NREL-INL study shows electric vehicles could save drivers up to $14,500 on fuel over 15 years

Published on June 24, 2020 by Chris Galford

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Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory (INL) released a study this week showing that motorists could save up to $14,500 on fuel costs alone over 15 years by driving electric vehicles (EVs).

The comparison was made between EVs and their traditional gasoline counterparts, based on estimates drawn from a baseline scenario that factored in current vehicle use and charging behavior, along with the nature of charging stations and state-by-state differences.

“Finding out the purchase price of a vehicle is relatively simple, but the savings related to fuel aren’t readily available, especially since electricity cost varies greatly for different locations and charging options,” said Matteo Muratori, a senior systems engineer at NREL and co-author of an article on levelized cost published in Joule.

Previous studies adopted a singular value for the cost to charge EVs, but this new study was more realistic owing to its whole-picture considerations. Notably, the national average cost to charge a battery-based EV ranged from 8 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to 27 cents, meaning lifetime fuel cost savings could range anywhere from $3,000 to $10,500 when compared to cars living by the price of gasoline.

By factoring in state-by-state differences as well, the figure proved capable of hitting that $14,500 mark in Washington state. However, in four states — Alabama, Hawaii, Mississippi, and Tennessee — there were no savings to be gained by going electric under certain scenarios. In considering charging stations, they factored in both slow charge and higher-powered residential chargers, and how much night or other off-peak charging versus day charging could help drive down cost.