How Much Can You Save with an Electric Vehicle?

Aug 8th, 2014 | By Amy Leibrock

If you know anything about electric vehicles, you probably know that they cost less to operate than gasoline-fueled cars. But the savings get harder to discern when you’re trying to figure out which car to buy. Will a used plug-in electric hybrid get better mileage than a new fuel-efficient gas-powered car? How do the electricity rates in your area affect the costs?

Now, thanks to University of California at Davis’ Plug-in Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center, there’s an easy way to compare just about any vehicle on the market based on your own driving habits and energy costs. The tool is called EV Explorer, and it pairs’s database of vehicles with Google Maps to allow you to generate a side-by-side comparison of commuting costs for more than 34,000 vehicles.

Here’s how it works: You select a starting point and end destination for your commute, how often you drive there, and up to four vehicles to compare. You can also adjust for your local gas prices and the cost of your home electricity per kilowatt hour. EV Explorer then generates a breakdown of how much each model will cost per year to fuel. It even lets you indicate if you have charging at your workplace, which lowers costs even more.

EV Explorer

So, how much can you save? We plugged in a five-day per week commute from Brookfield, Illinois, to downtown Chicago, a round-trip distance of 31 miles, and compared a 2007 Honda Fit, a 2015 Chrysler 200, a 2013 Chevy Volt and a 2014 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-in Hybrid. We added May 2014 prices for gas and electricity in Chicago, a city with slightly above average gasoline costs and average electricity cost compared to the rest of the country. Here are the results:

EV Energy cost comparison using EV Explorer

As you can see, the electric vehicles can cut commuting costs in half or more. If you’re lucky enough to have a free Level 1 (120V) charger at your workplace, the savings get even greater — more than $800 a year! (See below.) And this doesn’t even factor in the environmental benefits of a cleaner commute.

Comparing cost of electric vehicles vs gasoline vehicles
Future versions of the website will calculate the lifetime costs of ownership by factoring in retail prices and insurance rates, and by accumulating trips and different routes.

As plug-in electric vehicle options grow and prices become more competitive, more consumers are going to be interested in finding out how switching from gasoline to electricity can affect their bottom lines. This simple tool is a great way for car buyers to research how sustainable transportation choices can work with their lives — and actually enhance them.

Amy Leibrock
Sustainable America Blog Editor

The Clean Car Calculator
The Ups and Downs of Charging an EV at the Airport
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Tagged: electric cars, plug-in hybrid, sustainable transportation, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, alternative fuels, fuel, electric vehicles, plug-in electric vehicle, PEVs, EV charging, EVs, Amy Leibrock, EV Explorer, Alt Fuels

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