Let’s talk about electric vehicles (EV).

You’ve probably heard many people espouse the benefits of electric vehicles. Other than how they feel to drive, perhaps the biggest argument for going electric is that it’s cheaper to drive than a petrol car – the key idea here is that electricity (per km) is more fuel economy (per km).

We also did some number-based calculations before comparing the internal combustion engine (ICE) to the EV, but with some assumed figures in mind.

So, the question is, is there a way to do a true apples-to-apples comparison, to tell exactly the difference between an ICE and an VE?

You know, science? Thought I’d give it a try.

The scientific method

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The truth is, it’s been nearly impossible to do any apple comparisons precisely because most EVs don’t have an exact ICE counterpart. While there are models with both ICE and electric powertrains, there is almost always a disparity in price (often with the EV being more expensive).

There is, fortunately, one exception: the BMW X3 and iX3. Specifically, the X3 xDrive20i M Sport and iX3 M Sport Impressive, both have an identical MSRP of $322,888 (as of November 17, 2022).

So, here’s the plan. I will plot an exact route, drive both cars at the same time of day on the same route on the same day a week apart and use their respective consumption data to calculate petrol/electricity costs.

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Taking into account road taxes, insurance and related preferential additional registration rates (PARFs), we should have a clear and exact calculation of the cost difference between an ICE and an EV.

The only factor not calculated here is maintenance (because there is no exact means of doing this).

This is science. The last time I studied science was in high school, literally half my life ago.

A little bit about the route: I have planned a mixture of highway (every expressway is covered), downtown and heart routes covering almost every area in Singapore.

Yes, nobody realistically drives that much in a day, but I only have the car for a limited time. Let’s say this simulates a few days of driving (about five days).

Also, Google, you have to allow more than 10 destinations. Manual navigation should be a thing of the past.

The total distance is 263 km (according to Google). Here is the route if you are interested.

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

The numbers

Purchase cost (including COE)

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BMW X3 BMW iX3
Price $322,888 $322,888
ARF extension $60,106 $33,141 (After Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES) and EV Early Adoption Incentive (EEAI) rebates)
Depreciation $29,300/year $30,600 annually

Despite the same sticker price, due to the way the VES and EEAI discounts work (they are factored into the ARF and therefore affect the amount you get when you deregister your car after 10 years), the annual depreciation of an EV would actually be higher than an equivalently priced ICE car.

Road toll

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BMW X3

BMW iX3

$1,210/year

$1,847/year

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

The quotes are taken from Singlife (the only one currently offering an online quote for the iX3) and do not include any discounts.

Insurance

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BMW X3

BMW iX3

Engine Standard: $1,573.94

Engine Standard: $2,392.02

The significantly higher insurance on the iX3 probably speaks to the general “newness” of EVs, where insurance companies still have a limited data set on which to base insurance premiums.

Petrol/electricity

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Average annual mileage: 17,500 km, based on the latest data available from LTA

Actual test distance traveled: 256.5 km for X3 and 257.7 km for iX3








BMW X3 BMW iX3
Consumption 12.3 km/L at an average speed of 38.6 km/h 5.7 km/kWh at an average speed of 37.5 km/h
Cost of petrol/electricity (gasoline) $2.82 per liter of 95-octane gasoline (electricity) $0.525/kWh at SP AC charger
Cost per km $0.226 $0.092
Total cost per year $3,955 $1,610

Of course, these costs can change over time, and there’s no way to accurately predict how gas and electricity costs will change.

However, based on current prices, an EV could save you more than 50% in “fuel” costs.

And of course, the lower cost per km means that if you drive more, the relative savings in an ICE will be higher too.

Annual costs









BMW X3

BMW iX3 Percentage difference
Depreciation $27,400 $28,700 +5%
Road toll $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

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 draw.

Apart from maintenance, owning and using an electric vehicle in front of an ICE car is actually 1% more expensive, all else being equal.

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So while yes, you can actually save on the cost of fuel, this difference sadly doesn’t make up for the significant difference in road tax and insurance.

So, should you go electric?

From a dollar and cent perspective, like it or not, the numbers don’t lie: Right now, it’s actually not cheaper to buy and drive an EV, even if the EV’s price is exactly the same as its ICE counterpart ( and rarely the case). You have to rely on the fact that maintenance costs should be cheaper in an EV than in an ICE.

What does this tell us?

For EVs to be a truly viable cost option, prices need to come down across the board, both for EV price (especially considering most EV twins are already more expensive today than their ICE counterparts), but perhaps more sensibly also the road tax and insurance charges.

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Despite all the benefits EVs offer, from a more refined driving experience to reducing our carbon footprint, the unfortunate reality in Singapore is that under the current circumstances, EVs still aren’t cheaper.

While we certainly commend drivers actively choosing to go electric, the cost incentive is still insufficient for the individual consumer making the switch today.

READ ALSO: 5 SPC gas stations to install DC fast chargers in 2023

This article was first published on sgCarMart.

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