Are Electric Cars Cheaper to Run?

By: Jamie Page Deaton

Doing a little math with go a long way to figuring out how cheap it can be to run an electric car.
Doing a little math with go a long way to figuring out how cheap it can be to run an electric car.
Colin Anderson/Getty Images

This post, part of a series we're running all about electric cars, was written by Jamie Page Deaton from HowStuffWorks.com.

So you've done everything you can think of: You'vechecked your tire pressure, carpooled, telecommuted -- maybe you even bought a hybrid. But you can't shake that nagging feeling that you're car is still polluting the atmosphere more than you'd like. And, let's face it: that troublesome feeling is hard to shake at the sight of all those nasty emissions spewing from your car's tailpipe.

Advertisement

The best solution for emissions remorse is to do away with your car's tailpipe altogether. With several affordable and practical electric cars hitting the U.S. market in the next two years, it's going to be easier for everyday consumers to get charged up and hit the road. But, there are more benefits to switching to an electric car than just cutting tailpipe emissions. Best of all, those benefits will likely end up in your wallet. While electric cars will cost more up front than their gasoline-powered compatriots, in the long run, they may be cheaper to operate.

The biggest savings will be in fuel. A gallon of regular gas today costs an average of $2.70, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Residential electricity costs on the other hand, only average $.11 per kilowatt hour (again, according to the EIA). Nissan says a full charge of their Nissan Leaf electric car will cost $2.75.

It seems like the cost is about the same, but you've got to dig into the math more: on a full charge, a Nissan Leaf will travel about 100 miles (160.9 kilometers). On one gallon of gas, a Nissan Versa will go about 30 miles (48.3 kilometers). Covering 100 miles (160.9 kilometers) in the Versa will cost about $9.00.

Most electric cars also let you save by choosing when they charge. You can set the Versa, as well as plug-in hybrids from Ford and other automakers, to charge only during off-peak hours, bringing down your electricity costs. And, though an in-home charging station for the Leaf costs about $2,000, the EPA estimates that a Nissan Versa will cost $1,359 per year in gas. So, in a little over 18 months, the savings on the Leaf should pay for the charging system.

These numbers don't take into account insurance and maintenance costs, but the costs of running an electric car electric car -- just getting the energy required to move it down the road -- looks a lot lower than the cost to run a conventional car.

Advertisement

AutoHybrid CarsHow Electric Cars WorkAutoHybrid CarsElectric Car PicturesAutoFuel-efficient VehiclesWill I get shocked if I drive an electric car through a big puddle?AutoFuel-efficient VehiclesHow Electric Car Batteries WorkAutoHybrid CarsWhat is a potentiometer in an electric car?AutoHybrid CarsHow Electric Car Labs WorkAutoPorschePorsche Joins Electric Vehicle Race With 2020 TaycanAutoOther Makes & ModelsCould Electric Motor Conversions Save Classic Cars?AutoUnusual CarsHow the G-Wiz Electric Car WorksAutoHybrid CarsHow Electric Car Charging Networks WorkAutoHybrid TechnologyCan I buy an electric car at Sam's Club?AutoHybrid CarsIs there a way to create an all-electric car you don't have to plug in?AutoHybrid TechnologyHow Electric Car Conversion Kits WorkAutoHybrid TechnologyWhat is the history of electric cars?AutoUnusual CarsHow big is the world's smallest electric car?AutoFuel ConsumptionHow can a speed bump harvest electricity?AutoFuel-efficient VehiclesThis Woman's Job Is to Figure Out Why People Don't Buy Electric CarsAutoHybrid CarsIs an all-electric car a bad investment?AutoTypes of EnginesHow Does an Electric Water Pump Benefit Your Engine?AutoPlug-in HybridsWhat is the plug-in electric vehicle credit?AutoFuel ConsumptionIndia Plans to Switch All New Cars to Electric by 2030AutoTech and TransportShared Electric Scooters: Commuter Solution or Urban Nightmare?AutoHybrid CarsCan Electric Car Batteries Be Recycled?AutoHybrid CarsWill Electric Cars Require More Maintenance?AutoHybrid CarsChallenges Facing the Electric Car IndustryAutoHybrid CarsAre electric cars safe in accidents?AutoHybrid CarsAre Electric Cars Cheaper to Run?AutoAuto ManufacturingHow old is the electric car?AutoConcept CarsToyota's Newest Electric Concept Car Is Made of WoodAutoFuel-efficient VehiclesElectric Car Charging Goes Super FastAutoHybrid CarsElectric Cars vs. Hydrogen Fuel Cell CarsAutoHybrid CarsTop 10 Electric Car Frequently Asked QuestionsAutoHybrid CarsHow Does Horsepower Figure Into Electric Cars?AutoFuel-efficient VehiclesTesla's New Model 3 Aims Squarely at the Electric Car MainstreamAutoFuel EconomyWill all vehicles eventually be all electric?AutoTransmissions & DrivetrainGas-powered vs. Electric Cars: Which Is Faster?AutoHybrid CarsHow Long Does it Take To Charge an Electric Car?AutoHybrid CarsHow Much Does It Cost to Charge an Electric Car?AutoHybrid Cars12 Myths About Electric VehiclesAutoConcept CarsUnveiled at CES: The Electric Car Hoping to Beat Tesla at Its GameAutoFuel EconomyGas vs. Grid: Gasoline and Electricity Face OffAutoHybrid CarsCharging an Electric CarAutoHybrid CarsInside an Electric CarAutoHybrid CarsDoing a Conversion - Electric Car ConversionAutoHybrid TechnologyThe First Electric CarAutoHybrid CarsAn Electric Car ExampleAutoHybrid CarsElectric-car Motors and BatteriesAutoConcept CarsHow the Tesla Roadster Works