Tesla vs. gas car: Which state offers the biggest fuel savings?

Photo credit: Top Gear

A report released by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute is showing the cost savings to the average vehicle owner versus those same owners driving electric. The report compares gasoline fuel costs state-by-state to the cost of electricity for equivalent miles driven. The differences are shown in both ratios and dollar figures, with owners in some specific states seeing much higher savings when driving electric versus those from other states.

The report is unique in that it ignores the often-politicized arguments for data of this nature; such as the “source-to-use” data often manipulated or argued. Instead, it looks purely from a consumer perspective, showing what kinds of cost savings could be had for the average vehicle owner in any given state.

By comparing the average fuel economy of cars sold with the average expected range of a battery-electric vehicle sold on the market, the report found that drivers in Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Louisiana, and Utah would save the most by switching to an electric vehicle. Drivers in Hawaii, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts would save the least. Most of these differences are due to a lower disparity between gasoline costs and residential electricity costs in the latter list of states and a higher disparity between those in the former list.

The report’s data considered the average driving distance and amount per state (NHTSA data), the average fuel economy of vehicles sold in that state (per another UofM study), the average cost per gallon for gasoline state-by-state (according to AAA), and the average cost of electricity in each state (per EIA). The report then compared these to one another.

The average cost of gasoline in the United States, as of December 23, 2017, was $2.441 per gallon. The highest price was in Hawaii at $3.297 per gallon and the lowest was in Alabama at $2.169. High fuel costs, however, did not always translate directly into more savings with a battery electric vehicle. Similarly, lower fuel costs were not necessarily a guarantee that the payoff for going electric would be minimal. Electricity costs could change that.

And they did. The average price of residential electricity in the United States, as of October 2017, was $0.1284 per kilowatt hour. Hawaii had the highest price at $0.2929 per kWh and Louisiana had the lowest at $0.0972/kWh. The higher cost of electricity was more of an indicator of lower gains by going to an electric vehicle than were gasoline prices. Most of the states in the top five for benefiting the least by going electric were also within the top ten for the highest-priced electricity. Yet the states with the lowest-priced electricity were not likely to show up on the top five list for the best gains by getting an EV.

For overall averages nationwide, the cost of driving a gasoline vehicle was $1,117 per year while the average cost of driving a battery electric vehicle was $485. On the whole, most Americans can expect to save at least something if they go to an electric vehicle for most of their driving.

Also interesting was the average fuel economy required in order to meet or better the electric vehicle’s cost savings to the owner. Even in the worst states, where ratios were lowest, the average fuel economy was relatively high. In Hawaii, where a gasoline car owner can only expect to save about $400 per year for getting an EV, the required fuel economy to average that cost ratio out to $0 is 34.1 mpg. In the average state, the fuel economy required is around 57.6 mpg. In the state of Washington, a full 90 mpg is required to break even with an electric car.

These numbers are interesting and should speak directly to consumers at a bare-bones pocketbook level. Buying an EV can mean significant annual savings. The report, Relative Costs of Driving Electric and Gasoline Vehicles in the Individual U.S. States, can be found at this link.

Tesla vs. gas car: Which state offers the biggest fuel savings?
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