EVs are Cheaper, but Still Come with Challenges

June 4, 2022

Yale Climate Connections:

The rising cost of gasoline and diesel is both a frequent headline and an ongoing financial drain for many, let alone a major issue in the upcoming November midterm elections. But unlike previous gas crunches, some consumers now have options about the energy source that powers their driving.

Not long ago, electric vehicles were the domain of early-adopters and wealthy consumers, but times are changing fast. Moderately priced EVs range from $27,400 to $34,000, and as gasoline prices climb, EVs can offer respite from rising fuel costs.

As of June 1, 2022, the U.S. average price of regular gasoline was $4.67, according to AAA, and gas prices have climbed 41% percent since the start of this calendar year. Experts are saying those prices will continue increasing in days and weeks ahead The cost of electricity, meanwhile, has remained fairly stable – and relatively inexpensive compared with gasoline and diesel fuels. The U.S. average price for residential electricity is 13 cents per kilowatt hour. How does the cost of driving an EV compare to driving a gasoline-powered car?

The short answer is that it costs only $1.41 per “gallon” to drive an EV. That’s a 70% discount compared with gasoline.

The EV-to-gasoline cost comparison varies state-to-state, because the prices of electricity and gasoline differ in each state. The table below lists the breakdown of costs, by state.

Meanwhile, a pretty devastating account in the Wall Street Journal describes the challenges of finding good fast charging infrastructure in the heartland:

Wall St. Journal:

The PlugShare app—a user-generated map of public chargers—showed thousands of charging options between New Orleans and Chicago. But most were classified as Level 2, requiring around 8 hours for a full charge.

While we’d be fine overnight, we required fast chargers during the days. ChargePoint Holdings Inc., which manufactures and maintains many fast-charging stations, promises an 80% charge in 20 to 30 minutes. Longer than stopping for gas—but good for a bite or bathroom break.

The government is spending $5 billion to build a nationwide network of fast chargers, which means thousands more should soon dot major highways. For now, though, fast chargers tend to be located in parking lots of suburban shopping malls, or tethered to gas stations or car dealerships.

New Orleans, our starting point, has exactly zero fast chargers, according to PlugShare. As we set out, one of the closest is at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Slidell, La., about 40 minutes away. So we use our Monday-morning breakfast stop to top off there on the way out of town.

But when we tick down 15% over 35 miles? Disconcerting. And the estimated charging time after plugging in? Even more so. This “quick charge” should take 5 minutes, based on our calculations. So why does the dashboard tell us it will take an hour?

“Maybe it’s just warming up,” I say to Mack. “Maybe it’s broken?” she says. 

Over Egg McMuffins at McDonald’s, we check Google. Chargers slow down when the battery is 80% full, the State of Charge YouTube channel tells us.

Worried about time, we decide to unplug once we return to the car, despite gaining a measly 13% in 40 minutes.

Long article, it gets worse. Work to be done on charging stations.


16 Responses to “EVs are Cheaper, but Still Come with Challenges”

  1. According to Mark Mills, electric cars are not cheaper than ICE cars, are not going to be cheaper any time soon and may never be cheaper. He says Teslas are great cars, but the notion that EVs will replace ICE cars is silly because of the mining requirements.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      Manhattan Institute is a PR organ of the fossil fuel industry so their cred is not high. Sorry, try again.

      • Whatever the Manhattan Institute is, Mark Mills is a physicist/engineer and very lucid coommenter on the subject of energy. He brings up lots of points that I don’t see addressed anywhere else, much less refuted.

        • jimbills Says:

          The thing about mining and a capitalist economy is this – a way is found if the money is there. We SHOULD have started running dry of petroleum a long time ago, but the money was there, new methods of extraction like deep sea and fracking were utilized, and it’s still going.

          Mills should know this – he’s written about it:

          But it’ll be the same with lithium, cobalt, whatever else is needed for EVs. They’re fundamentally a material resource, just like oil and gas.

          The days of easy and cheap energy are gone, though, as he well knows, and even if you dismiss climate change concerns completely, oil is getting more and more difficult to produce at the needed levels to run the economy smoothly. This allows, on just an economic basis, EVs to legitimately compete with ICE vehicles in the present. In the future, even with supply concerns for EVs, issues with oil will remain. They aren’t going away and they are going to eat away at ICE sales. How long it will take for 100% ICE-to-EV replacement is up in the air (I think it will take quite a while), but again, time tends to favor newer technologies over older ones.

          Mills has spent a career defending fossil fuels specifically, but in doing so, he hasn’t looked at what’s REALLY important to the global economy – energy itself, and its necessity to maintain economic growth. It doesn’t matter to the impersonal economy where that energy comes from, just that it gets it, and that it gets it as cheaply as possible. If you have to look at it this way, consider EVs as a newer form of ethanol – a way to ease pressure on petroleum demand while building other segments of the economy.

          Finally, from the Youtube source you linked in its description: “We cannot run society on energy sources that operate at the convenience of nature.”

          I mean, really? You don’t find it a tad ironic for someone to say that while simultaneously implying we should just pretend that fossil fuels will power the economy forever, and that has a lesser effect on nature? Nature gets screwed either way, sure, but again ignoring climate change entirely, that’s completely ignoring all of the other environmental effects of fossil fuel production.

          • One thing to note is that Mark Mills (and me) prefer the term hydrocarbons over fossil fuels. Hydrocarbons can be synthesized with enough energy. Airplanes are likely to always burn hydrocarbons despite the hype in posts here and tweets by Mark Jacobson. I don’t know how far this idea has advanced but I’ve always been intrigued by Cal Tech chemistry professor Nate Lewis proposals to make hydrocarbons from sunlight:

          • John Oneill Says:

            ‘The days of easy and cheap energy are gone’
            In Peak Oil circles a few years back, it was common to see the ‘Hubbert Curve’ of human energy use. That was a fairly flat line, comprising the animal power, wood fuels, and a little wind and watermill work that our ancestors got by with. The ‘curve’ was the steeply rising use of fossil fuels, followed by an equally steep decine as reserves were used up. What is rarely seen is that in Hubbert’s original paper, energy use continued at the same high level, even as fossil use plummeted – but the new energy source was nuclear. When nuclear power was first used for civilian purposes in the sixties and seventies, it’s output actually grew faster than any previous – or subsequent – energy source, incuding wind, solar, and natural gas. Uranium ore is still cheaper than any fossil fuel in terms of heat content, and remains so after it’s refined, enriched, and processed into fuel pellets. Potential new methods, such as fast reactors, fluid fuel, and thorium, could increase the energy per gram mined more than a hundredfold.
            Neo-Malthusians like Paul Ehrlich feared that the harnessing of fusion would be ‘like giving a machine gun to an idiot child.’ Cheap fusion is probably as far away as ever, but cheap fission should be much easier – the temperatures and pressures involved are well within modern material limits. I don’t regard humanity as an ‘idiot child’. Given a copious source of energy with minimal environmental footprint, I think we can start to repair some of the harm we’ve done, from slash-and-burn farming to strip mining.

          • jimbills Says:

            “I don’t regard humanity as an ‘idiot child’.”

            There are about 10,000 years of human history that would beg to differ. Homo sapiens sapiens? Color me skeptical with the Latin on that one. Clever, sure, but not wise.

        • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

          The problems with using fossil fuels (i.e., hydrocarbons extracted from the ground) is that their carbon component is combusted to rapidly add more CO2 to the Earth’s surface carbon cycle, then more are extracted to be combusted for energy. This is continuing to make rapid changes to the chemistry of the atmosphere of our planet.

          This is different from the iron mined to make pipelines and oil tanks and trucks and transmission towers (which can last a long time before being recycled), the copper mined to make wire and electrical components (which can last a long time and then be recycled), the aluminum extracted to make fuselages and high-power transmission lines and quickly-recycled soda cans and the lithium mined to make batteries which are reused then recycled at end-of-life.

          The worst environmental effects of any mineral extraction, as awful as they can be, don’t hold a candle to the damage done by ongoing oil spills, natgas* leaks to the atmosphere and the quantities of coal strip-mined, and the awful, energy-inefficient shale oil extraction.
          *The CH4 component of natural gas is an even worse greenhouse gas than CO2, and there is zero social benefit associated with its release.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      My 2014 Nissan LEAF has no catalytic converter or muffler or oil filters or air filters or gearbox. It doesn’t need a radiator to shed all of the waste heat that an ICE produces. It has never needed an oil change or a tune-up or radiator fluid. It doesn’t consume energy at stoplights while sitting next to ICE vehicles with idling engines. Unlike an ICE vehicle, after I go up hill, it regains some of that charge on the way down hill.

      I got it to replace my MAZDA 3. The only downsides I found with the LEAF were (1) it was bigger than I wanted (bigger than the MAZDA 3) and (2) it didn’t have a moon-roof.

      Also, I had a Level 2 charger installed in my garage, so you can count that as an up-front $1,200 (I don’t remember the actual cost, so I’m giving the average cost to install one today). I figured it was a capital/equity improvement to my Austin house anyway. You only need one per household, even if it has multiple vehicles and I really like not having to pull into gas stations at random times in my life.

      • John Oneill Says:

        Sad story in the local news here recently about lady who bought an earlier model Leaf, only to be hit with battery decline. She installed another battery, about doubling the price she’d paid for the car, and then was rear-ended and the new battery damaged. Her insurance company only wanted to pay out according to the original price. Her fuel savings were negligible compared to the extra costs incurred.
        John O’Neill

        • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

          How long will news coverage and social media discussions reflect the early generation issues (EVs, CFL bulbs, old single-speed heat pumps, etc.) when both the product technology and the production technology are still rapidly maturing?

          People are still sharing videos of old wind turbine failures (some, based on the camera locations, actually part of prototype testing).

  2. Anthony O'Brien Says:

    Still a long way to go on the repair, reuse, recycle of EV batteries. These do exist but not at scale. Problem with the battery, you have to replace the whole pack in far to many cases (looking at you Elon). Charging infrastructure is sketchy (and worse in Australia). More of the above will help reduce the need for mining.

    Still waiting for the shopping trolley EV car, Say the size of a Kia Picanto. Don’t expect the US to be the first, either Europe or China.

    It is getting better more and more manufacturers are going into EVs. Gas stations make bugger all on petrol anyway, so putting in chargers to attract people in for a bite and a coffee makes so much sense and will happen.

    My treadly (bicycle) is still cheaper and better for the environment, Thankfully I am not in the US witch is so unfriendly to transit passengers cyclists and pedestrians. Which is daft really. Amsterdam is very pro cyclist and pedestrian and even though cars go the long way around it is still far quicker and nicer to drive in Amsterdam than in any US city. The Dutch are far more pragmatic about urban planning and it works all round so much better.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Thankfully I am not in the US [which] is so unfriendly to transit passengers cyclists and pedestrians.

      Pity. I get more Death Race points for taking out a bike than taking out pedestrians staring at their phones.

  3. gmrmt Says:

    It will always be cheaper to have an Ebike in addition to a car to take short trips but whether an EV will save you money over an ICE car still depends on your personal circumstances. But we all know EVs are getting cheaper compared to ICE cars and will continue to do so for the near term.
    Have a look at this cost comparison: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-D7iZ3V8Q9g

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      To be fair, let’s include the cost of installing a Level 2 EV charger at home.
      While the range of cost (charger plus professional electrician) is from a low of $300 to a high of $4,500, the current average cost is ~$1,200.


      That will cover a household for all the EVs they will own, and would probably retain equity if/when they sell the house.

  4. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Cross-country road trips are great for journalists who want a story to write, but they aren’t even close to normal behavior* for the vast majority of people: Most of us just stay at home, and business people fly. The answer to the question of What if I really, really need to make a long cross-country trip? is Rent an ICE.

    *I mean what kind of nut drives to all sorts of towns in the middle of nowhere to make videos and give talks to townspeople?

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