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Is going electric really cheaper? We do the science to find out the precise difference between ICE and EV from a dollars and cents perspective.

18 Nov 2022


Let's talk EVs.

You've probably heard many people (including us here at Sgcarmart) espouse the benefits of electric vehicles. Besides how they feel to drive, perhaps the biggest argument for going electric is that it is cheaper to run than a petrol car - the key idea here is electricity (per km) is cheaper than petrol (per km). We've even done some number-based calculations before comparing ICE vs EV, but that is with some several assumed figures taken into account.

So, the question is, is there any way to do an actual apples-to-apples comparison, to figure out exactly the difference between an ICE and EV? You know, science? I thought I'd give it a go.

The scientific method

The iX3 (left) and X3 have been chosen specifically because they have an identical list price
The truth is that it has been close to impossible to do any apple-to-apple comparison precisely because most EVs don't have an exact ICE counterpart. Even if there are models with both ICE and electric powertrains, there is almost always a price disparity (often with the EV being more expensive).

There is, thankfully, one exception: The BMW X3 and iX3. Specifically, the X3 xDrive20i M Sport and the iX3 M Sport Impressive, both of which have an identical recommended retail price of $322,888 (as of 17 Nov 2022).

So, here's the plan. I'm going to plot out an exact route, drive both cars at the same time of day on the same route on the same day one week apart, and use the respective consumption figures to calculate petrol/electricity costs.

The 260km route will allow me to get some real-world consumption figures
Factor in road tax, insurance and the relevant PARF figures, and we should have a clear and exact calculation of the difference in costs between an ICE and EV. The only factor not calculated here is maintenance (because there is no exact means for me to do so). This is science. The last time I did any science was back in secondary school literally half my lifetime ago.

A little about the route: I've planned a mixture of highway (every expressway is covered), downtown, and heartland routes covering just about every area of Singapore. Yes, no one realistically drives this much in a day, but I only have the car for a limited amount of time. Let's say this simulates a few days of driving (about five days). And also, Google, you need to allow more than 10 destinations. Manual navigation should be a thing of the past.

The total distance is 263km (according to Google). You can see the route here if you are interested.

* All calculations as of 17 Nov 2022, based on a single 32-year old male with 20% NCD, and that the car is owned for and deregistered after 10 years

The numbers

Purchase cost (COE included)

Because of how the rebates are structured, the X3 actually has a lower yearly depreciation
BMW X3
Price: $322,888
ARF: $60,106
Depreciation: $29,300/yr

BMW iX3
Price: $322,888
ARF: $33,141 (After VES & EEAI rebates)
Depreciation: $30,600/yr

Despite the same sticker price, because of the way VES and EEAI rebates work (they are factored into ARF, and thus affects how much you get back when you deregister the car after 10 years), the yearly depreciation of an EV would actually be higher than an equivalently priced ICE car.

Road Tax

The iX3's higher power output means that the road tax is significantly more than the X3
BMW X3
$1,210/yr

BMW iX3
$1,847/yr

Road tax is calculated based on performance, and EVs tend to outperform an ICE in a straight line, so it's no surprise that an EV will have a higher road tax.

Insurance

The quotes are taken from Singlife (the only one that currently offers an online quote for the iX3), and does not include discounts.

Singlife is presently the only insurer that offers an online quotation for the iX3, and it's significantly more expensive than the X3
BMW X3
Motor Standard: $1,573.94

BMW iX3
Motor Standard: $2,392.02

The significantly higher insurance on the iX3 likely speaks to the general 'new-ness' of EVs, where insurance companies still have a limited data set with which to base insurance premiums on.

Petrol/Electricity

Average annual mileage: 17,500km, based on latest data available from LTA
Actual test distance covered: 256.5km for X3 and 257.7km for iX3

The X3 clocked a consumption figure of 12.3km/L, and thus a total yearly petrol cost of $3,955
BMW X3
Consumption 12.3km/L @ avg speed of 38.6km/h
Cost of petrol: $2.82 per litre of 95 Octane petrol
Cost per km: $0.226
Total cost per year: $3,955

BMW iX3
Consumption: 5.7km/kWh @ avg speed of 37.5km/h
Cost of electricity: $0.525/kWh at SP AC charger
Cost per km: $0.092
Total cost per year: $1,610

The iX3 clocked a consumption figure of 5.7km/kWh, thus a yearly cost of $1,610
Of course, these costs may change over time, and there's no way to accurately predict how petrol and electricity costs will change. However, based on current prices, an EV could save you more than 50% in terms of 'fuel' costs. And of course, the lower cost per km does mean that if you drive more, the relative savings in an ICE will be higher as well.

Yearly costs

BMW X3 BMW iX3 % difference
Depreciation $27,400 $28,700 +5%
Road Tax $1,210 $1,847 +53%
Insurance $1,573.94 $2,392.02 +52%
Petrol/
Electricity
$3,955 $1,610 -59%
Total $34,138.94 $34,549.02 +1%

Conclusion

Right now, buying and owning an EV is actually marginally more expensive than an identically-priced ICE equivalent
After more than 500km and 14 hours of driving, plus many more hours staring at numbers on a spreadsheet, here are some conclusions we can make.

Maintenance aside, owning and using an EV vis-à-vis an ICE car is actually 1% more expensive, assuming all things equal. 

So even though yes, you can actually save on fuel cost, that difference unfortunately does not offset the significant difference in road tax and insurance. 

So, should you go electric? From a dollars and cents perspective, like it or not, the numbers don't lie - right now, it's not actually cheaper to buy and drive an EV, even if the EV is priced exactly the same as its ICE counterpart (and that's rarely the case). You have to bank on the fact that maintenance costs should be cheaper in an EV compared to an ICE. 

For EVs to become more viable than ICE cars, costs will have to go down across the board 
What does this tell us? For EVs to be a truly viable cost option, prices need to come down across the board - both for the price of the EV (especially considering most EV twins are today already more expensive than their ICE counterparts), but perhaps more sensibly also the road tax and insurance costs.

For all the benefits that EVs offer, from a more refined driving experience to reducing our carbon footprint, the unfortunate reality in Singapore is that given our current circumstances, EVs are not yet cheaper. While we certainly commend drivers who make the active choice to go electric, there is still insufficent cost incentive for the individual consumer make the switch today.

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ev  ice  electric  charging  petrol  electric car  x3  ix3