Wake Forest, NC— The US Department of Energy recently released a calculator that compares the fuel cost of gas and electric vehicles. On average, the “fuel cost” of an electric vehicle is about one-third that of gas. Said another way, at 12 cents per kWh, electric “fuel” costs about $1.18 per gallon compared to about $3.50 per gallon for gasoline.

Who wouldn’t want to buy gas for $1.18 a gallon? Well, no one if there were no trade-offs.

But there are always trade-offs. Here are a couple to consider:

-Initial Cost – All-electric or plug-in electric/gas hybrid vehicles are usually more expensive than conventional models. For example, if you pay an extra $5,000 for an electric vehicle, you would need to have bought 2,150 gallons of fuel to make up the difference. At 28 miles per gallon, that’s 60,000 miles. Many drivers will simply not keep the vehicle long enough or drive the vehicle far enough for the “fuel” cost savings to offset the higher purchase price.

-Range – A typical vehicle with a gas engine has a fuel tank of at least 10 gallons with a range of at least 300 miles. Of course, the gas tank can be refueled in about 10 minutes. By comparison, the all-electric Nissan Leaf has a battery capacity of 24 kWh with a range of 75 miles. Recharging an empty battery will take several hours.

Of course, a plug-in electric/gas hybrid vehicle has a normal range (for example, the Chevy Volt also has a gas engine and range of over 350 miles) but the “fuel” cost savings only applies when the battery can supply power.

With a larger battery, you can capture more of the “fuel” cost savings. As an example, a Chevy Volt has a battery capacity of 17 kWh and an electric-only range of about 40 miles. By comparison, the Toyota Prius hybrid [plug-in conversion] used in the Wake Electric vehicle fleet since 2009 has a battery capacity of only 5 kWh.

On the positive side: State and federal tax credits can significantly reduce the effective purchase price. As production of the vehicles increase, the costs are starting to become more reasonable. Also, some vehicle manufacturers are offering very attractive leases.

If you can make the economics work and buy a Chevy Volt or other plug-in hybrid (or can live with the range limits of an all-electric), just think how smart you will feel when you plug in and buy “fuel” for your car at $1.18 per gallon.

Do you have a question or comment about all-electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles? Suggestions for future topics? Please submit them to MAC@wemc.com.


Back to News