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Cars Compare Cost Of Fueling Electric vs Gasoline Cars With DOE’s New eGallon Tool

Published on June 12th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

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Cost Of Fueling With Electricity Is 3 Times Cheaper! (Or Even Much Better…)



The DOE has just launched a wonderful tool that some people will love and others will hate. Its new eGallon tool shows people how much it costs to fuel up on electricity versus gas. Why will some people hate the useful tool? I see two possible reasons: 1) they’re guzzling so much gasoline that it’s depressing to look at the facts (e.g. how much that costs them), and 2) on the flip side, some EV enthusiasts who see gasoline as “so 1900′s” (as one Twitter friend tweeted to the US Department of Energy and me) that they are not a fan of using “gallons” in the comparison at all. “Gallons/eGallons mean nothing to EV drivers,” PluginEVdriver tweeted.

On the one hand, I agree, but on the other hand, I think gallons of gasoline are so engrained in the American mindset that it’s useful. Plus, the humungous majority of drivers are still gasmobile drivers, and they need to see the comparison in the most useful way possible. But it does seem that PluginEVdriver gets that part. His or her quick follow-up tweet was:

It’s an interesting discussion that comes up every time the matter of eGallons comes up. But let’s get back to the new DOE tool for now.


3 Times Cheaper!

I think most consumers now know that electric cars are much greener than gasmobiles… as several studies have shown. (Though, we still get an unhealthy number of comments from honest people who think they aren’t.) But I don’t think most consumers realize that fueling a car with electricity is much cheaper than fueling a car with gas. (I could be wrong.)

Director of DOE Public Affairs Dan Leistikow notes: “on average, fueling your car with gasoline costs roughly 3 times more than fueling with electricity.

Electricity is 3 times cheaper as a fuel!

But as anyone familiar with energy (or who has traveled a lot) knows, these prices vary greatly across the US. The wonderful thing the new tool does is allow you to compare the prices within your state. To play with the tool, head over to: energy.gov/eGallon

The Future

There’s another very important matter to note before I open this piece up to comments. Prices change over time, and prices for some goods rise much faster and are much more volatile. That’s certainly the case with gasoline, and not so much with electricity. So, there’s a good chance the savings today from switching to an electric car are much smaller than they will be in a handful of years. Additionally, your fuel expenses should be much more predictable… and even more so if you go solar!

egallon_chart

Leistikow has a great summary explanation: “If you chart the price of gasoline and the eGallon price over time, you’ll notice something else. Gasoline prices often spike up and down erratically because they’re linked to international oil markets. Events half a world away can drive up the price we pay at the pump. High prices and uncertainty are a heavy burden for American consumers. On the other hand, the cost of electricity is regional and much more stable, so you generally don’t have to worry about the wild gyrations seen in gas prices.”

Oh Yeah…

This is all just comparing the price of gas vs the price of electricity as fuel sources. But there are some other very important costs to keep in mind. For organization’s sake, here’s a bullet-point list:

  • Time: Plugging your car in at home takes a brief few seconds. Compare that to finding a gas station, filling up at the gas station, and paying for the gas. The specific variables here will vary person by person. I recommend doing some calculations and figuring out what yours would be! (Yes, that does include determining a certain value for your time.)
  • Health: Standing at the gas station isn’t particularly healthy. The fumes are actually really bad for us. (Just as a few examples, see this post, this one, and this one.) Also, as everyone knows, gas stations are often sitting on intersections and busy streets with super doses of pollution. And then there’s that unhealthy gas station snack food….
  • Climate: Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, every time we fuel up, we’re contributing to global warming and climate change. This is a very costly matter that we’re already paying a lot for, and our children and grandchildren will simply pay a higher price as the ramifications of this societal disaster further unfold. Determining the social cost of carbon pollution is difficult, but Obama and others around the world are already realizing it’s quite high.
  • Your Taxes: Let’s also not forget that according to some analyses, over 50% of our taxes are going to the military. Of course, not all of that is to protect oil supplies! However, a pretty decent portion of our taxes is certainly being spent on that. Our taxes may or may not go down if we cut that pil dependency, but even if they didn’t, the money would most likely be redirected to important social goods and services that improve the quality of life in our society.

Something to add?

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • Leon

    The initial cost of the electrical cars a quite cheap compared to regular gas cars and also a little bit cheaper in costs per mile/kilometer.

    But you have to remember that with the current batteries, electrical cars still don’t drive nearly as far on a full battery as a regular car drives on a full tank of gasoline.

    And at the same time there is far less charging stations around than regular gas stations (depending on where in the world you live)

    So you should probally take your driving habbits into considerations to really know how its going to effect your life and your economy.

  • Sagacious

    A great fantasy:

    1. You included no factors or calculations for the following items

    a) Exhorbant cost of the vehicle, compared to similar conventional fueled models, especially if you take away the taxpayer subsidized kickbacks in the form of incentives to buy one. Plus additional cost for a charging station for home.

    b) extremely short driving range, thus a need for frequent and extended stops to recharge [a whole lot longer to recharge than those few minutes at the gas pump and a whole lot more often]. Furthermore, the range per charge is of greater concern in the winter, with the need for headlights, heater/defroster and windshield wipers – you’ll be lucky to get out of the driveway before needing a recharge.

    c) calculations for pollution at the generation source (almost all electricity is generated by fossil fuel), and the price will rise as more stringent controls and additional regulations and taxes are applied to generation.

    d) additional strain on the grid, with limited charging windows to avoid brown/blackouts,

    e) replacement cost for deplete batteries.

    f) additional taxes and license fees for road use that are not included in the electricity costs.

    f) cost of recharging stations, if anything more than a very slow 120v household outlet.

    2. Oh, and when the battery goes dead, you don’t just take a can somewhere and fill it with watts to put in the tank; you become a very expensive roadside attraction waiting for an expensive tow truck..

    I am sorry to say this but EV’s are for the rich and the fanatics. Hybrids are just glorified fossil fuel vehicles, mostly with pretty poor mpg.

    3. And, finally, no matter how you travel, it takes energy . . . even if you are just walking. There is no free lunch or free ride.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Well, Jack, the cost of the vehicle, how the electricity is made, how much range the vehicle, all that stuff is not part of the cost to charge.

      Some of it is important in ones decision whether to purchase an EV, but that wasn’t the topic.

      1.a) Dropping. Fairly fast.
      1.b) Not a problem if one is looking for an affordable way to commute within the range of the EV.
      1.c) Only an issue for grids which are 100% coal. Are there any of those?
      1.d) Not an issue if one charges during off-peak hours.
      1.e) Probably no more an issue than replacing engines/doing serious repairs with a gasmobile.
      1.f) Not very expensive. Most need nothing more than a simple 240 vac outlet like they’d use for their clothes dryer.

      2. EVs tell you when you are getting low and where the closest places to charge are. Running out of charge is a doofus move.

      EVs are great for people whose driving fits their ability. They can save money and help the planet.

      3. This one you got right.

      • Sagacious

        “Oh Yeah…

        This is all just comparing the price of gas vs the price of electricity as fuel sources. But there are some other very important costs to keep in mind. For organization’s sake,
        here’s a bullet-point list:”

        Bob – the author started it with his bullet points

        1. a Still expensive! High mpg gasoline vehicles with similar seating available at half the price.

        1. b Lot of bucks to commute around town. What if you want to go visit grandma? Take all day to drive 150 miles? And spend the night while her 120 outlet charges your EV to get you half way home the next day? Or, drive your gasmobile, see grandma, have lunch, leave her to her afternoon nap and drive home for dinner.

        1. c Whoa there son, unless you are in Pacific NW with lots of dams, your power is most likely fossil. In US about 49% of
        electricity is generated from coal, 21% from natural gas, and 1% from petroleum. So, grid is carrying about 71% fossil fuel power.

        1. d So rolling black outs! Or, home from work, no soccer for kid ‘cause car is only good for another couple of miles and game over before car charged. Can’t take wife to dinner in evening, car not charged. Nice. Up at mid-night to plug it in for off peak. As opposed to filled up car with gasoline/diesel last week and let’s go watch the game and get pizza.

        1. e Nearly 200K miles on gasmobile and no major repairs, Don’t know if one would live long enough to go 200K miles at 60 miles – charge – 60 miles – charge . . . and, actual battery life is still a question.

        1. f Have you got 240v in garage? Got an OEM charger for vehicle? ($1300 plus installation for a $30K Leaf). 240v not average homeowner DIY and probably need licensed sparky to meet local code.

        2. Sure hope you aren’t in a hurry and would like to hang out
        where ever that charger is plus pay a fee for the charge. A little rambling here: A couple of EV owners at workplace who sometimes must use gas vehicle because not enough range to make it to work on cold, dark winter day. Looked into installing charging stations at work, $15K to get power to parking spaces. Also, lose parking spots that are now reserved for EV’s. So, no charging at work. They really would like to get home for dinner and not spend a hour along the way getting charged up.

        Also, “With the availability of DC fast charging, a properly equipped electric car could make the 1,200 mile drive from Seattle to San Diego in about four days time -only twice what it
        normally takes in a conventional car.” http://www.autotrader.com/research/article/car-news/107569/the-electric-car-road-trip-of-the-future.jsp

        So, really, the 3x cost of gasoline may not really be all that expensive – either dollars or environment.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Your “whatever it is” is off topic, but I’ll deal with it.

          Yes, EVs are not (yet) perfect cars. They have their limits.

          If you don’t drive a lot then the extra upfront cost may not be recovered from lower operating expenses.

          If you frequently take long drives an EV may not be for you.

          If you want to drive cross country then an EV may not be for you. (Unless you want the luxury of a Tesla S. It’s cross-continent ready.)

          If you want extra fast charging in your garage then you might need something more than a simple 120 or 240 vac outlet. Lots of people would be find with only a 120 vac outlet.

          We get it. You can make a list of conditions which EVs don’t (yet) meet.

          Have you considered the fact that if you need to haul ten yards of gravel a 7-series BMW doesn’t meet that need?

          But if you almost always drive within the range of an EV and drive somewhere around the average 13,000 miles or higher per year then an EV could be fine for you and could save you money.

          I have recently been discussing the best EV for someone who drives about 30,000 per year. He is currently spending about $7,000 per year for fuel and maintenance. Add in the another $4 to pay for the car he is “using up” each year and he’s out at least $11k per year.

          His driving pattern would easily doable in a Nissan LEAF. He could buy one for $21,300, pay for it with two years savings from what he is now driving, and drive at least one more year before the battery might need replacing. He might get more than three years.

          Replace the battery for less than one year of his old costs. Drive three or more years on the replacement battery.

          He now would have spent one half as much as he had been spending on a gasmobile over that six year period.

          The math works for some. You simply described someone for whom the math does not work.

          And some of your stuff is wrong.

          Coal now provides 35% of US electricity, not 49%. In order for an EV to be overall less carbon intensive than a gasmobile only a small percentage of the input power needs to be from low carbon sources. The US grid has a significant low carbon input of hydro, nuclear and renewables. EVs on any grid in the US are less carbon producing than ICEVs.

  • jonesey jonesey

    It makes more sense to show the cost of driving 100 or 1000 miles (I won’t ask for kilometers…). People know how many miles they drive, so they don’t have to do fancy math to get a sense of the savings. You could show it on a graph like the one above, with different lines for a 20 mpg SUV, a 30 mpg car, and a 50 mpg hybrid, compared to an EV.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Good.

      How about a site where you could enter your annual miles driven and then see the costs of driving based on 2001 to now gas/electricity prices.

    • Ernie

      Actually, this graph is particularly enlightening. The cost of electricity doesn’t fluctuate much. The cost of gas is a roller-coaster ride through hell, and this illustrates the difference in spades.

      What it doesn’t show, on the other hand, is the 3x better efficiency of using electricity for transportation instead of gas.

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