Thursday, October 23, 2014

Only 3 cents a mile

How much does it cost to drive a gasoline powered car a distance of one mile?  The price varies by a number of different factors, including the price of gasoline, the cost of an oil change, the cost of an emissions test, and the cost of a minor tune-up.  The fuel efficiency of the engine also figures in significantly.  A typical small sedan might average about 25 miles per gallon.  Gasoline fluctuates between $3.50 a gallon in the winter and $4.50 a gallon in the summer, so I’ll pick an average price of $4.00 a gallon.  I can get a smog check every two years for $60, an oil change every 5,000 miles for $80, and a minor tune-up every 15,000 miles for $150.  (There are other service items too, but these will make my point.)  The cost to drive this small sedan 30,000 miles over three years is:

smog check
oil change
minor tune-up

That amounts to $0.19 a mile.  (A SUV that gets 16 MPG costs $0.28 a mile.)

The cost to drive an electric car is basically a function of the cost of electricity and the range per kilowatt-hour.  Assuming electricity can be bought for $0.145 per kWh, and a typical range of 4 miles per kWh (according to the EPA), then the cost per mile is (simply) $0.036.  My car is fast approaching 30,000 miles on the odometer, which means that I have saved approximately $4,600 over the cost of driving a small gasoline powered sedan.  Of course, I squandered my savings on additional solar panels, which dropped my electric bill to about $85 a year to drive 10,000 miles, saving me another $825 over the same three years.  (And, the solar panels should remain in service for 20+ years.)  So, when figuring the total cost of a gasoline powered car, you need to think beyond the sticker price and look at the additional costs of ownership.  Even factoring in a new battery after 10 years of driving I still come out thousands of dollars ahead.

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