NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- One of the most common questions about plug-in electric cars is the reason for buying one. In this article I will break down the key argument and its alternative:1. Cost: Is there a positive payback? 2. Premium: If there is no payback, is there another reason to "pay up" the extra money to buy a plug-in electric car? Let's start with cost and payback: With an electric car, you can drive mostly somewhere between three and four miles per kilowatt hour, depending on the model. The average price of electricity in the U.S. is between 11 cents and 12 cents per kWh. Let's for a moment disregard the fact that more and more people now can charge at night when rates are considerably lower than 11 cents per kWh.
Wear and TearAs for service, the electric car is clearly cheaper. Just inflate the tires and eventually change the brakes and tires, and you're done. By the way, regenerative braking means less brake wear. That said, many cars nowadays have free service included for the first three years or 36,000 miles, so this may not seem that important at first. As for battery replacement, there is clearly an eventual cost here. Current electric cars have warranties of eight or 10 years (100,000 or 150,000 miles). At least some Chevrolet Volts have already gone well beyond 200,000 miles, and none of them has yet required a battery swap.
The Luxury FactorThe biggest point here is that it's only when it comes to electric cars that we talk about payback and economics when we buy a more expensive car. What do I mean by that? Well, consider this. You can always buy a basic car -- Toyota Corolla, say -- for $17,000, and then try to justify the economics of buying a more expensive car. What's the "payback" of a BMW 328 over a Toyota Corolla? What's the payback of a Mercedes S550 over the Toyota Corolla? What's the payback of a Bentley Mulsanne over the Toyota Corolla?
- Silent operation. Why are you buying a Rolls Royce anyway?
- Instant torque: Go-kart fun of extreme acceleration.
- Smooth power delivery: No herky-jerky shifts and engine revving up and down.
- No incessant braking: Regenerative brakes mean you just lift the foot off the accelerator.
- No oil spills or gasoline fumes in the garage.
- No visits to the gasoline station. Just plug it into the outlet in the garage; same as your smartphone.
- Less wear and tear: Ability to upgrade the car's performance over time.
- More luggage space: If the battery is in the floor (Tesla Model S).