Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

How Much Cheaper Is an EV or Hybrid Compared to a Gas Vehicle?

As gas prices increase, supply chains are delayed and the auto industry moves toward all-electric options, it’s not always clear when or if the long-term savings will outweigh the upfront costs of an EV or hybrid vehicle.

(TNS) — Electric vehicles are looking better and better to motorists disgusted by paying more than $4 a gallon for gas.

Assuming all other costs are equal, it’s simply cheaper to run electric and hybrid vehicles compared to their gas-only counterparts. But all other costs aren’t equal, of course. Automotive analysts say you should expect to wait years before your accrued fuel cost savings exceed the additional money you spent on the vehicle.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel compared costs of running the various vehicles types at a Vehicle Cost Calculator website operated by the U.S. Department of Energy.

These comparisons confirmed what consumers might suspect: Fully electric vehicles are cheapest to operate.

Using the Vehicle Cost Calculator, we compared the cost to drive four 2021 sedans, each rated slightly more than 200 horsepower, in city conditions for a week. To keep the comparison simple, we assumed that gas would cost $4.30 a gallon, similar to now, and that none of the travel would be on highways. We assumed that each car would travel about 200 miles, or 28.6 miles a day.

Also, we assumed that the vehicle would be charged at home at prevailing residential utility rates (currently about 12 cents per kilowatt hour). Using charging stations located along highways can be much more expensive and significantly increase costs.

Here are the results:

—The all-electric Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus rear-wheel drive was by far the cheapest vehicle to run, with an annual fuel (or electricity) cost of $281 a year, or $5.40 a week.

—A plug-in hybrid, Honda Clarity, was second-cheapest, with an annual electricity cost of $363 or $6.99 a week. Because this plug-in hybrid can run on electricity for 47 miles before switching to gas-engine mode, no gasoline was consumed in our example.

—A traditional hybrid, Toyota Avalon XLE Hybrid, cost considerably more to drive. The Avalon used 4.7 gallons of gas, or $20 worth, each week, increasing the annual fuel cost to $1,041 for 242 gallons. Still, the electric motor helped the Avalon achieve a stellar 43 mpg.

—Finally, the gas-only Lexus ES 250 consumed eight gallons a week, or $34.4 worth. Over a year, that’s 416 gallons at an annual cost of $1,791. Fuel efficiency fell to 25 mpg, still better than many of the cars, trucks and vans on the roads today.

‘Green’ Vehicles, Explained

You can run your own comparison, selecting various driving conditions and choosing among hundreds of makes and models, at

Before diving in, however, it’s helpful to know the difference between the types of “green” vehicles on the market today.

Electric Vehicles (EVs) are completely powered by batteries. Owners can charge those batteries using their household current or at publicly available charging stations. Consumers can expect to pay $8,000 to $10,000 more for an electric vehicle compared to a comparable gas-powered vehicle.

Today in the United States, Tesla dominates the all-electric market, and other manufacturers are far behind.

While Tesla does not disclose U.S. sales figures, Cox Automotive estimates that Tesla sold 352,471 cars in the U.S. in 2021, a 71 percent increase over the 205,600 sold in 2020. Telsa models 3 and Y were the two biggest selling electric vehicles, followed, at a distant third, by Ford’s Mustang Mach E.

For many consumers, all-electric vehicles are not yet a practical option because of their comparatively low traveling range between charges, which adds time and hassle to the prospect of a long-distance driving trip. Even the longest-range vehicles available today, such as the Tesla Model S, can only run about 400 miles between charges.

Hybrids occupy the space between gas-powered and electric vehicles. All hybrids have gas engines that enable owners to take them on long trips without worrying about the cost, wasted time or availability of public charging stations.

Hybrids come in three flavors:

A traditional, or self-charging, hybrid uses a battery to offload some functions of a gas engine, such as powering accessories and restarting vehicles that are designed to shut off at traffic lights. The battery is charged as the car runs on gas, but the functions performed by the battery enable the engine to use less gas and run more efficiently. Traditional hybrids can’t travel far or fast solely on their batteries and are never plugged into home or public chargers.

A recently introduced flavor is known as a “mild hybrid.” These have small batteries that capture energy expended when braking. The batteries have only enough power to enable the engine to be turned off when a vehicle is coasting, cruising or stopped. At traffic lights, the batteries keep the car running while the engine turns off, then smoothly restart the engine again when the light turns green.

Plug-in hybrids are equipped with a battery that owners can charge overnight at their homes. The newest models can run 30 to 50 miles on their battery before they must be switched over to their gas engines. Like traditional hybrids, their batteries recharge while the car operates on gas and help conserve gas by offloading many of the functions to the battery.

Many consumers will transition to all-electric vehicles by first buying a plug-in hybrid, says Ronald Montoya, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds, a California-based automotive research organization.

“The plug-in hybrid is a nice in-between,” Montoya says. “It won’t leave you stranded. If you are only taking small trips during the week, you don’t need to fill up your gas tank very often.”

Sales Climbing Rapidly

While increasing rapidly, sales of “green” vehicles reached 1.2 million last year, or 9.5 percent of the 14.9 million vehicles sold to consumers, according to the National Auto Dealers Association.

That market share is expected to increase rapidly over the next six years as manufacturers begin to introduce a wider variety of models and styles, says Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting for AutoForecast Solutions, a Chester Springs, Pennsylvania-based analysis firm.

By 2028, about 53 percent of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. will feature an electric motor, Fiorani says.

Electric vehicle sales will increase from 423,000 in 2021 to 4.1 million — more than 25 percent of all vehicles sold — by 2028, he said. Hybrids, which accounted for 800,000 sales last year, will make up another 25 percent of sales in 2028, he said.

Consumers will have more options: Electric versions of the bestselling Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado trucks, GMC’s Hummer, and numerous full-size SUVs will beckon big-vehicle fans just as more electric sedans and crossovers will be trotted out for small-car buyers by Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, Kia and Volkswagen.

For muscle car fans, a new Dodge will be introduced in 2024, designed to appeal to Challenger and Charger fans. It will be sold alongside Ford’s all-electric Mustang Mach E.

Slim Pickings for Now

Analysts’ forecasts assume that car manufacturers will make good on their promises to bring planned models into the marketplace.

For now, everyone is still dealing with supply chain issues that have slowed delivery of common gas-powered engines.

Currently, Tesla buyers are forced to wait months to get their chosen model. Elsewhere, dealer lots have a limited selection of affordable green vehicles.

At Fort Lauderdale-based AutoNation, the nation’s largest auto retailer, less than 2 percent of available stock falls into the “specialty” category occupied by green vehicles, said Marc Cannon, the company’s executive vice president and chief customers experience officer.

A search on the AutoNation website for new electric vehicles under $40,000 turns up just five Chevy Bolts and three Nissan Leafs within 200 miles, including 24 tricounty dealerships.

Revising the search to electric vehicles between $40,001 and $60,000 turns up 35 vehicles. Of those, 19 are listed as “pending sale.” A safer bet would be to look for hybrids or plug-in hybrids. A search for those vehicles under $60,000 turns up 277 results.

Production is ramping up gradually among auto manufacturers, Cannon said. “You can’t just flip a switch,” he says. Cannon expects availability of electric vehicles to remain limited and prices to remain high over the next few years while “early adopters” buy up the fun new models, like the upcoming Chevy Silverado.

While gas price hikes might be sparking renewed interest — searches for information about green vehicles on for the week ending March 13 increased 39 percent over the previous week — buyers ready to take the plunge might be better off waiting a bit longer, Montoya says. Even though they cost less to drive, electric vehicles aren’t necessarily cheaper to own, he points out.

“You need to consider that electric vehicles are not going to be a silver bullet,” he says. “They’re expensive compared to gas vehicles.”

It could take years for the savings in fuel costs to exceed the difference in price, he says. “You have to factor in the price you’re paying for that car.”

©2022 South Florida Sun Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
From Our Partners