Economic Comparison – Gas vs Electric Vehicles

This is just some back of the envelope calculations that I was thinking about on the way home from work today.

We’re comparing the most fuel-efficient hybrid, the most fuel-efficient conventional, and the only pure EV we have data on. 

The contenders (based on this information).  The Toyota Prius, the Nissan Leaf, and the Polo BlueMotion.

First I need to mention that the US gets crappy cars.  The Polo BluMotion gets twice the miles per gallon that the best conventional vehicle does (of course, it’s also a diesel, which Americans loathe for some reason (except in giant trucks)) and it’s not available in the US and won’t ever be according to Volkswagon… sigh.

The 2010 Prius is a hybrid.  51 mpg city and 48 mpg on the highway. Cost $21,000 to $32,000 depending on options.  Fuel tank size: 11.9 gallons.

The Nissan Leaf is the Pure Electric with a 24 kWh (kilowatt-hour) battery pack and a cost of $25,500 roughly.  It has a range of 62 to 138 miles, so we’ll go with the EPA 100 mile range.

The Polo BlueMotion is the most efficient pure liquid fuel vehicle on the market.  It’s a diesel that gets 60 mpg.  I can’t get a lot of info, because I’m too lazy to go digging around right now.  The point is mainly moot, since we can’t get the car anyway, but let’s just use it shall we.  It’s based on a Golf Mk6, so we’ll use those numbers for cost and fuel tank.  Cost is about $18,000 and up, while the fuel tank is 14.5 gallons

The Toyota’s 11.9 gallon tank costs (at $4 per gallon) $47.60 to fill up and can deliver a total range of 606.9 miles of city driving.  I’ll admit that’s a lot of driving.

The Polo BlueMotion (assuming the same values as a Golf) would cost $58 to fill completely and give about 870 miles of driving.

The Nissan Leaf would cost about (at $0.11 per kilowatt-hour and assuming some transmission loss between meter and car) $2.64 to fill up with a 100 mile range.  To get the Leaf to well over 600 miles would cost about $15 and to get it over 900 miles would cost about $24.

But is it efficient?  Well, since the Leaf already costs less than the Toyota, let’s see how long it would take to pay for the difference between the Leaf and the BlueMotion.  You would have to drive 187,00 miles to make up the cost difference. 

Ouch, that’s a long blasted distance.  Of course, keep in mind that the BlueMotion isn’t available in the US.  You can also skip oil changes ($20 a pop, every 4 months or so) and engine maintenance (up to $1200 every 36,000 miles or so).  Just engine maintenance costs over 100,000 miles would bring the cost of the Leaf to the same cost as the BlueMotion.

So, in terms of just the cost of fuel (at $4 per gallon):

The Leaf requires 2.5 cents to go one mile. 

The BlueMotion costs about 6.5 cents per mile. 

The Prius costs 7.8 cents per mile.

Only the Leaf has no emissions at all.

Winner in terms of economics… The pure electric.

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2 Responses to Economic Comparison – Gas vs Electric Vehicles

  1. Rich says:

    Be careful. TCO (Total cost of ownership) means you have to factor in repairs (maybe an issue for new technology). Also, although there are no emissions in getting the electricity, there may well be in the initial generation of it.

  2. ogremkv says:

    I’ll freely admit that batteries are the big cost for later model cars. According to a Nissan press release, they are expecting Leaf battery packs to retain up to 70%-80% of the original capacity after 10 years. (

    I’m not sure how much I buy that, but they say they have ‘hundreds of thousands of miles’ in reliability testing. With one battery pack? Who knows?

    On the other hand, if XtremePower can develop their supercapacitor tech into something a car can use, it would really lower the cost of the battery systems too.

    Repairs? Well, all cars have them. Maintenance is the issue. I’ll have my 30k service coming up and it’s a touch over $800 for my Subu. You don’t need plugs, oil, water pumps (in some electrics), seals, gaskets, exhausts, etc. in an electric.

    As far as getting the electricity, wind and solar. I’m a little lucky, I’ve got 60MW solar farm coming in town and access to lots of wind power.

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