Thus far electric cars have not been particularly cheap or ultimately practical financially. Chevy Volts cost about $40,000 and the Nissan Leaf is about $35,000. Even with the hefty $7,500 federal tax credit the electric cars have not been especially cheap to buy.
Mitsubishi has a new electric model named the i-MiEV. MSRP on the iMiEV is $29,125. After the $7,500 tax credit you end up paying $21,625. [edit: Clearly 'cheap' is a relative term. I've never paid over $15,000 for a car myself, but as far as new cars go and cost efficient cars like electrics, this is cheap.]
The $25,547 TCO for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV makes it one of the cheapest cars to operate. In fact it might be the cheapest new car on the market in terms of TCO compared to all gasoline, electric and hybrids.
I found a list of best TCO cars from Kelly Blue Book. They have the Nissan Versa as the cheapest TCO coming in over $29,000. If anyone knows of a cheaper TCO new car, let me know but I can't find one.
Of course you can do better with used cars but I'm trying to compare apples to apples. I like to buy used cars myself and I recommend it as a good frugal tactic. If you wait a few years you might find a good deal on a used electric i-MiEV. But these are brand new models so I can only compare to new to new.
In addition to the federal $7500 credit there are also various states that also have more rebates or tax incentives. Some state incentives are minimal like waiving your license fee or emission testing but some states have large credits. Colorado residents are apparently eligible for up to $6000 or $7500 tax credit. Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, and Utah have state credits ranging from $3000 to $5000.
On the down side, I don't think the TCO figures in cost to install a 240V charger. Most people will probably want a 240V charging station in their house if possible. The 120V charger takes about 22 hours to charge the car and the 240V charger takes only 7 hours. The charging station costs about $1000 plus installation. Also, I believe the TCO figure would assume a national average electricity cost of 11-12¢ per kWh. Mitsubishi's FAQ says it will cost about $3.60 to go 100 miles assuming 12¢ per kWh. If your electricity is much more or less then that will impact your costs and the TCO.
Don't Worry about battery life
One of the common complaints or worries about electric cars is the lifespan and replacement cost of the battery. Its reasonable to worry about battery life and costs. But generally with hybrids and electric cars the concerns over battery life is full of misinformation, myth and confusion. The battery in the i-MiEV is backed by a 8 year / 100,000 mile warranty. That means that even if there is a premature problem it will be covered by Mitsubishi. And the fact they are giving such a long warranty is clear evidence that the battery should last.
Its a Small car
The car is a smaller car and does not have a lot of interior space. It is also limited range vehicle and Mitsubishi claims a range of 62 miles but of course that kind of thing varies depending on use. Edmunds has a full review of the i-MiEV. They say they could only get it up to 82 MPH on the freeway. Thats well above the speed limit but if thats the maximum speed it may be difficult to get it up to freeway speeds. The size and power seem much more suited for city use. This car is clearly not to everyone's tastes and needs, but for a lot of people looking for a practical and cheap car that doesn't guzzle gasoline the i-MiEV may suit your needs.
I'm glad to finally see an electric car that is practical financially. I personally like the idea electric cars and hope to see more Americans buying them so we can reduce our dependency on foreign oil. I'm not in the market for a car myself so I won't be buying one. I also have to be honest that I don't know if I'd buy such a small car, but I'd at least consider it as a 2nd commuter car to supplement a full size family car to share between my wife and myself.