EVs vs. Internal Combustion

Electric vs. Internal Combustion

What can plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) do for you? As you’ll see here, they can save you money and make your life easier—while helping keep your community, your country, and your world clean and secure.

High Fuel Economy, Low Fuel Cost

PEVs can reduce your fuel costs dramatically. Because PEVs rely in whole or part on electric power, their fuel economy is measured differently than in conventional vehicles. You might see it stated as miles per gallon of gasoline equivalent (mpge). Or it may be broken down by kilowatt-hours (kWh) per 100 miles for EVs and the electric mode of PHEVs, and miles per gallon (mpg) for the ICE mode of PHEVs. Depending on how they’re driven, today’s EVs (or PHEVs in electric mode) can exceed 100 mpge.

In addition, PHEVs in ICE mode can attain fuel economies similar to highly efficient HEVs. This high efficiency translates to low fuel cost. In electric mode, fueling a PEV costs only 3 to 5 cents per mile. In contrast, fueling a gasoline car that has a fuel economy of 27.5 mpg costs about 14 cents per mile.

If you drive 15,000 miles per year, you could save $1,300 to $1,600 per year in fuel costs by driving a PEV in all electric mode instead of driving a conventional gasoline car.1 If your utility offers lower electric rates for charging during off-peak times, such as at night, you may be able to reduce your PEV fuel costs even further by charging during these times.

Flexible Fueling

All your life you’ve had to drive to a gas station to fuel your car, but with a PEV you have other options. Most conveniently, you can transform your home into your personal electric-charging station, capable of recharging your PEV every night. In addition, a network of public PEV charging stations is being established, which will enable you to top off your PEV’s batteries in a few hours while you work or shop.

The old “gas station” concept also will remain an option—with an electric twist. Public fast-charging stations are being established, which can boost your batteries in less than 30 minutes. Of course, if you own a PHEV, you’ll be able to fuel with gasoline (or possibly other fuels in the future) when necessary at any gas station.2

High Performance

If you’re like many people, the thought of electric-powered vehicles might still conjure up images of something like a golf cart. Rest assured, today’s PEVs are state-of-the-art highway vehicles ready to match or surpass the performance of conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles. In addition, PEVs in all electric mode are much quieter than conventional vehicles, and, unlike conventional vehicles, PEVs produce maximum torque and smooth acceleration from a full stop.

Low Emissions

PEVs can help keep your town and your world clean. There are two general categories of vehicle emissions: direct and lifecycle. Direct emissions are emitted through the tailpipe, through evaporation from the fuel system, and during the fueling process. Direct emissions include smog-forming pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, other pollutants harmful to human health, and greenhouse gases (GHGs), primarily carbon dioxide.

When PEVs are driven in all-electric mode, they produce zero direct emissions—a great pollution reduction benefit for urban areas. PHEVs do produce evaporative emissions and, when running on gasoline, tailpipe emissions. However, because their gasoline or diesel operation is more efficient than comparable conventional vehicles, PHEVs yield direct emissions benefits even when relying on ICE mode.

Lifecycle emissions include all emissions related to fuel and vehicle production, processing, distribution, use, and recycling/disposal. For example, for a conventional gasoline vehicle, emissions are produced at each stage: extracting petroleum from the ground, refining it to gasoline, distributing the fuel to stations, and burning it in vehicles. Similarly, emissions are produced when extracting raw materials for the production of vehicles; manufacturing, distributing, maintaining, and operating the vehicles; and retiring them.

Like direct emissions, lifecycle emissions include a variety of harmful pollutants and GHGs. All vehicles produce substantial lifecycle emissions, and calculating them is complex. However, PEVs typically have a lifecycle emissions advantage because most categories of emissions are lower for electricity generation than for ICEs running on gasoline or diesel. If PEVs use electricity generated by nonpolluting sources, PEV lifecycle emissions are minimized.

Energy Security

PEVs can help make the United States more energy independent. Today, our cars—and the highly mobile way of life they support—depend almost entirely on petroleum. However, U.S. petroleum production hasn’t kept pace with demand, so we import more than 60 percent of our petroleum. The transportation sector accounts for two-thirds of our petroleum consumption.

With much of the world’s petroleum reserves located in politically volatile countries, our reliance on petroleum makes us vulnerable to price spikes and supply disruptions. PEVs help reduce this threat because almost all U.S. electricity is produced from domestic coal, nuclear, natural gas, and renewable sources.

1. Fuel cost savings depend on electricity and gasoline prices, as well as vehicle types and driving patterns. This example compares a gasoline car with a fuel economy of 27.5 mpg (combined city and highway) assuming a gasoline cost of $3.75/gallon versus PEVs operated in electric mode at 3 to 5 cents per mile (which assumes an electricity cost of 11 cents/kWh).


2. In the future, PHEVs may be capable of fueling with alternative fuels, such as E85 (a fuel composed of approximately 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline), compressed natural gas, or hydrogen.