From an environmental perspective, it's easy to see the benefits of electric cars. They produce zero tailpipe pollutants, and they're designed to be energy efficient. From a performance perspective, electric car supporters say their machines have stronger acceleration and lower maintenance costs than traditional models. However, if saving money is the primary reason you're buying an electric car, energy efficiency and performance alone aren't good enough causes to make the switch.
Divide the number of miles you travel between fill-ups by the amount of gas it takes to fill your tank. Then, divide the cost of a gallon of gas by your car's mileage per gallon. The result is the dollar amount it takes to drive your car one mile. For example, if your car needs 10 gallons to run 250 miles, and the price of gas is $4 a gallon, the result is 16 cents a mile.
Electric Vehicles Fuel Efficiency
Find out the fuel efficiency, or energy consumption rate, of the electric vehicle. This is measured in the kilowatt-hours needed to drive 100 miles. As with combustion engines, efficiency varies by model. For instance, the 2013 Chevrolet Volt has an electricity consumption rate of 35 kWh per 100 miles; the 2012 Nissan Leaf checks in with 34 kWh per 100 miles.
Electric Utility Rates
In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported the national average rate for a kWh of electricity was 11 cents. At the same time, state average rates ranged from 8 cents (Idaho) to 28 cents (Hawaii). To find the cost of running an electric vehicle for one mile, multiply its electricity consumption rate by the cost of a kWh of electricity where you live and divide by 100. For example, according to this data, running the 2013 Chevrolet Volt in Virginia cost an average of 3.7 cents a mile.
How much you actually save also depends on how much you travel. Let's assume you drive 15,000 miles in a year, and your old car had a consumption rate of 16 cents a mile. You would save $1,200 a year on gas with an electric car with a fuel consumption rate of 4 cents a mile.
Fuel isn't the only expense car owners need to consider. Electric cars just cost more than the common models. As of 2013, the starting price of a 2013 Chevrolet Volt was $39,145, while the comparably sized 2013 Chevrolet Cruze cost $17,130. According to a 2012 report compiled by TrueCar.com for the "New York Times," with 2013 gas prices it could take the average driver up to a decade to save money with an electric car.
- Fueleconomy.gov: Electric Vehicles
- Edmunds: The True Cost of Powering an Electric Car
- Fueleconomy.gov: How to Calculate Your MPG
- Energy Star: Electric Utility Rates
- Fueleconomy.gov: Compare Side-by-Side
- New York Times: Payoff for Efficient Cars Takes Years
- New York Times: 2013 Chevrolet Cruze
- New York Times: 2013 Chevrolet Volt
Andrew Latham has worked as a professional copywriter since 2005 and is the owner of LanguageVox, a Spanish and English language services provider. His work has been published in "Property News" and on the San Francisco Chronicle's website, SFGate. Latham holds a Bachelor of Science in English and a diploma in linguistics from Open University.