Driving electric car can save $800 a year

Nine out of 10 households would save hundreds of dollars each year and slash their greenhouse gas emissions by swapping their petrol car for an electric vehicle, according to a new US study.

In some instances, the transport technology could cut household bills by more than $860.

But University of Michigan researchers also identified eight per cent of the population who would not see savings from switching to an electric car due to high electricity prices, weather conditions or low incomes.

Australian climate experts said the findings showed policymakers should create targeted subsidies for vulnerable households who could otherwise miss out on cost savings from the next generation of transport.

The study, to be published in IOP's Environmental Research Letters journal, analysed household transport costs based on location, electricity and fuel charges.

It found more than 90 per cent of households with petrol-powered vehicles could cut transport costs by switching to electric cars, as well as cutting their yearly carbon footprints by more than 4.1 metric tonnes.

Co-author Joshua Newell, an urban geographer at the University of Michigan, said the study proved electric transport could make a significant environmental and financial impact.

"Our results confirm the potential for widespread benefits from EV adoption," he said.

But Mr Newell said the benefits would not extend to every motorist, with the study finding drivers in lower income households and in states with high electricity prices may not cut their transport costs to a comfortable level.

Households located in cold climates could also pay more for transport as cold conditions affected an electric car's battery performance, and the analysis did not account for the purchase price of electric or fuel vehicles.

Climate Council advocacy head Jennifer Rayner said the study's findings showed electric cars could deliver more than just environmental benefits and were a reliable way to avoid volatile fuel prices.

But she said lower income households in Australia, as in the US, would need targeted financial assistance to unlock access to the cars and the savings they could bring.

"People who are financially well-off can make the switch to an electric vehicle because they are already doing that in droves," she said.

"As we move to more rapid and broader uptake of electric vehicles, we are going to need to think about which parts of the community most need support to make the switch."

Incentives could include "zero-interest financing," Dr Rayner said, to address the high purchase prices of electric vehicles. The cheapest model in Australia costs just under $45,000.

Electric vehicles made up 5.8 per cent of new cars sold in the US in 2022, according to Motor Intelligence, representing one per cent of all vehicles on American roads.

By comparison, 3.1 per cent of new vehicles sold in Australia last year were electric - almost double the number sold in 2021.