With the global market share for electric vehicles doubling from 4.1 to 8.5% in 2021,1 millions of auto owners are now making the switch to plug-in cars. An expanding variety of new electric vehicle (EV) models have been appearing in showrooms, enticing customers with their better reliability and range.
The debate over electric vs. gas cars will continue even as EVs gain market share. When considering which type of vehicle to purchase, it is important to take into account your personal priorities and driving habits.
Cost of Purchase
The upfront cost is only part of the economic comparison between EVs and gas-fueled vehicles, but it highlights a significant difference. According to Kelley Blue Book, the price of an EV is about $10,000 more than the overall industry average purchase price, which includes EVs and gas-powered vehicles—the equivalency of an entry-level luxury car.2 However, some manufacturers are able to offer federal tax credits to offset this higher cost.2
Cost of Fuel and Maintenance
While internal combustion engines need fuel, EVs have to be regularly charged. A network of public charging stations is available in many cities, and private charging stations are installed by 80% of EV owners.3
In 2021, the Anderson Economic Group released a study that found a slight operating fueling cost advantage for gas-powered vehicles. The study found that for mid-priced cars, gas-fueled vehicles were about $.50 cheaper to re-fuel/recharge over a distance of 100 miles. For EV owners using commercial chargers, the advantage for gas-fueled vehicles rose to $4.00.4 With steadily rising gas prices in 2022, of course, this calculation may change and give the advantage to electric vehicles.
According to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, maintenance costs are about $0.10 per mile for gas-fueled vehicles and $0.90 per mile for EVs, which have fewer moving parts and don't need oil changes.5
Electric vehicles cut tailpipe emissions to zero—although emissions are also created when the electricity needed to operate an EV is generated.
For all emissions, known as “well-to-wheel,” the Department of Energy has found that all-electric vehicles create slightly less than 5,000 pounds of emissions annually, while internal combustion engines generate slightly more than 10,000 pounds a year.6
EV owners soon become familiar with the sudden acceleration that drives them back into their seats from a standing stop. The higher torque generated by an electric battery versus a gas-powered engine means faster acceleration.
EVs also benefit from a better distribution of weight and a low center of mass. This advantage arises from the heavy battery pack, located on the bottom of the car rather than the front used for a traditional internal combustion engine. The improved weight profile makes for a smoother ride and maneuverability.
There are many factors besides upfront cost to consider when choosing whether to purchase an EV or a traditional gas-powered vehicle. In addition to costs of operation and maintenance, the potential EV owner should consider the convenience factor: the time and hassle involved in recharging the vehicle, and dealing with a more limited driving range between fill-ups/recharging.
On balance, EVs win on driving experience and environmental impact, while gas-fueled vehicles give a slight advantage in upfront and operating costs. Owner/drivers will have to take stock of their own priorities when deciding which way to go.
1 Global Market Share of Electric Cars More than Doubled in 2021 as the EV Revolution Gains Steam
2 Here’s Whether It’s Actually Cheaper to Switch to an Electric Vehicle or Not—and How the Costs Break Down
3 Electric Vehicle Basics
4 Real World Cost of Fueling EVs and ICE Vehicles
5 The Government Confirms Obvious: Electric Cars Cheaper to Maintain Than Internal Combustion Vehicles
6 Alternative Fuels Data Center
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