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Electric Cars Equal $1/Gallon Gas For Life + $1,200 Cash A Year

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Monthly gas price vs. electricity price in $/gallon equivalent 1976-2012 (Edison Electric Institute)

Monthly gas price vs. electricity price in $/gallon equivalent 1976-2012 (Edison Electric Institute)

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Car buyers are notoriously fond of focusing only on the purchase price of new vehicles, without much thinking about the total cost of ownership.

For electric cars that may cost twice or more what a similar-size gasoline vehicle does, that's a problem.

Still, two separate pieces of evidence begin to make a compelling case for the huge running-cost advantages of plug-ins.

They'll prove useful in conversations over the next few years, as friends, relatives, and neighbors question electric-car buyers about their new vehicles: why they did it, how much hassle it may be to plug in, and--of course--how much it cost.

First is a post entitled Buck-a-Gallon Gas for Life?

Author Max Baumhefner, a Natural Resources Defense Council staffer, simply plots the equivalent cost of gasoline and electricity under different oil-price scenarios.

Gasoline vs. electricity price in $/gallon equivalent, under 3 scenarios (by Max Baumhefner)

Gasoline vs. electricity price in $/gallon equivalent, under 3 scenarios (by Max Baumhefner)

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Gasoline is high, higher, or very much higher; electricity stays cheap regardless of what happens to oil prices.

Even more compelling is a chart (at top) from the Edison Electric Institute, showing the volatility of gasoline prices and the minimal variation in electric costs over the same period.

In other words, plugging in your electric car to recharge it is the equivalent of paying a dollar a gallon for gasoline--forever.

Second is State of Charge, a study issued last month by the Union of Concerned Scientists on a variety of electric vehicle issues. (We'll cover more of that study later on.)

It found that electric-car owners in 50 of the largest U.S. cities who cover 11,000 miles a year will save from $750 to $1,200 annually compared to traveling the same distance by buying gasoline at $3.50 a gallon.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

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While most early electric car buyers have other reasons than saving money, the running-cost advantage has to be better explained if plug-in cars are to reach a broader audience.

And while payback may still be hard to achieve, the lure of "buck-a-gallon gasoline forever" or "$1,200 a year in your pocket" may be enough to get fence-sitters more interested in plug-in cars.

Whereupon they may go for test drives, and discover one of the benefits that automakers (inexplicably) haven't focused on: Electric cars are simply nicer to drive.

What do you think? How would you make the case that electric cars can save someone money?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

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Comments (39)
  1. Speaking of things that people are (inexplicably) not discussing, there are the huge environmental benefits of electric cars. After all, the green in green cars isn't the all mighty buck.
     
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  2. I think that an electric car not only cuts down your monthly expenses but it cuts down on time wasted by having to go to fueling stations. Sometimes we find our selves needing fuel at the end of the day leaving you two options, 1) stop for gas on your way home or 2) leave a little early the next morning and fill-up on your way to work. But with an electric car you can just go home plug-in and head for work as usual the next day because the car was filled overnight by your own home electricity. This is also why hydrogen isn't as good of a solution, you'd still have to take time to go to a fueling station, and you'd still have to pay at the pump.
     
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  3. I cannot believe that any serious attempt to determine total cost has ignored the most gigantic cost of all : replacement of the battery pack. There is no way to know what that cost will be when the bill comes due years from now, but right now the cost is staggering and completely overwhelms all other operating costs.
    How would you like to make your argument and then hear that the Tesla 300 mile battery pack, which Tesla is claiming lasts around 5,6 or 7 years perhaps,will set you back $40,000?
    Until EV enthusiasts get realistic about battery costs,any
    economic arguments they put forth are fatally flawed. The simple fact is that electrics are more efficient and cost effective in every conceivable way,EXCEPT for battery costs. At this time
     
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  4. With an 8 year battery warranty on my Volt, I'm not worried about battery costs. Plus, GM is charging about $3k for replacement Volt batteries. That's very reasonable.
     
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  5. Good point. But a Nissan Leaf does come with a 100,000 mile battery warranty. I would be a lot more impressed if it were 150,000. 8 years down the road if you Leaf battery pack did expire it would be $10,000 or so to replace it? Definitely something to consider.
     
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  6. 10 years down the road, rather than having to get a transmission or dirty gas engine being rebuilt, I will be due for a battery upgrade... since my old battery is estimated to be capable of about 80% of peak capacity. When I had it tested after 15000 miles driven, there was still no sign of degradation in capacity.

    Leading up to that day, as experiences is demonstrating to me, I expect to save at roughly $2000/year by not
    having to pay for expensive gas, oil changes, radiator flushes, engine cleanings, belt replacements, spark
    plugs, etc. By my calculations, I am spending only about 2 cents per mile for electricity, rather than the 20+
    cents per mile I am spending in gas for our other cars.
     
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  7. This is the really underappreciated point of electric cars.

    By way of example Tesla Model S has along the order of 70% fewer moving parts. Simplified heating, cooling and mechanical systems result in significant reductions in yearly mechanical repair costs.

    Future drive-by-wire integration means SYSTEM simplification impossible with the ICE.
     
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  8. Southern California Edison was conducting a lab test 4 years ago on lithium ion batteries and finding 200,000 without noticeable degradation. I don't know too many cars that go 200,000 miles without problems. The point it moot. Plus, you can always sell the battery pack or use it to store energy locally. There are more solutions that problems.
     
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  9. There are more comments in this thread
  10. The calculations here are a little fuzzy/misleading. 1 gallon of gas supposedly has 34.02 kWh of energy (this is what the MPGe calculations uses). 34.02 x $.11 (Avg. electric rate per kWh) = $3.74/gallon, at least technically. The real benefit is that electric motors are more efficient, getting 2-3 times the miles out of that energy. I think a $/mile comparison is a better way to make this comparison.
     
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  11. Seems to me $1200 a year in your pocket could be a little conservative, depending on what you drive and where you live. Out here in Oregon, gas is currently $4.25+/gal. If your driving a SUV and getting 15mpg in town for 11,000 miles per year, you end up using 730+ gallons of gas a year and $3000.00 for the cost of the gas alone for 1 year(at around $4/gallon). A Leaf, by my calculations, would be about $400.00 per year to charge and run 11,000ml. So the savings could be up to $2600 or maybe a little more if your driving a gas guz. So for 100,000 miles, the nissan leafs battery warranty, you be saving around $2600/year. So don't drive an SUV. Drive a Leaf, Prius, Prius C or V. Volt, Ford Fusion. Anything with good mpgs!
     
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  12. Also, we shouldn't leave out savings in not having to spend on maintenance costs of gas engines... such as oil changes, radiator rebuilds, air filters replacements, spark plugs, muffler replacements, distributer cap replacements, blown head-gaskets, etc.

    It is amazing the amount of maintenance that isn't required for an electric car.
     
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  13. including the Renault Twizy
     
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  14. Of course, you are anticipating that battery pricing and technology will remain static for the next 8 years. I would anticipate that battery costs will at least lower by one-half in the next 8 years.
     
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  15. There is also the savings from not having to change oil every 3 or 4 months. In my ICE truck, that used to be about $75 at Jiffy Lube. And who knows how much will be saved on health issues caused by breathing gasoline vapors over all those years of fueling an ICE vehicle. Maybe nothing, but I sure like not smelling that crap anymore.
     
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  16. It would be useful for those who constantly talk about future battery replacements on PEVs start searching out the data to see how much conventional vehicle owners should be concerned about transmission replacement (typically $2k to $5k) and significant engine work expected. If battery replacement gets down to about $3k to $5k then it's about the same as a transmission replacement. No OEM will release their data on the reliability of their transmissions so the best data I can find is from Consumer Reports owner's survey on major transmission repairs. Yes, they are a lot better than they used to be, but a meaningful number of transmissions are still repaired/replaced before a conventional vehicle is scrapped. And brakes, oil changes?
     
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  17. Ive been doing Power Cost comparisons for better than a year Now.
    Taking My FPL bill and comparing it to cost of gasoline.. And e-gallon cost almost the same as a gallon of Petrol. Its been very consistence.Of course the big advantage of electric, is that 130miles per e-gallon.It becomes hard to ignore..At least that is my assessment here in Florida ...
     
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  18. It sure is a lot easier to budget expenses when you know what your EV fuel bill is going to be. Gas, not so much.
     
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  19. The "greens" need to collaboratively merge their message with those that are striving for other goals.

    EV's can enable America to Fire OPEC. Which has a ton of positives including reduction of our Military Presence in the region which could save us $50 Billion or more per year. Additionally American stop funding terrororism when they stop buying oil from places like Yemen.

    We can stop paying $7 Billion a year to big oil in the form of foreign tax credits and subsidies... yeah... they're poor.

    We can grow jobs in America by building the infrastructure to support EV and our expertise with the technology which can result in a tangible export.

    I love the green aspect - but appealing to people on multiple levels is necessary.
     
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  20. After I got the Leaf we installed solar under a lease program. Now, charging the car only costs me an extra $30/month over my old electric bill prior to getting the Leaf. Considering I would have spent about $2600 in gas over the last year, that's a great deal. I'm not going to whine about battery prices until my 8 year/ 100,000 mile warranty is up (no sign of issues after 15,000) - I'm sure there will be refurbishing companies by then, as there are for Prius batteries.
     
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  21. Install fluorescent lighting and see your electric bill drop.
     
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  22. I remember reading that replacing all your incandescent bulbs in a house with CFLs will save you enough electricity to drive the car for free. Don't know if that's exactly true, but it sure sounds nice.
     
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  23. Well, you use about 10 to 14 kWh to charge the car each day. So that would be similar to 28 lights (100 watt bulbs) running for 5 hours. I've been using CFLs for many years, so it's hard for me to relate, but I've seen people that actually were that wasteful.
     
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  24. Good article. An even greater benefit is if you have a home solar system. We have a gasser and electric. Doing most of our driving with the electric (Miev), we are saving about $50 a week in gas. To go 30 miles, it costs our gasser about $5.50, and our electric about .84. After the costs of the solar system are recouped, the cost drops to zero.

    But, I'm preaching to the choir, eh?
     
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  25. $1/gallon might be stretching it, since we were only paying about 2 cents/mile before switching to solar. Early adopters always pay more for new technology, and I'm doing it because a) I'm a gadget fiend b) I really, really want to stick it to oil companies and traditional energy companies and c) I want to be environmentally conscious, or at least clean our filthy Phoenix air a small bit. In that order.
     
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  26. It seems like an electric engine would require less maintenance and be more reliable than a gas engine. Shouldn't it also last longer? Fewer part, etc. Is that true and has anyone done a study of the difference.
     
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  27. The benefit of driving an EV is also greatly compounded by installing a solar PV system. I have created an interactive app to illustrate this point: http://www.empulsebuyer.com/pvCalculator.php
     
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  28. According to the research I've done, electric motors will last about as long as the car as long as they are properly lubed ONCE a year. The only thing that you need to worry about is the battery needing to be replaced, and I'm not worried at all because those 40,000 tesla batteries, were 100,000 about 3 years ago, so I very much anticipate the cost of batteries being so low in the future that you will have to be an idiot to drive an ICE.
     
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  29. I believe the saving could be considerably more than the article suggests. For starters it is basing its calcs on an average electricity price. Most EV users will take advantage of 'time of use' electricity tariffs i.e. off peak charging which will half their electricity cost.

    To make make it easy for ICE drivers out there thinking of buying an EV, I can offer you this simple running cost comparison advice (having driven a petrol van DIY converted to an EV every day for 18 months doing a 40 mile round trip commute - see evalbum.com/2092). Take the petrol cost and divide it by 9. (electric cost of around US$0.06/kWh)
     
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  30. April stats; Prius, drove 1387 miles @ 47.8 MPG gas cost $121 and change.

    Leaf; drove 1341 miles, Electricity $28 and change. do the math. its not even close. obtw, Prius also did oil/filter change. $58 (i work at car dealership so it this is cheap! WA has outrageous oil recycling cost!!)

    battery replacement? ya, ok. i sold a car to a young lady yesterday because her Civic was sitting in her front yard. just paid $1200 to fix some stuff and 4 months later she is looking at a new engine at $4339.XX. she is driving a Fusion this morning. granted, not electric, but you get the point
     
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  31. Armature bearings and electrical brushes are the 2 main parts of an electric motor that can fail. Both are relatively cheap to replace compared to overhauling an ICE engine. As to reliability I have heard that many electric motors could go over 1 million miles when compared to ICE. I have heard near perfect reliability is possible with them. Also you usually do not need a transmission either and that another expense that can be avoided since many EV's use a highly reliable simple single speed transmission instead of complex 6 speed automatic one as used in gasoline engines.
     
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  32. What a bunch of delusional nonsense in an attempt to fool the consumer into thinking this article is actually factual. When you are not driving EVs the vehicle is constantly sucking power from the grid to prevent the batteries from turning into worthless bricks. Power is expected to increase 5 fold over the next 10 years (California had a major increase this year to cover carbon tax) so how can you call this a fixed cost? Last, the chemical reaction in the batteries begins to deteriorate as soon as the first charge occurs which begins reducing EVs driving range. You can only fool the people the first time around, as we've seen with hybrids, and they won't be back again.
     
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  33. @Tom: Actually your 'facts' are slightly off.

    Electricity consumption is NOT expected to increase "5 fold over the next 10 years." The impact of electric cars on the grid has been covered quite extensively, including on this site:
    [citations in 2nd message)

    The degradation rate of chemical reactions in Li-ion cells varies enormously among the different chemistries sued in different cells. Do you know which of the chemistries are used by the highest-volume electric cars now on sale in the U.S.?
     
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  34. I don't think Tom knows how to spell 'chemistry' or 'communism' for that matter. Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice... and you can't fool me anymore.
     
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  35. Citations to support previous comment:
    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1051199_gm-exec-chill-volt-electric-cars-wont-bring-down-the-grid
    and
    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1047352_electric-vehicles-as-clean-as-the-grid-powering-them
    and
    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1047023_no-electric-vehicles-wont-bring-down-the-u-s-power-grid
    and
    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1038392_will-electric-cars-destroy-your-neighborhood-power-grid-no-but
     
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  36. A couple of adds to the conversation. Bought a Camry hybrid in '07,aware of the battery repacement guidance at 8 years. I'm hoping to stretch that a bit, but also hope that replacement cost will either decline or next-gen batteries will be appear, superior (maybe even boost MPG?).

    In additon to DoD cost savings via cutting Middle East oil dependency, consider also healthcare savings realized by reduced air pollution. Less asthma, for instance. Perhaps a case could also be made for slowing global warming, but that would be incredibly hard to quanitify.
     
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  37. Pay no attention to anything the Union of Concerned "Scientists"
    says. We all know this analysis is pure hokem and pure bunk. Why?
    The price and lifespan of the batteries, which MUST be figured into the calculations, and fraudulently never are. I even doubt that the amount of juice actually consumed is correct - one must correct for losses going into, coming out of , and leaking from the batteries. Figure every 8 years or so paying for a new battery pack. NOW do your price calculations. EVs are going to continue taking hits as long as EV enthusiasts are living in an economic dream world. EVs are many things, but they are not economically competitive at this point, due entirely to the high battery costs (both initial and replacement)
     
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