You just got your first EV, or perhaps are considering buying one – and you want to put it to work! Rideshare apps such as Lyft, Uber, or task-focused platforms like DoorDash or TaskRabbit rely heavily on drivers who use their own vehicles. Shuttling people, food and goods using your own car comes with significant costs, such as insurance, fuel, tires and maintenance. How do EVs stack up to the task of ride sharing compared to gas cars – and does it make sense financially to switch?
First, I’ll start with an anecdote from my own experience. In December of 2021, I took an Uber ride from downtown San Diego to the SAN airport in a 2016 Tesla Model S. The driver had amassed 280,000 miles in approximately 5 years – all on the original battery. The original EPA range of the car was 234 miles and he was still seeing 220 miles of range. DC Fast Charging – or Supercharging, for Tesla owners – means he can add 100+ miles of range to the car during a short bathroom/food break. He had never taken the car to Tesla (or any other shop) for service and had only changed out the cabin air filter a handful of times. He bought the car during a time where lifetime Supercharging was included with the car, meaning all of his Supercharging is 100% free. While he did have to pay off an expensive Model S, he has no fuel cost and nearly zero maintenance cost.
It’s becoming increasingly common to use Teslas and other EVs for ride sharing, though it certainly still constitutes a minority of rideshare vehicles. They still have a higher upfront cost than many people perceive to be compatible with their wallets – but per the example above, upfront cost is only one portion of the overall equation.
Range, cost per mile, and charging logistics:
Range: Most new EVs designed for daily driving tend to achieve somewhere between 220 and 300 miles of range per charge. City driving – when you’re going well under 65 miles per hour – is a boon to EV drivers, as it’s the optimal speed for efficiency. You can expect to see much closer to the EPA rated range of your EV with city driving as opposed to freeway driving.
If you’re a full-time driver doing over 200-300 miles per day, you may need to stop and charge, which brings us to…
Cost per mile: In the Model S anecdote above, the driver benefits from unlimited free supercharging - a perk of early adoption that Tesla no longer offers. Nowadays, Supercharger rates average around 30 cents per kWh, which is about 7.9 cents per mile for a 2016 Model S (3.8mi/kWh). On the other hand, if gas is $4.50 per gallon and one is fueling a full-size sedan, each mile costs 16 cents (assuming 28 miles per gallon). In other words, paying for electric miles costs half as much as gasoline in a comparable car. (Note that some EV manufacturers entice prospective buyers with multi-year free charging at certain brands of charging stations – this may factor heavily into which brand and offer you end up choosing.)
But what about charging at home? This is a great question, and one that applies to some rideshare drivers and not others. If you drive less than 200-300 miles in a day and can charge at home, you can skip public charging and see more savings. The cost per mile of at-home charging runs the gamut and depends heavily on where you live. It can range anywhere from free (with an adequately large solar installation) to 6-25 cents per kilowatt-hour, translating to a per-mile cost of 1.6-6.6 cents in the above Model S.
Charging at home, it’s easy to see how the savings become even more substantial! In any case, rideshare drivers who put tens of thousands of miles on their EVs every year will see enormous “fuel” savings when charging strategically.
Charging logistics: Take someone who lives in an apartment building and parks on the street – or in a garage. Perhaps there’s no opportunity for home charging and they’ll have to rely on public charging. How long does it take to charge up? As my attorney likes to say: it depends. Fortunately, public charging infrastructure is improving by the day, as are the number of DC Fast Charging – also known as Level 3 – stations. These new stations are approaching 200-300kW in power, which means your car can add hundreds of miles of range in as little as half an hour. You may not need to fill all the way up all at once, but this means you may be stopping every few hours to stretch, get food, or use a bathroom. At a Level 3 station, you could expect to stop for 10 minutes once or twice a day and then be on your way! The key is to charge when the car is low, because EVs charge faster between 20 and 80%. By avoiding charging the car to 100%, you save valuable time.
Longevity and maintenance:
The current generation of EV batteries is rated for about 300,000-500,000 miles use before they reach 70% of their original capacity (considered the “end of life” for EV use before recycling or industrial repurposing). This means modern batteries will often outlast an engine, transmission or other components on traditional cars. We’ve had a lot of people write to us lately about warranty battery replacements in their Chevrolet Bolt EV or in their Hyundai Kona EV due to recalls. However, we get relatively few reports of out-of-warranty, paid replacements due to age or mileage wear on a battery. There are 2012 Nissan LEAFs still on the road with their original batteries, albeit with significant degradation of range. Some people replace them for $7,500-10,000, which makes the car essentially new. While it’s true that replacing the battery pack on a 2022 EV may cost you more than $20,000, it’s exceedingly unlikely you’ll be liable for that level of cost, since EV battery warranties are a minimum of 8 years and 100,000 miles, per federal regulation.To put this all in perspective, our Recurrent volunteer fleet has several dozen EVs with over 200,000 miles on the odometer, with the overwhelming majority obtaining a battery rating of “good” or “excellent.” This means the real-life longevity of these batteries is matching the rated/projected lifetimes set by battery manufacturers and most will have adequate range for 8 years/ 100,000 miles.
And finally, maintenance costs! With an EV, they are few and far between. There are no timing belts or spark plugs to replace. There are no oil changes. Thanks to regenerative braking, brake pads don’t need replacing on EVs for at least 150,000 miles. The cabin air filter and windshield wipers are the most common wear items in the first 150,000 miles of EV ownership. Tires need replacing slightly more often on EVs than on gas cars because of their insane torque, so factor that into your budget.
There are many options for new and used EVs, and even more are hitting the market every year. Rideshare platforms tend to require newer vehicles compared to task-oriented platforms. While this can limit options, there are numerous EVs on the market that still qualify for federal tax incentives and can be obtained for under $35,000 net. With the average US car selling for a bit over $40,000 in 2022, EV prices are becoming quite competitive – though you still can’t buy as large of an EV as you can a gas car for the same money.
Given all this, what do the numbers look like for you? Are you considering buying an EV or using your existing EV for rideshare? We’d love to hear your feedback! Send your stories to us via email@example.com.
For more information, visit our research page where you can learn more about charging, battery chemistries, and buying options!