A meta-analysis of 44 studies that conduct a private, external and/or total social cost comparison among conventional and electric vehicles shows that, independent of the studies’ goals, the results are often misleading. This distortion occurs because of the omission of one or more relevant cost components and/or the impact of divergent and often unspecified assumptions, which is demonstrated through three detailed examples. Although 30 studies compared private costs, one-third only considered purchase and fuel costs and ignored other costs. Charging infrastructure and residual value were only considered in four and eight studies, respectively. Thirty-five authors performed an external cost evaluation, of which 12 were expressed in monetary terms. The majority of the non-monetary studies only considers one external polluting factor, which is generally CO2/GHG, whereas the monetary studies generally evaluate four or more polluting factors.
Furthermore, this article drafts a methodological checklist that (1) defines the preferred evaluation methods according to the study goals, (2) includes all private and external costs in the production, acquisition, usage and disposal stages as well as the existing policy measures and (3) lists the general assumptions that should be specified. This checklist enhances consistent comparability among various social cost studies of different vehicle types, and it supports policy-makers in drafting evidence-based transportation policy conclusions.Transport Reviews 35/6, p. 720-748.