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- A report found that for midpriced vehicles, from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2022, it was more expensive to charge an electric car than to fuel one with an internal combustion engine. But the comparison did not hold true for luxury vehicles, and the report had a narrow scope that accounted neither for differing costs across the nation for fuel, electricity and taxes nor maintenance and environmental costs.
Last year’s soaring gasoline prices drove many Americans to consider electric vehicles as a cheaper alternative to paying at the pump. A recent Facebook post claims that’s a misguided quest, and it’s more expensive to drive an electric car than one with an internal combustion engine.
"Are you one of those people driving down the road past the gas station, smugly thinking ‘at least I'm not paying for gas,’" said conservative radio host Erick Erickson in a video shared Jan. 27 on Facebook.
"Or do you think, ‘At least I'm not destroying the planet so long as I don't think about the coal-fire plant powering my car,’" Erickson continued.
Then, citing a post published by car blog Jalopnik, Erickson said, "Right now, driving 100 miles in an electric vehicle is more expensive than driving an internal combustion engine car."
The video was excerpted from an episode of Erickson’s podcast, on which he also claimed the U.S. government is driving up petroleum prices to push people toward electric cars, and that increasing dependence on renewable energy sources like solar and wind power will eventually spark an energy crisis.
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
The Jalopnik blog post Erickson mentioned refers to a report released in late January by Anderson Economic Group, which looked at fuel costs for midpriced vehicles and luxury cars from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2022.
Because of rising electricity costs, the report found that for the first time in 18 months, it was cheaper to fuel a midpriced internal combustion engine car than it was to charge an electric vehicle. The comparison did not hold true for luxury vehicles, though.
The report said drivers of midpriced electric cars paid about $11.60 to charge their vehicles at home for 100 miles of driving. Drivers who used commercial charging stations paid about $14.49.
By comparison, drivers of similarly priced internal combustion engine cars paid about $11.29 in fuel costs for 100 miles of driving.
Fuel costs were higher for luxury cars. For those vehicles, electric car owners paid about $12.40 for at-home charging and about $15.95 for commercial charging for 100 miles of driving. Those with internal combustion engine vehicles paid about $19.96.
The Anderson Economic Group calculated the costs based on the price of the underlying energy — such as gas, diesel and electricity — excise taxes, the cost of operating a fuel pump or charging station and driving to a fueling station.
But the group’s conclusions and methodology have critics.
Car and Driver magazine pointed out the report based its fuel, electricity and tax costs on prices in Michigan. Each of the costs vary by state, but the study did not account for this:
- AAA reports that the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline as of Feb. 8 was $3.44. In Texas, the average price is $3.04 while in Michigan, it’s $3.34. And in California, drivers pay around $4.62 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline.
- The national average retail price for electricity is 11.1 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In Michigan, it’s 12.93 cents per kWh, and in Texas, it’s 9.14 cents. Californians pay an average of 19.65 cents per kWh.
- The American Petroleum Institute reports that the nationwide average excise tax on a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is 26.16 cents. In Michigan, the cost is 27.17 cents; in Texas, it’s 20 cents; and in California, 51.1 cents.
Another criticism of the study is that it didn’t account for electric vehicles’ impact on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Although the report acknowledged the "environmental costs of different types of vehicles," it focused solely on the cost of fueling.
Car and Driver said calculating the environmental costs between electric and internal combustion engine cars may be difficult, but focusing only on fuel costs "feels disingenuous."
Estimates vary for the environmental benefits of an electric car, but the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit science advocacy organization, found in 2015 that, regardless of its electricity source, an electric car produces less than half of the greenhouse gas emissions of a similarly sized internal combustion engine car.
Several estimates found that after being driven for 15,000 to 20,000 miles, an electric car reaches the point of offsetting the carbon emissions made by its production.
Anderson Economic Group’s report also didn’t account for the difference in maintenance costs between electric and internal combustion engine cars.
In 2020, Consumer Reports found that it costs about half as much to maintain electric cars because they have "fewer moving parts than internal combustion engines, and they don’t require fluid changes."
The organization compared nine electric cars priced at less than $50,000 that were popular in 2020 with three comparable internal combustion engine vehicles. It found the lifetime ownership cost for electric cars was $6,000 to $10,000 cheaper than their gas-powered counterparts.
We contacted Erickson for comment. He acknowledged our query on Twitter but did not respond to the request for comment.
Citing a post by car blog Jalopnik, Erickson said, "Right now, driving 100 miles in an electric vehicle is more expensive than driving an internal combustion engine car."
The claim was based on a study conducted by the Anderson Economic Group, which found that from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2022, for midpriced vehicles, it was more expensive to charge an electric car than to fuel one with an internal combustion engine.
But the comparison did not hold true for luxury vehicles. And the report didn’t account for differing costs across the nation for fuel, electricity and taxes. It also did not factor in other points of cost comparison between the vehicles, such as maintenance and environmental costs.
The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context. We rate this claim Half True.
The New York Times, "As Gas Prices Went Up, So Did the Hunt for Electric Vehicles," April 8, 2022
Jalopnik, "Driving 100 Miles in an EV Is Now More Expensive Than in an ICE," Jan. 25, 2023
Associated Press, "Gas price hikes fueling electric vehicle conspiracy theories," March 10, 2022
Anderson Economic Group, "Gas-Powered Cars Cheaper to Fuel Than Electric in Late 2022," Jan. 24, 2023
Anderson Economic Group, "Comparison: Real World Cost of Fueling EVs and ICE Vehicles," Oct. 21, 2021
Car and Driver, "Study Calculates EVs Have Higher 'Real World Refueling Cost' Than Gas Vehicles," Oct. 25, 2021
AAA, State Gas Price Averages, accessed Feb. 8, 2023
U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Electricity Profile 2021, accessed Feb. 8, 2023
American Petroleum Institute, Notes to State Motor Fuel Excise and Other Taxes, Jan. 1, 2022
Clean Technica, "About That Scary ‘EVs Cost More To Fuel’ Study… NOT," Oct. 26, 2021
Union of Concerned Scientists, "Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave," November 2015
PolitiFact, "What's the ‘zero emissions’ break-even point for electric cars? Hard to tell," Dec. 6, 2022
Consumer Reports, "Electric Vehicle Ownership Costs: Today’s Electric Vehicles Offer Big Savings for Consumers," October 2020
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