The national average price for gasoline in the continental United States reached $5 in mid-June. People who spend multiple hours in their cars daily were flummoxed. No one was likely to get an increase in salary to match the increase in gas prices, so most people were forced to refigure their transportation budgets accordingly.
Meanwhile, those consumers who have already purchased electric cars are enjoying the fact that they are not screaming at fuel pumps.
Electric vehicle (EV) car owners do have to contend with the price of electricity, which varies by state. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects a 4.8 percent increase in electricity pricing for the summer of 2022 over that of 2021.
Electric car owners have other concerns as well, including the high price of paying off their cars, concern over the cost of an eventual battery replacement, and how and where to “fuel up’’ on long trips.
Then there are the hybrid owners. Hybrid cars operate on both gas and electric power. Although hybrid owners don’t need to fill their tanks on a weekly basis, they have their own headaches.
Individual drivers will have personal reasons for choosing to drive a gas-powered car versus an EV or a hybrid. This article offers alternative reasons for those readers who are on the fence.
Let’s look at each choice, and examine the positives and negatives of the three types of standard family vehicles.
Cars Powered by Gasoline
We have been driving gasoline-powered cars for over a century. When we buy gas-powered cars, we know what we are getting into. Cars that operate on gasoline require frequent stops at the gas station for fuel and regular but less frequent stops at the dealer or repair shop for maintenance.
- Cars powered by gasoline are cheaper to purchase initially.
- Gasoline-powered vehicles have higher top speeds (for whatever that is worth).
- The price of gasoline keeps going up.
- If you are environmentally concerned, cars powered by gasoline produce more pollutants than the alternatives.
Cars Powered by Electricity
Electric cars are all the rage among young drivers, for a variety of reasons. But, the reason for the popularity of electric cars is balanced by the cost owners pay, in real money terms.
- Electric cars are more environmentally friendly because they produce fewer emissions.
- Charging an electric car is less expensive than filling up a gasoline-powered car.
- Electric cars make less noise, and they reach high speeds faster than gasoline-powered cars (for what that’s worth).
- There are federal tax credits available for the purchase of some electric vehicles.
- The initial cost is high. The average price difference for similarly equipped cars is more than $10,000 between gas and electric vehicles.
- Concerns over charging electric cars on long drives are not likely to be solved soon.
- You can charge your electric vehicle with a standard outlet, but it takes a while to get a full charge. A home charging station is an option, but that equipment is likely to cost about $2,000.
- While EV cars reach high speeds faster than gasoline-powered cars, they do not maintain the higher speed as long as gas-powered cars do.
So you think you want to split the difference and get a hybrid vehicle? Hybrids offer the reliability of available gasoline when needed and the knowledge that for long trips, you are operating on electricity rather than emissions-heavy gasoline.
There are three types of hybrid vehicles: mild, full, and plug-in. They are different in the way the electric and gas power operate the vehicle, but they are popular for the same reasons: they reduce gasoline emissions and cost.
- Hybrid vehicles produce fewer emissions than gas-powered vehicles, but more than EVs.
- Mild and full hybrids do not need to be plugged in to recharge the battery; the internal combustion engine recharges the battery, as does any braking that is applied.
- Replacing the electric battery is expensive, although it needs to be replaced much less frequently than a gasoline engine battery.
- Like electric vehicles, hybrids are generally not power vehicles, although there are hybrids that are better suited for towing campers or trailers.
Overall Cost Comparisons
There are many estimates on the cost of owning a gas vs. electric vehicle. But those estimates apply only to average use. If you drive your car more or less frequently than the average driver, your cost estimates will differ. If you tend to drive faster than other drivers, that will also affect your estimated costs.
In 2020, Consumer Reports estimated that EV drivers spend about 60 percent less each year on fuel costs compared to gas-powered car owners (pdf). In line with this figure, the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found in 2018 that the average annual cost for fueling an EV car was $485 compared to $1,117 to fuel a gas-powered vehicle (pdf). However, the cost of gas-powered vehicles has obviously climbed due to recent increases in gas at the pump.
Battery and Maintenance
Two additional factors could affect these estimates: battery and maintenance.
Battery replacement may be the biggest factor in a comparison of gas versus EV costs. An EV battery can cost at least $5,000 to replace, whereas a gas-powered car battery averages $150, depending on the size of the battery required. But, today’s EV battery runs for approximately eight years or 100,000 miles before needing to be replaced. A gas-powered car battery is estimated to last four years, based on the chemical components of the battery, not the number of miles driven.
A 2020 study by Consumer Reports found that maintenance costs for EVs run about 50 percent lower than maintenance costs for gas-powered vehicles. This is largely because EVs are less complex than gas-powered vehicles, with fewer moving parts.
Despite the cost savings from gas, battery, and maintenance, the upfront cost of an electric vehicle may be the biggest consideration. As of May 2022, the average price for a new electric vehicle was over $65,000, according to a report from Kelley Blue Book, versus the industry average of about $46,000.
The Final Word
The White House wants 50 percent of all new vehicle sales to be electric by 2030. Currently, less than 3 percent of cars on the road are electric, according to Kelley Blue Book. However, it’s likely that many of us will switch to electric or hybrid eventually. For most of us, when we make that change will be determined largely by the economics of car ownership.
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