If you're lucky you may already be on a waiting list for the 2011 Nissan Leaf. Or perhaps you've decided to get the 2011 Chevrolet Volt. If your next car is electric it could easily immunize you from fluctuating gas prices and ensure low running costs. But what will that shiny new electric car be worth in five years' time? If the Telegraph's Mike Rutherford is to be believed at best just 10% of the initial ticket price.

But with previous generation electric vehicles like the ageing Toyota RAV4 EV still exchanging hands for sums in excess of $30,000, is that analysis wholly accurate, or a highly skeptical piece of scaremongering?

High Ticket, High Depreciation?

It goes without saying that every electric car hitting the showrooms this year and for the foreseeable future will be a high ticket item, comparable with some premium brand cars from Lexus and Acura to name two.  But if previous generations of electric and hybrid vehicles have taught us anything it is that resale value does not track conventional charge.

Angular Rear Exterior View - 2004 Toyota Prius 5dr HB (Natl)

Angular Rear Exterior View - 2004 Toyota Prius 5dr HB (Natl)

Take the Toyota Prius. Kelly's Blue Book lists a 2005 Toyota Prius 4D as being worth $8,835 for  a good condition example with 100,000 miles on the clock.  That represents a depreciation of almost $13,000 in five years.

Compare this to a 2005 Acura RSX, worth $23,650 when new. Of comparable condition, age and mileage to the Prius, Kelly value a good example as being worth $9,250 for private sale, a depreciation of $14,400. In other words, both cars depreciate at about the same speed. Yes, one is a Hybrid with high MPG while the other is a performance coupe.

These prices are for cars for sale in the Washington DC Metropolitan area, somewhere the Prius still enjoys high popularity. Different areas will result in different resale value.

Warranty Expiration ≠ Dead Battery.

In his article, Rutherford argues that after five years are up, the Nissan 2011 Nissan Leaf's battery pack will have ceased to function and will require an expensive replacement.  Nissan plan to warranty the battery and drivetrain in every Leaf for 60,000 miles or five years, whichever is soonest.  In short, he expects Nissan's battery pack to fail as soon as it is out of warranty.

But exceeding the mileage or age warranty does not indicate the battery pack is about to stop working.

If we take the Toyota Prius as an example we can see that many models quite happily exceed the 100,000 mile, 8-year battery warranty without a single hitch. Yes, some cars suffer battery issues well before the warranty is out, but it is more normal to see a battery pack last for a long time beyond the end of the warranty.  Failure is the exception here, not the rule.

2004-1009 Toyota Prius battery pack, second generation

2004-1009 Toyota Prius battery pack, second generation

Toyota RAV4 EV Long Life Battery Pack Performs

The only pure electric car that Toyota made, the RAV4 EV, also exceeds expectation when it comes to battery life. Some RAV4 EVs have exceeded 200,000 miles on a single battery pack. Only recently, after between eight and twelve years of being used, have some started to fail.

And even with battery packs starting to age, second-hand RAV4 EVs are still exchanging hands for as much as the new ticket price for the 2011 Nissan Leaf.

Can You Say HOV Lane?

Any car with perks associated with driving it is going to retain some higher value over a similarly aged vehicle with none. One reason the Prius has enjoyed such popularity is the granting of HOV stickers in states allowing a single occupant Prius to use car-pool lanes in the rush hour. While this privilege has ended in many states for hybrids it is set to continue with EVs. If recent trends continue, HOV stickers can exchange hands for as much as $1,500.

Add to this priority free parking and charging and the residual value of any EV is set to remain high as long as the vehicle itself is in good condition.



Residual Value Varies From Car To Car.

Finally, battery pack life considerably varies from car to car. Drive your EV in accordance to the directions given to you by the manufacturer, provide regular official servicing and avoid pushing the car to its limits and the battery pack is likely to reward you with many years' of service.

Run it empty on a daily basis, overheat the pack, or otherwise neglect it and the car is quite likely to become poorly quickly.  Keep your eyes peeled for our five tips to keeping your EV happy and value high later this week.

In Conclusion.

While the battery packs in the 2011 Chevy Volt and 2011 Nissan Leaf are not the same chemistry as either Toyota vehicles, the expectation is that they will perform at least as well, if not better.

Although the high resale value of the Toyota RAV4 is arguably because of the lack of EVs on the pre-owned market as EVs increase in market share expect desirability of any highway capable EV with a healthy battery pack to still command a healthy price, but only if it is looked after as any $30,000 investment should be.