Electric Cars

Calculate the Cost to Drive an Electric Car

By Michael W. Kahn | ECT Staff Writer Published: August 8th, 2014

So you’re thinking about buying an electric car, but can’t help wonder whether you’ll really be saving money.  A new online tool helps you figure out what the cost to drive from point A to point B in any four vehicles, whether they’re gasoline-fueled, pure electric or plug-in hybrids.

A new online calculator found a 2014 Nissan Leaf electric car would save more than $2,500 annually on a commute compared with a 2005 Acura RL. (Photo By: Nissan)

A new online calculator found a 2014 Nissan Leaf electric car would save more than $2,500 annually on a commute compared with a 2005 Acura RL. (Photo By: Nissan)

The EV Explorer is the brainchild of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis.

“Just enter your start and finish commute locations and frequency of travel, and the yearly energy costs for the four vehicles will instantly appear side-by-side,” Michael Nicholas, lead researcher at the institute’s Plug-in Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Research Center, wrote in a blog post.

The EV Explorer can compare cars as new as model year 2015 and as old as 1984. It allows users to enter several variables, including the kilowatt-hour price they pay for electricity, the local cost of gasoline, and how frequently they make the trip.

“You can even specify the location of a public charging station you use and its charging price to get an accurate cost for public charger use,” Nicholas added.

ECT.coop put the EV Explorer to the test on two staff commutes.

One is a 34-mile roundtrip, made five days a week in a 2010 Toyota Yaris. Figuring gasoline at $3.43 per gallon, and a Dominion Virginia Power rate of 7 cents per kilowatt-hour, with all charging done at home, the EV Explorer calculated that:

• The annual gasoline cost for the Yaris is $856

• Making the trip in a 2014 Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid (PHEV) would cost $418 ($359 in gas and $59 in electricity)

• The commute in a 2014 Chevrolet Volt PHEV would cost $217 strictly for electricity

• The commute in an all-electric 2014 Nissan Leaf would cost $186

ECT.coop then looked at a second staffer commuting 77 miles roundtrip, five days a week, in a 2005 Acura RL. He pays $3.95 for high-octane gas, and as a member of Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative pays about 10 cents per kwh. With all charging done at home, EV Explorer determined that:

• The annual gasoline cost for the Acura is $3,162

• A 2014 Chevy Volt PHEV would cut that to $1,169 ($823 for gas and $346 for electricity)

• In a 2014 Toyota Prius PHEV the cost would fall to $1,113 ($1,030 for gas and $83 for electricity)

• The all-electric Nissan Leaf would get the cost down to $601

“Even though it was designed for California and the United States, it can work anywhere in the world, by finding a close fuel economy match to any of the more than 34,000 vehicles in the fueleconomy.gov database and, of course, by converting to metric,” Nicholas noted.

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