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.
— PluginEVdriver (@driver_EV) June 12, 2013
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:
— PluginEVdriver (@driver_EV) June 12, 2013
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
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!
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.”
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.
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