Which costs more: Electric or gas vehicles?


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Paul Pancella loves the bells and whistles in his electric vehicle. As we back out of the parking space he points out, “so with the heat on, I can go 41 miles. With the heat off, I can go 44.”

His car let’s him know exactly how many miles he will get on his charge, but that’s not all he knows. Pancella knows exactly how much money he has saved by switching to electric vehicles. He’s not really like the rest of us.

A Western Michigan University professor of physics with a whole lot of patient experience, Pancella spent months gutting his old gas-powered car and installing a battery, turning it into an all-electric vehicle.

“It was 2007, 2008 and I was tired of waiting for the manufacturers to give me an electric car,” he said with a smile.

After all was said and done Pancella discovered eight-kilowatts of electricity will do the same as one gallon of gas.

So we did the math.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration shows the average price of electricity in Michigan is 13 cents per kilowatt hour.  AAA shows the average price of gas right now is $2.27 per gallon.  And according to the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, the average driver uses roughly 583 gallons of gas per year.

Using Pancella’s findings, you’ll spend roughly $600 per year in electricity compared to $1300 in gas which is more than double.

But while you save, the state loses money.

“That hybrid could weigh just about as much and do just as much damage to the road.  How do we make everyone pay equally?  That’s going to be the ongoing debate,” Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Jeff Cranson pointed out.  Because if drivers spend less in fuel taxes, that’s less money the state pulls in to fix the roads.

“It’s a tremendous boom for the environment in terms of air equality and our carbon footprint.  I don’t think anyone is saying we should discourage that. The automakers here in Michigan are doing a lot,” said Cranson.

Part of the debate then becomes adding tolls to offset the costs.  Michigan lawmakers in 2015 added a $100 surcharge to registration fees for electric cars and a $30 surcharge for hybrids.  Some states have even started charging drivers per mile they drive.

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