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Electric cars already cheapest option today for many consumers, new study finds

28 April 2021
by BEUC -- last modified 28 April 2021

A medium-sized electric car bought today is already the most financially interesting solution over the car’s lifetime, research by BEUC and nine of its national member organisations reveals. Our research also finds that electric cars are the most ‘equitable’ engine on the market.


While relatively more affluent first owners will on average be better off by switching to electric in 2025, second- and third-hand owners – who bear less of the car's depreciation and benefit from low maintenance costs – will make savings for each electric car sold today once these cars arrive on the second-hand market. First owners driving many kilometres can already save money today by choosing electric.

Today's research calculates the so-called 'total cost of ownership' (lifetime cost) for electric car ownership in comparison to other car types. It builds on earlier work in 2016 by consumer groups on the affordability of electric cars. These cars were still a very futuristic scenario for consumers at the time.

Since then, car makers have started a shift towards electric – mainly due to EU legislation on reducing CO2 emissions which has nudged them into placing cleaner cars on the market. Climate policy has also kicked into higher gear.

Consumer organisations' main conclusion from the study is that the EU's CO2 emission reduction targets have been and will continue to be pivotal in bringing the projected benefits of electric cars to European consumers as fast as possible.

Monique Goyens, BEUC Director General, commented:

"The EU's CO2 emission thresholds for cars are clearly hitting the target. What was more or less sci-fi five years ago, is rapidly becoming a realistic opportunity for consumers across Europe. Tightening car CO2 targets is therefore a no-brainer and a win for the environment, public health, people's wallets and social inclusiveness as we fight the climate crisis.

"At the same time, consumer groups do not intend to gloss over the issues people face in the move to electric driving. For those that depend on a car, charging an electric vehicle must become as easy as fuelling a petrol one. That is why we advise the EU to push for more and better charging infrastructure, with easy payment methods and where the prices should also be easily comparable per kilowatt hour."

The main EU-wide takeaways from our study include:

  • People driving large amounts of kilometres (commuters, company car users, taxi drivers) can already save money today by switching to electric. This is thanks to lower running costs.
  • The arrival of more affordable electric cars with moderate battery range in 2021 and 2022 will drive down costs for several groups of people wanting to buy a new car. These are urban/suburban residents, pensioners, or families switching to an electric vehicle as a second car.
  • National incentives (bonuses, tax cuts) are important as they tackle the higher upfront costs for first owners. At the same time, they raise the market share of electric cars and thereby fast forward the future benefits for second and third owners.
  • Even when considering purchase incentives for first owners, electric cars are the most equitable engine type. That is because the first owner, who is most able to afford it, pays a higher proportion of the car's lifetime costs, thus making it more accessible to lower-income consumers who generally buy their cars on the second- or third-hand market.
  • Alternatives to battery electric cars – such as plug-in hybrids and conventional cars powered with new types of fuels (e-fuels) – bring little to no benefit.

Executive summary and main findings

BEUC is the umbrella group for 45 independent consumer organisations from 32 countries. Its main role is to represent them to the EU institutions and defend the interests of European consumers.

European Consumer Organisation (BEUC)