Energy Department Launches 'eGallon' To Explain Electric-Car Cost, Efficiency

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The U.S. Department of Energy's 'eGallon' calculator

The U.S. Department of Energy's 'eGallon' calculator

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It isn't easy to compare gasoline and electric vehicles.

Sure, you can look at EPA stickers, sit in them and appreciate the way they drive, but comparing like-for-like on an economic basis is requires some thought.

The U.S. Department of Energy has simplified the process with its new eGallon calculator, showing potential electric vehicle drivers just how much cheaper it is to run one than the equivalent gasoline vehicle.

The DoE describes an eGallon as "the cost of fueling a vehicle with electricity compared to a similar vehicle that runs on gasoline".

Most people know that the power coming from a plug costs less than the fuel you pour into a car, even if that car will travel further each time you fill it up. But like-for-like, how much cheaper is electricity?

Around three times, is the answer.

The eGallon calculator takes the average miles-per-gallon figure of a new vehicle--28.2 for comparable 2012 model-year cars--and then calculates how much it would cost to drive an electric car the same distance. Simple.

The U.S. average for each is currently $3.65 for a gasoline vehicle, and just $1.14 for an eGallon.

A drop-down box lets you pick your comparison state-by-state, since gas and electricity costs vary around the country.

The DoE's press release also notes something else important when considering the difference in running costs: While the price of an eGallon has remained very similar over the past decade or so, gasoline prices have been incredibly erratic. A gasoline vehicle that seems cheap to run on one day may be incredibly expensive the next--but electric vehicles are largely immune to such fluctuations.

Electric cars have other benefits too, of course, not least those on a macroeconomic scale.

"Instead of spending $1 billion a day on foreign oil," explains Dan Leistikow, Director, Office of Public Affairs at the DoE, "...with electric vehicles and other technologies we can power our cars, homes and businesses with American energy."

Have a play with the eGallon calculator here, and see how little an electric car would cost to run in your state.


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Comments (12)
  1. I just tried it and got $1.10 in my state, I like it I hope it helps the uniformed consumers understand the benefits of electric cars.

  2. Your mileage may vary.
    In the state of Massachusetts, I get $1.46/gallon equivalent. It sounds good, but if your baseline is a Prius rather than the average gasoline car, there is a factor of 1.77× to consider.

    This leaves my comparison at $3.23/gallon equivalent.

    So EVs are still cool but the cost advantage is diminished if you live on the coasts and have expensive electricity and consider the Prius as an option.

  3. I got $1.09 for my state, Michigan, but it made me wonder one thing immediately; like most other EV owners I know, I charge my vehicle at night at a much lower rate ($.04/kWh before delivery charges), so I wonder if the electricity cost shown is just a peak figure, an average or takes this into account.

    If it does not take the reduced overnight rates into account, my costs would presumably be lower, as would those of many others. Not a big deal and I still like the effort, so thanks for sharing this, Antony.

  4. Like you, I charge off-peak and my costs here in Northern California are way lower than the calculator indicates. I get asked the cost to drive question all the time with my Tesla, and I like to use cost per mile. If your ICE gets 20 miles per gal and gas cost $4, cost per mile is 20 cents - easy. With off-peak charging, my cost is about 1.3 cents per mile. I think I'll stick with my method.

  5. I think this is kind of "misleading". After all these years, we are still getting attached to the terms such as MPG and $/gallon. When are we going to move on to a smarter level?

    Cost of per gallon is the same regardless of MPG.

    A gallon of gas cost $4/gallon. An electric gallon is still 33.7KWh/gallon which is still a gallon at a cost of $4/gallon. Now, if we assume that average electricity cost is about $0.12/KWh. Then 33.7KWh is still $4.04/gallon. The same price.

    The key point that they should explain is that a typical car can only convert 30% of that energy into motion where EVs can do better than 80%. That is where the cost drops.

    I think $/mile is a way better way of explaining it.

  6. I agree that the calculator is VERY misleading. With my present off-peak charging cost of .0374 cents/kWh, I can drive 143 miles on the cost of a "gallon" that the calculator gives me (EPA effciency rating). Even at your $.12/kWh, I could drive 44 miles per "gallon". The govenment keeps trying to jam 10 lbs of EV into a 5 lb ICE bag. MPGe -> blech

  7. With my car I get 8X's not 3X's... What they should do is add a second drop down so one can input ones actual gas car milage.... We are not all the same or drive the same cars, as much as the government tries to make us!

  8. For some eye opening numbers, try plugging in Hawaii. It shows the cost of gasoline to be $3.74 and the cost of an Egallon to be $3.69

  9. Hawaii's electricity is staggeringly expensive. But two points
    1) Gasoline is also more expensive in Hawaii
    2) Solar panels might also make economic sense.

  10. I knew Hawaii was expensive, but never dreamed it was that bad. With those rates for electricity I'm a bit surprised that the whole island is not covered with solar panels.
    EV's would make no sense what so ever from a financial aspect if you did not have panels.

  11. I am surprised that Hawaii is NOT mostly powered by solar and wind with Geothermal as the "backbone" backup power.

    It is the MOST Southern state in the country with plenty of solar power year around. Its wind energy is also full of potential with tons of wind energy in the northern and southern edges of the islands.

    And do I need to mention geothermal energy? They can easily combine the waste water treatment with geothermal power plant...

  12. According to the Energy Infomation Administration, about 77% of Hawaii's electricity is generated using imported oil for fuel. Hawaii has had solar growth rates on the order of 150% annually. It looks like solar and an EV are quickly becoming a very attractive combination there, and the cars with smaller battery packs are a natural fit. It's not like you're going to be taking long trips.

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