Renewable Energy
Plug-in electric cars, Honda Fit EV and Ford C-Max Energi at a public charging station in front of San Francisco City Hall. Mariordo / CC BY-SA 4.0

Going From Pump to Plug: How Much Money Can Electric Vehicles Save Drivers?

What would you do with an extra $770 a year? Buy a new laptop? Pay off debt? The Union of Concerned Scientists analyzed how much money many drivers could save by switching from a gasoline-powered car to an electric vehicle.

We analyzed the cost of refueling electric and gasoline vehicles in each of the 50 largest cities in the U.S. In every city, there is a rate plan that would save the average EV owner on fuel costs, with a median savings of more than $770 per year.

Average savings in your city

EVs are becoming more affordable to purchase, especially after federal and state incentives are applied. However, barriers remain. The future of the federal income tax credit for EVs is in doubt and policies are needed to ensure that all drivers have the ability to choose an EV. This includes improving charging infrastructure and ensuring access to cost-competitive electric rates for recharging.

We make recommendations for EV drivers to maximize savings; and for policy-makers, electricity providers and automakers to advance policy that promotes EV adoption, and broadens access to charging infrastructure.


  • The annual savings range from $440 to over $1,070 per year, depending on the electricity provider, the choice of electricity rate plan, and the local cost of gasoline.
  • Many electricity companies offer affordable off-peak, time-of-use plans that benefit EV drivers. EV owners mostly charge their cars parked at home, overnight, which often matches times of lower overall electricity demand. Many utilities offer lower rates during these times. Off-peak, time-of-use rates vary from $.03 per kWh to $0.21 per kWh, resulting in gasoline equivalent costs ranging from $0.25 per gallon to $1.78 per gallon.
  • The price of electricity is more stable than oil prices because it can be generated from diverse sources and U.S. electricity markets are regulated. In constant dollars, and when expressed in equivalent gasoline prices, the national average price of electricity as a vehicle fuel has remained around $1 per gallon ($0.88 to $1.17 per gallon) over the last 15 years. Average U.S. gasoline prices between 2002 and 2017 ranged from less than $2.00 to more than $4.50 a gallon.
  • Purchase prices of EVs are going down. The cost to produce the battery pack of EVs drives their manufacturing costs, which have been typically higher compared with those for gasoline vehicles. But falling battery costs and rising EV production are expected to bring the purchase prices of EVs down to approach those of gasoline vehicles.
  • EVs can be cheaper to maintain than comparable gasoline vehicles. Battery electric vehicles, like the Chevrolet Bolt EV, do not require oil changes and other engine services, while the electric motor and battery systems require little to no scheduled maintenance.

Recommendations for drivers considering an EV

  • Evaluate the ability to get electric power where you intend to park an EV.
  • Find out about rate options available for charging an EV, especially whether your electric provider offers time-of-use rates.
  • Research the availability of state, local and electricity-provider incentives for buying an EV or EV charging equipment.

Recommendations for policymakers and electricity providers

  • Access to lower-cost electricity rate plans are key to making EVs a reliable and affordable alternative to gasoline vehicles.
  • Access to reliable and public charging, especially fast-charging stations, are needed for those drivers who cannot charge at home and those who must drive long distances.
  • Public policies that improve charging options at apartments and multi-unit dwellings will broaden the base of drivers who can choose an EV.
  • Making separate rates for EV and household electricity available could lower the cost for EV charging for more consumers.
  • Rate plans, pricing mechanisms, and smart-charging technologies that encourage the coordination of EV charging with the availability of renewable electricity sources will decrease charging costs and further reduce heat-trapping emissions.

Recommendations for policymakers and automakers

  • Federal and state purchase incentives are vital to making EVs an affordable and competitive option.
  • Incentive programs for lower-income households to adopt EVs will bring the economic benefits from lower fuel costs to communities and demographics that need it the most but currently lack the ability to invest in an EV.
  • Public policies that require manufacturers to produce higher volumes of EVs and encourage a greater diversity of electric-drive models and sizes will lower purchase prices for EVs.
Show Comments ()
Solar shade canopies. University of Hawaii

This College Could Become the First 100% Renewable Campus in U.S.

As a growing number of U.S. cities make pledges towards 100 percent renewables, it's easy to forget that the entire state of Hawaii set this important benchmark three years ago when it mandated that all of its electricity must come from renewable sources no later than 2045.

To help the Aloha State meet this ambitious commitment, in 2015, the University of Hawaii (UH) and the Hawaiian Legislature set a collective goal for the university system to be "net-zero" by Jan. 1, 2035, which means the total amount of energy consumed is equal to the amount of renewable energy created.

Keep reading... Show less

Silver Nanoparticles in Clothing Wash Out, May Be Toxic

By Sukalyan Sengupta and Tabish Nawaz

Humans have known since ancient times that silver kills or stops the growth of many microorganisms. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is said to have used silver preparations for treating ulcers and healing wounds. Until the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, colloidal silver (tiny particles suspended in a liquid) was a mainstay for treating burns, infected wounds and ulcers. Silver is still used today in wound dressings, in creams and as a coating on medical devices.

Keep reading... Show less
4.4 million premature air pollution deaths could be avoided in Kolkata if emissions are reduced swiftly this century. M M / CC BY-SA 2.0

Study Finds Timely Emissions Reductions Could Prevent 153 Million Air Pollution Deaths This Century

One of the roadblocks to swift action on climate change is the human brain's tendency to focus on threats and stimuli that are an obvious and noticeable part of their everyday lives, rather than an abstract and future problem, as Amit Dhir explained in The Decision Lab.

Now, a study published in Nature Climate Change Monday shows that acting quickly to curb greenhouse gas emissions would also reduce the air pollution that is already a major urban killer, thereby saving millions of lives within the next 40 years.

Keep reading... Show less
Lands threatened by BLM's March 2018 sale include Hatch Point. Neal Clark / SUWA

Trump Administration Sells Oil and Gas Leases Near Utah National Monuments

The Interior Department on Tuesday is auctioning off 32 parcels of public lands in southeastern Utah for oil and gas development.

The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) lease sale includes more than 51,000 acres of land near Bears Ears—the national monument significantly scaled back by the Trump administration last year—as well as the Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients monuments.

Keep reading... Show less
Katharine Hayhoe talks climate communication hacks at the Natural Products Expo West Convention. Climate Collaborative

Katharine Hayhoe Reveals Surprising Ways to Talk About Climate Change

By Katie O'Reilly

Katharine Hayhoe isn't your typical atmospheric scientist. Throughout her career, the evangelical Christian and daughter of missionaries has had to convince many (including her pastor husband) that science and religion need not be at odds when it comes to climate change. Hayhoe, who directs Texas Tech's University's Climate Science Center, is CEO of ATMOS Research, a scientific consulting company, and produces the PBS Kids' web series Global Weirding, rose to national prominence in early 2012 after then-presidential candidate Newt Gingrich dropped her chapter from a book he was editing about the environment. The reason? Hayhoe's arguments affirmed that climate change was no liberal hoax. The Toronto native attracted the fury of Rush Limbaugh, who encouraged his listeners to harass her.

Keep reading... Show less
Rising Tide NA / Twitter

Kinder Morgan Pipeline Protest Grows: Arrests Include a Greenpeace Founder, Juno-Nominated Grandfather

By Andy Rowell

Just because you get older, it doesn't mean you cannot stop taking action for what you believe in. And Monday was a case in point. Two seventy-year-olds, still putting their bodies on the line for environmental justice and indigenous rights.

Early Monday morning, the first seventy-year-old, a grandfather of two, and former nominee for Canada's Juno musical award, slipped into Kinder Morgan's compound at one of its sites for the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline and scaled a tree and then erected a mid-air platform with a hammock up in the air.

Keep reading... Show less

The Grapes of Trash

By Marlene Cimons

German monk and theologian Martin Luther probably said it best: "Beer is made by men, wine by God." It's true—the world loves its wine. Americans, in fact, downed close to a billion gallons of it in 2016. But winemakers create a lot of waste when they produce all that vino, most of it in seeds, stalks and skins.

Keep reading... Show less

Why Mike Pompeo Could Be Even Worse for the Environment Than Rex Tillerson

By Kelle Louaillier

As Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson was one of the most blatant revolving-door cases in the Trump administration and a clear sign that Trump's government was of, by and for the fossil fuel industry. But make no mistake: Mike Pompeo could be far worse.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!