When thinking about the cost of using a traditional vehicle versus that of using an electric vehicle (EV), there can be many factors that can be incorporated in to the equation that can make it very confusing. These can include the varying blends of gasoline by season, driving conditions and driving style, electricity sources and efficiency of delivery, air resistance, tire inflation and tread patterns, vehicle weight, and more. To simplify things; it is easy to have some real data for comparison when narrowing the focus to the price per mile of operating the vehicle, taking the original cost of the vehicle and all of the other factors out of the equation temporarily.
In the chart below, I took 3 common gasoline vehicles and 3 readily available electric vehicles (assuming the Volt is not using gasoline). For the comparison, I used $3.25 per gallon gasoline prices and have two separate costs of kWh from an electric company. The first price (0.10 / kWh) implies you have taken no special action and are just plugging the car in to an electric outlet. The second price (0.04 / kWh) assumes you have coordinated with your local electric company to get their EV rate. Most electric companies will charge a reduced rate for charging EV’s off hours; for example my local utility company charges 4 cents per kWh between the hours of 11pm and 7am for charging an EV.
The basic data here can be pretty interesting. Assuming you drive 10,000 miles annually, you could save close to $1,000 per year on fuel costs alone when comparing to a Toyota Camry. In addition, walking out to a fully fueled car each morning and never having to stop at the gas station has it rewards as well. EV’s now can also be set to pre-warm the cabin before you ever step in to the cold garage, set to only charge at certain hours, and more. When it comes time to consider a new vehicle, I encourage you to go take a drive as the fear that it is like a flimsy golf cart is not warranted. The safety and technology has improved and the vehicle pricing continues to decrease, making arguments adopting an EV even more compelling.
One of the simplest things we can do to conserve energy is to do a self-assessment of our own energy use and then make logical adjustments. The graph above is from my house where we made some simple adjustments and now use roughly 1/3 the electricity that we used to. While reducing energy consumption is not enough to reverse the course we are currently on, it is a critical step towards a better future and can have some tangible financial rewards. Below are a few thoughts I have on things we can all do.
Reduce your home energy bills – There are several ways to attack this and I am a bit of a data junkie so I choose to record in a spreadsheet how many Kwh my family uses each month to get an idea of trends. Then I wanted to determine what components of my house were consuming the most electricity. To do this easily you can purchase a Kill-A-Watt meter or better yet check one out from your local library. These devices simply record how much electricity a plugged in device is using and can tell you how much it will use per day, month, year and so on. For me, it provided additional incentive for replacing our outdated refrigerator, reducing the frequency that our HEPA filtration system runs, putting our entertainment systems on power strips for when not in use, etc. Between Energy Star and the EPA there is a ton of great information available. You can even research and find the dehumidifier that removes the most moisture from the air per Kwh.
Educate people, especially your kids. Kids are incredible and building sustainable habits with them now will pay dividends for many years to come. The example I always think of is when our kids are done with Xbox or some other electronic they turn it off and then turn off the power strip it is attached to without even giving it a second thought. For them it has become as normal as turning off a light switch when leaving a room. As a society we have a long way to go as we try to shift sustainability in to the consciousness of our decision making but having an impact on child is a great first step.
Vote with your dollar – Not everyone can send a message by putting a deposit down on the coolest car not yet available or installing solar panels but this can be as simple as making more sustainable choices at the store based on how things are packaged, if they were grown local, or what the product is made of. We are a consumer driven society and what we spend money on is valued and what we do not spend money on is devalued. One of the greatest times to think like this is when doing a home improvement project where we can weigh the options of using sustainable and environmentally friendly materials but as noted above, if we can shift this way of thinking in to the consciousness of our decision making it will have a significant impact. One additional trend gaining popularity is a divestiture of fossil fuels; meaning moving any investments that you have out of the fossil fuel industry to show that you are not in favor of supporting an industry that continues to contribute to the problem.
Engage in a dialog about climate change – Currently this subject is still taboo among many people. Unfortunately it is still viewed as a political subject when it should only be scientific. The earth does not care if you are a conservative, liberal, or where your views fall as it relates to politics. My challenge for you is to talk to someone about climate change, even if the discussion is awkward. The faster we can move the discussion out of the forbidden category and in to mainstream the better off we will be.