Man plugging a charger into his electric car at his home.

Which costs more: charging an electric car or filling your tank with gas? – GOBankingRates


A man plugs a charger into his electric car at his home.

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Electric cars and gas cars have always come as a trade-off. All-electric cars are expensive to buy, but cheaper to own because they’re cheaper to refuel and maintain – and generate zero emissions. Conventional cars cost less up front, but you pay more in the long run thanks to the higher cost of dirty gas.

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This dynamic is still widely accepted as true, but compelling new evidence is revealing a disconnect between the metrics used to analyze fuel costs and the realities that electric vehicle drivers face on the ground.

So, are electric vehicles really cheaper for energy than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles? Well, it depends on the scale you use when measuring.

Shipping is cheaper than pumping

In 2020, the Department of Energy (DOE) released a study that was more comprehensive than the one that came before. Using a nationwide assessment of electric vehicle charging costs, the study results were more accurate than previous studies, which assumed an individual value, had come out.

It found the national average for charging an electric vehicle to be $0.15 per kilowatt-hour, which the Department of Energy has set translate into savings of up to $14,500 over 15 years on fuel costs alone.

On top of that, electric vehicles are cheaper to maintain — $0.04 per mile, according to the Department of Energy — adding another $8,000 in savings for electric vehicle drivers over 200,000 miles.

The jury delivered its verdict.

Yes, electric cars cost more to buy, but owners pay for the difference, and then pay some over the life of the car — plus everything is emissions-free — and that doesn’t even include state and federal tax credits and other incentives.

But a different study was about to become more accurate.

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The study reveals different results

On October 21, 2021, Anderson Economics Group – a reputable economic consultancy with decades of experience in the auto industry – released the results of its own study, which has been in preparation for six months. It was the first installation in a larger economic research series still in progress.

Anderson has analyzed electric vehicle charging costs more rigorously, going beyond just a country-by-state breakdown to examine rural/urban differences. The new methodology also separated compounds by segment, use, and cost.

Titled “Comparison: The Real Global Cost of Fueling Electric Vehicles and ICEs,” the report’s astounding findings are summarized in its official summary: “Electric vehicles can be more expensive to fuel than their internal combustion engine counterparts.”

There is more than just gas and electricity

The Department of Energy says the average electricity cost for an electric vehicle is $0.04 per mile, which means it costs $9 to fully charge a battery with a 200-mile range. By comparison, it costs between $0.07 and $0.10 per mile to fuel a gas-powered vehicle, according to the AAA.

However, Anderson’s study challenges the assumption that electric cars are cheaper to drive — or even cheaper to fuel. It found that operating electric vehicles comes with four hidden costs: the purchase of a home charger, the greatly inflated price of commercial charging at public stations, the “mileage” spent driving to find remote charging stations and registration taxes that mandate EV taxation for drivers To make up for the fact that they don’t pay gas taxes. The study also took into account the cost of time spent searching for reliable charging stations, which – even when locating them – can take half an hour for a cost ranging from 20% to 80%.

Conventional research—such as the industry standard provided by the Department of Energy—takes none of that into account. It also assumes a wildly unbalanced dependence on cheap home shipping rather than expensive commercial shipping.

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The more you think, the worse the appearance of electric vehicles

Once again, the new research is just the first in a larger series, but its findings are undeniable. The study found that:

  • Commercial shipping rates are two to four times higher than residential property rates.
  • Level 1 chargers cost an average of $600 to install and can take up to 20 hours to fully charge an EV.
  • Level 2 chargers are much faster but cost $1600.
  • “Full charge” is a misleading term because charging beyond 90% is slow, hard, and undesirable, which means you get far fewer miles than the advertised ranges think. On the other hand, gas vehicles are good for 300-400 miles per tank.
  • Given all of these factors, and assuming a greater reliance on commercial freight, it would cost $8.58 to fuel a mid-range 33-mpg gas car for 100 miles at $2.81 per gallon. Comparatively, a mid-priced EV — a Tesla Model 3, Nissan Leaf or Chevy Bolt — will cost $12.95 per 100 miles.
  • Assuming a gasoline car would drive 12,000 miles, it would cost $1,030 per year versus $1,554 for an electric car.

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About the author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was previously one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the nation’s largest newspaper syndicate, the Gannett News Service. He worked as business editor for amNewYork, Manhattan’s most widely read newspaper, and worked as copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication at the heart of the Wall Street investment community in New York City.

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