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Want 1970s Fuel Prices? Buy An EV!

I came across an interesting tweet the other day that expressed what many gas car drivers feel every day, especially with 2022 fuel prices.

As you can probably see, it shows fuel prices (and fuel types) that we haven’t seen in a long time. It shows regular fuel going for 79 cents, unleaded (which wasn’t regular at the time) for 72 cents, and super for 92. It wasn’t clear exactly when the photo was taken, but the account is about the 1970s, so that’s a safe assumption. But, these prices could be found in the 1980s, as at least one reply showed:

However, you don’t need to go all the way back to when the movie with that oh-so-famous line (“Yippee ki-yay, mofo”) was filmed to see such low prices. Even if your DeLorean could only go back as far as the mid 1990s, you’d be able to find unleaded for as low as $.85. That’s the cheapest fuel I personally ever remember seeing, as I was only a kid in the 80s and never thought about buying gas. This was an aberration, though.

But, whatever decade you want to go back to, the main point still stands. Gasoline is a lot more expensive than it used to be. It’s easy to fondly look back on the days when gasoline was under a dollar per gallon, and imagine how great it would be for today’s more fuel efficient vehicles to drive on such cheap gas.

But, in meme Morpheus-style, I have a question for our friends and family still driving around in gas-powered cars: What if I told you that you could still get those sweet circa 1980 fuel prices in 2022, and beyond? Many people would look at me like I’m crazy, that I’m suggesting some sort of scam, or that I’m trying to fence stolen fuel.

But, there’s a completely real, safe, and legal way to get those low fuel prices in 2022. However, you’ll have to do the opposite of Morpheus and Neo, and plug into the grid to get it.

Some Quick Napkin Math

As you’ve probably guessed, this is a website that deals in electric cars a lot, so I’m going to suggest buying an EV. I know that there will be reasonable objections, and I’ll get to that in a minute. But, first I must make my case on the claim that you can get that cheap fuel today.

Let’s give the gas car the benefit of the doubt and assume it gets 25 MPG. That wasn’t true in 1980 for most cars, and it isn’t true even today for many vehicles. But, I’m going to go with that 25 MPG figure so nobody can claim I was biased against gas cars in my math here.

If you take 79 cents/gallon gas and divide that by 25 miles, you end up with 3.2 cents per mile in fuel costs. This doesn’t include any advantages of maintenance or convenience for local driving. It’s just what the cost is at the pump for a 25 MPG car driving a mile with 1980 fuel.

Now, let’s look at my Bolt EUV. If I don’t drive it hard, I get 4 miles per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity. At my house, I pay 13 cents per kWh. Take that 13 cents and divide it by 4 miles, and you arrive at a figure of 3.25 cents per mile. In 25 MPG car equivalent, that’s like getting gas for 81 cents per gallon.

Sure, we’re off by 2 cents, but compared to even $3/gallon gasoline, that’s pretty damned close. But, there are other advantages that more than erase that 2 cent difference. Before I get to those, let’s talk about the big objection that’s probably on your mind if you’re skeptical of buying an EV.

“But I Can’t Afford An EV!”

Yeah, I get that, but it’s probably not as bad as you think.

It’s entirely true that the most exciting and most talked about EVs today are expensive as hell. The cheapest Tesla is almost $50,000. The same goes for the cheapest electric F-150, and other vehicles that Americans probably want are even more expensive. I know the more wealthy readers will scoff at this and say something like “let them eat cake,” but if you’re like me and can’t afford a $1000/month car payment (and don’t want to go for a 10-year auto loan), no amount of “but that’s pretty close to the average new car price” is going to change that.

There are other options, though.

Today, there are several great options for lower budgets. You can get a Chevrolet Bolt EUV, a small crossover with about 250 miles of range, for under $30,000 if you don’t want the leather seats and luxury features. The Bolt EV, a smaller hatchback with about 260 miles of range, can be had for around $26,000 (again, with cloth seats and a more basic set of options). Not a GM fan? The Nissan LEAF can be had for around $27k.

Cheaper is possible if you go used, but you’ll have to make some compromises or get a plug-in hybrid. Used low-range EVs, like first-generation Nissan LEAFs and Chevy Spark EVs, can be had for $13,000-15,000. They can’t go very far on a charge, but they’re enough to get to work and back in most cases. Plug-in hybrids, like the Chevy Volt, can be had for a little more. They only have 30-50 miles of range, but they can also burn gas after the battery runs out.

There are a number of other used models out there to choose from, both for short-range EVs and for plugin hybrids, but the point is, that’s affordable for many more people.

I know that $15,000 is too much for many people, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We all have our situations, and many of us are just starting out in our adult lives. There are even cheaper options for you guys, too. Electric motorcycles, scooters, and e-bikes are even cheaper than cars, and give you a lot of bang for as little as a couple hundred bucks. It would take several articles to detail those options, but they’re out there. Those are even cheaper to operate than an electric car, and could give you 1940s fuel prices (per mile).

Fuel Cost Per Mile Isn’t A Fair Comparison. EVs Win Harder Than That.

The truth is, getting an EV you can afford and paying less per mile for fuel is only the beginning of what you can save. Skipping things like oil changes, tune-ups, and timing belts is a big money saver that drops your cost per mile further. Plus, there’s the convenience of charging at home. When you can wake up every morning with a full “tank,” and avoid the gas station for most of your local driving, that’s not a money saver, but time is money, so it’s really a money saver.

So, next time you’re waxing nostalgic about the better gas prices of yesteryear, keep in mind that you can get them today by going electric.

Featured image by U.S. Department of Energy/Alternative Fuels Data Center.

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Written By

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.


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