The DOE estimates that conventional ICE vehicles cost 10 to 15 cents per mile in fuel (gasoline or diesel). EV’s typically cost 2 to 4 cents per mile for fuel (electricity). A PHEV’s fuel costs usually fall somewhere between the two, depending on how much the gasoline engine is used to supplement the electric motor.
In June 2012, the national average price of regular gasoline was $3.60 per gallon. Gasoline prices are generally expected to rise as demand increases in the developing world and supplies tighten due to availability.
In 2010, the average residential cost of electricity was 11.6 cents per kWh. It varies quite a bit by state and between locales (compare Wyoming’s average of 6.2 cents to Hawaii’s average of 25.1 cents), depending upon the utility.
The graph (upper right) can help you compare costs for an EV that gets 2, 3, or 4 miles per kWh versus an ICE vehicle that gets 18, 22, or 45 miles per gallon (the latter is an HEV). Whether EV or ICE, a vehicle’s operating cost has two variables: the fuel cost (cents per kWh or dollars per gallon), and the vehicle’s efficiency (miles per kWh or miles per gallon). You can determine the energy cost per mile for either kind of fuel if you know the fuel cost. How much less an EV will cost to operate compared to a gasoline vehicle depends on the vehicle‘s efficiency and your fuel costs.
Do your homework before you buy: Regardless of the propulsion technology, a car is a car is a car. Is it reliable? Does it have enough cup holders to satisfy you? Check out traditional sources of new car information and evaluation such as Consumer Reports, Car and Driver magazine, and Edmunds.
An electric car is not (yet) for everyone. But as gasoline prices continue to rise, EVs and PHEVs are bound to become a more attractive and affordable option.
Andy Kerr writes about renewable energy and energy efficiency from the dual perspectives of a net-zero energy homeowner in Ashland, Oregon, and is a policy wonk and advocate in Washington, D.C.
Consumer Reports • www.consumerreports.com
Car and Driver magazine • www.caranddriver.com
Edmunds • www.edmunds.com