A new Argonne study offers the most complete understanding yet of the cost of owning and operating a vehicle and how those costs vary by powertrain, from conventional to modern.

Advanced vehicle technologies are sometimes more expensive to purchase than conventional technologies, but often pay for themselves through lower operating costs. Now a new study by the US Department of Energy (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory provides the most complete understanding yet of the cost of owning and operating a vehicle and how those costs vary by powertrain, from conventional to modern.

There has been a lot of research into the cost of vehicles and fuel costs in the past, but these other operating costs have not been explored in great detail. ”- David Gohlke, Argonne Energy and Environmental Analyst and co-author of the study

Building on his pioneering work in the past quantifying the costs and benefits of new transportation technologies, Argonne publishedComprehensive total cost of ownership quantification for vehicles of different sizes and powertrains. ”The study takes into account the acquisition costs, depreciation, financing and fuel costs of the vehicle as well as aspects that were missing in the previous technical analysis: costs related to insurance, maintenance and repair as well as taxes and fees – everything to calculate holistic total cost of ownership (Total cost of ownership).

“There has been a lot of research into the cost of vehicles and fuel costs in the past, but these other operating costs have not been explored in great detail,” said David Gohlke, Argonne energy and environmental analyst and co-author of the study. “There were gaps in the data, especially on alternative fuel propulsion – electric vehicles, fuel cell vehicles. They’re new to the road so it has been difficult, for example, to determine their historical maintenance needs during their operating life. Our analysis helped fill these data gaps close.”

The study, sponsored by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office, is the result of a collaboration between Argonne and four other national DOE laboratories: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.

The report includes light passenger vehicles – compact and midsize sedans, small and large SUVs and pickups – and medium / heavy duty vehicles: tractor units; medium-weight vans and pickups; Transit buses; Box, commercial air and dump trucks; and garbage trucks. The study examined several powertrains: internal combustion engine, hybrid electric vehicle, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, fuel cell electric vehicle, and battery electric vehicle.

Key insights include understanding vehicle depreciation, an in-depth study of insurance premium costs, comprehensive maintenance and repair estimates, an analysis of all relevant taxes and fees, and considerations of specific costs for commercial vehicles.

For example, the study finds that battery electric vehicles have 40% lower maintenance costs than vehicles with internal combustion engines. Overall, hybrid electric vehicles are usually the most cost-effective powertrain. Hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles will reach cost parity with conventional vehicles when the hydrogen price drops. Battery electric vehicles, meanwhile, will achieve cost parity as battery prices fall. “There is uncertainty about how quickly these costs will decrease,” noted Gohlke, “but the technology is going in the right direction.

Other notable results are that cars depreciate faster than light trucks and that older electric vehicles have a higher depreciation rate than newer electric vehicles. Light commercial vehicle insurance costs are comparable for different powertrains, and vehicle size and occupation both affect the cost of medium / heavy commercial vehicle insurance. Light commercial vehicle taxes and fees are similar for all powertrain types and sizes, although many states have slightly higher registration fees for alternative fuel vehicles. Many electric tractor units would be adversely affected by additional battery weight, which would reduce the available payload capacity, and this cost can be significant. Charging electric vehicles for commercial vehicles can be time consuming; When this billing is done at an hourly rate, labor costs can cause those costs to dominate the total cost of ownership.

For a simulated small sport utility vehicle in 2025 – modeled with autonomy, Argonne’s tool for simulating vehicle energy consumption and performance – the hybrid electric vehicle has the lowest costs, followed by the conventional vehicle with an internal combustion engine. In the field of commercial vehicles, the study shows that, due to their large batteries, the most expensive battery-electric long-distance tractor units today will become the cheapest drive train in 2035 with further falling battery prices. For local delivery vehicles such as the Class 4 truck, however, the battery-electric vehicle is the most cost-effective option in 2025, the base year for the modeling of the study.

The results of the study will feed into future research related to vehicle technology, contribute to Argonne’s regular assessments of the potential benefits of the technologies developed by the DOE and others, and enhance Argonne’s Environmental and Economic Transport of Alternative Fuels Instrument (AFLEET), which supports Fleet managers reviewing the economic and environmental costs of alternative fuel vehicles. “Fleet owners are particularly sensitive to the bottom line and choose vehicles that can do the work they need at the lowest cost,” said Andrew Burnham, environmental scientist at Argonne, creator of AFLEET and co-author of the study, “Making this data publicly available and accessible AFLEET will therefore help you plan to buy alternative fuel vehicles. “

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy supports early research and development of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies to strengthen US economic growth, energy security, and environmental quality.

The Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. As the country’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually all scientific disciplines. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of corporations, universities, and federal, state and local agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership, and prepare the nation for a brighter future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is administered by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the largest single funder of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. Further information can be found at https://energy.gov/ science.

Article courtesy of the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory (DOE).


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