t replaced anything, nor pumped a drop of gas. What about you?

          • Jo Borras

            Maintenance isn’t service/repair. Do you even remember the point you’re arguing?

          • z0ner

            “Don’t forget no expensive tune-ups and oil changes. Also less brake jobs due to regenerative braking”. Hmmm. Sounds like maintenance and service items to me. smh.

          • Jo Borras

            Maybe we’re arguing over nothing. In your view, what constitutes a “brake job”? Pads? Rotors? Repairing brake lines? ABS modules? Also, what do you think a “tune up” is, while we’re at it. It’s 2013, and a “tune up” in the traditional sense (plugs, timing, carb tuning, etc.) doesn’t exist. You know that, right?

          • JO Rey

            Well the generation 1 Rav4 ev, made in 1997-2003, have driven 100,000 millies and no major problems have been reported, only problem that plague them is the capacitor that allows the car to charge fails, but it is easy to replace. One rav4 ev, has also reached 200000 and has had to mechanical problems to report, only problem is the battery.

  • JayTee

    Shouldn’t you be making this comparison to a similarly sized car as a Leaf? Vista owners don’t spend $200 per month.

    Taking your analysis as valid, it’s good to know I’m paying for others to drive free.


    • Jo Borras

      1. What’s a Vista?

      2. I’m not making any comparisons, I’m sharing the Wall Street Journal’s comparisons. That should have been clear.

      3. How are you paying for others to drive free? That comment seems so utterly bizarre and unreal that I have to think it might actually have some validity. Please explain it to us …

      • Kevin

        It’s not really “free” or close to it. You are simply having taxpayers
        pay for it, or, worse, your kids and grandkids are paying for it
        (increased government debt). What kind of loser does that to his kids or

        • Uh-oh … sounds like you’re one of those guys that drives to work on gov’t-built roads, taking directions from a gov’t-made GPS satellite, talking on a gov’t-developed cellular network or checking the ARPA-developed internet, then talks a bunch of nonsense about how government doesn’t work. Right?

          Also: we have a non commodity-backed fiat currency, taxation is what gives it value. Taxes are good. You seem to think the US gov’t operates on the same basic principles as your checkbook. This is factually incorrect, and I encourage you to get more educated on fiscal theory and policy before complaining about things you don’t understand.

          OR … and, this would be my preferred option … you could write more nonsense on my blog and I will publicly embarrass you further.

          • Kevin

            Yes, I am so embarrassed. I notice you didn’t address a single issue I raised. You are such a mental mountain.
            I raised a very specific issue and your response is to trash me instead of addressing the issue. Typical liberal.
            After addressing the issue of pushing these costs on to my kids and grandkids, please also name anything you think the government is not allowed to do since “the government” in some way provides for everything I do.

          • LOL! I love that you went with “liberal” as your comeback.

            Let’s address your so-called “points”.

            1. the subsidies EVs have received thus far are much LESS than the total subsidies received by gas and oil companies – so a switch to move everyone to EVs would actually save your kids’ and our taxpayers’ dollars.

            2. the debt that you’re referring to isn’t a bad thing. It’s not like the debt you carry on … well, judging from your tone, it’s not student loans. I’m guessing “Chevy Truck”. The government’s debt exists to help regulate the value of the dollar on foreign exchanges, which is important as the petrodollar starts to fall in the face of increased demand for alternative fuels, including wind and solar, that are taking a serious bite out of petroleum demand which has, thus far, been the primary determinant of the value of a dollar in international markets.

            3. since you asked what kind of “loser” adds tax debt to his kids, what kind of idiot (I’m being nice) believes sending their kids and their kids’ kids to war over a subsidized commodity like oil is a better option than NOT DOING THAT?

            Man, idiot was too kind.

            4. Not that it matters, but I consider myself a fiscal conservative. Whatever you consider yourself is probably incorrect. Please go back to school, and – WHATEVER YOU DO! – don’t travel.

            America has a bad enough reputation as it is.

            In case all that was too long for you, the short version is: you’re stupid.

          • Kevin

            I try to make it a point on the internet to not name call and say things I wouldn’t say to someone’s face. You can imagine my lack of respect for someone that does those things.

            1. Oil and gas companies pay in far more tax dollars in a day than your daisy farm ever will.

            2. I paid off my student loans. Actually paid them. Wrote checks each month until the principal balances decreased to zero. And your description of government debt is the biggest load of b.s. I have read in a long time. Not to mention your suggestion that “petrodollars” have started “to fall in the face of increased demand for alternative fuels, including wind and solar, that are taking a serious bite out of petroleum demand,”. That is pure fantasy.

            3. Again, I notice you completely ignored the issue and resorted to ad hominem name calling. And that was really the only issue I raised. And you still completely ignore it and still decide to name call instead. In case you didn’t notice, our greatest generation and the next generation saved the world and left us better off than we were before. Our generation cannot say that. Instead we are spending the fruits of their labor now AND we are spending the fruits of our kids and grandkids labor. That is morally disgusting.

            4. I could consider myself Einstein but it doesn’t make it true.

            I have an uncle that is a simple Ukrainian mine worker. We were visiting him at a hospital in Kyiv. He looked at me and asked (thru my wife) “Are you people really going to elect that guy Obama?” My friends and family in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus are polite and don’t laugh at me because Obama is President. But they do ask in bewilderment how we could do that. Twice. I just shake my head and say, “Nea es nyou.” “I don’t know.”

  • AaronD12

    I jumped on the $69/month lease for the i-MiEV. Tell me about free: My lease payments ($0 down, $0 security deposit) total up to less than $1800 over 2 years. THAT, my friends, is a free, two-year test drive.

    • Jo Borras

      Nicely done! How are you liking it?

  • JayTee

    You can just send me a few hundred dollars.

  • Jerry

    I didn’t know the tax credit also applies to lease deal, I though you need to own the vehicle…

    • Jo Borras

      I did, as well – apparently the Wall Street Journals knows better.

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  • Kevin

    1. Is there a recapture of the credit(s) if the car is disposed of with-in a certain period of time?
    2. It’s not really “free” or close to it. You are simply having taxpayers pay for it, or, worse, your kids and grandkids are paying for it (increased government debt). What kind of loser does that to his kids or grandkids?

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  • Very nice post thanks for share …..keep it up………

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