Gas or Electric Car? Website Estimates Fuel Costs

Panos Prevedouros, a professor of engineering at the University of Hawaii
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Panos Prevedouros, a professor of engineering at the University of Hawaii
Panos Prevedouros, a professor of engineering at the University of Hawaii

BY PANOS PREVEDOUROS PHD – The Institute for Transportation Studies at the University of California-Davis has a tradition in researching alternative propulsion systems for light duty vehicles such as cars, vans and pickup trucks.  They recently unveiled an interesting website called EV Explorer.

People can input various types of cars and their point to point trips such as their daily commute. The EV Explorer uses Google maps to find the best route and then calculates the annual cost of round-trips depending on how many times a week a person makes this trip.


The website also allows for comparisons that take account of the local cost of living. In fact the user should include his/her local cost of gas and electricity instead of using the default national averages.

Not surprisingly, the results are startling for Honolulu compared to the average U.S. city. Not because Honolulu has expensive gasoline (it does) but because it has outrageously expensive electricity (almost three times the national average!)

I used a popular family car, the 2014 Toyota Camry in two versions, one with the standard 4-cylinder engine and one with the hybrid powerplant.  I left unchanged their two electric vehicles, the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf. The trip I used was from the UH-Manoa where I work to Kailua where I used to reside. An even 30 mile round trip.

Annual vehicle energy costs panos prevedouros

Using average U.S. prices with regular gas at $3.8 per gallon and electricity at 14 cents per KW-hour, the electric vehicles have a clear advantage in terms of money spent on fuel. Just for this trip over a year a Nissan Leaf could save be $500 over the regular Camry.  But wait!

I need to adjust the prices for Honolulu where the price of regular gas is $4.1 per gallon and the price per KWh is 40 cents (including the fixed charges added by the utility.)

annual vehicle energy cost panos prevedouros 2


The picture changes dramatically.  The EVs cost almost as much to make these trips as the regular Camry! For Honolulu, the Camry Hybrid is the right choice.  I run similar numbers about 15 months ago and indeed I got a hybrid version of a sedan that offers a 30% better city mpg compared to the version with the same gas engine alone.

If you are in Hawaii, drive an EV and brag about fuel cost savings, I am sorry to say, but your savings is a figment of your imagination.





  1. From the sublime to the mundane – not sure what you are talking about, Panos – I have three cars (in transition), a 2003 Altima, a 2008 Prius, and a 2011 Leaf. The Altima costs 17 cents/mile for fuel, the Prius 9 cents/mile, and the Leaf (using partially solar electricity) 2.5 cents/mile. That means in the 50Kmiles I have driven the Leaf we've saved $7,250. Just for fuel. If I was paying full grid price, the fuel cost would have been about the same as the Prius. Factor in the no maintenance in 3 years (except new tires) and the savings (subsidized, to be sure) in parking, and the Leaf is unmistakably been a good investment. About what I projected when I bought it. A free charge every now and again – what a deal! That's why most EV owners get solar. About 80% of the energy for the house and the Leaf come from the solar. My solar system has recouped its cost and is fully paid for.

    • Why do you contaminate the professor's theories with your inconvenient facts? Don't you appreciate the nice maps and graphics he generated?

  2. Oh!! its really interesting. i didnt heard much about this topic. This is very fresh information for me. Thanks for this amazing post. I think this website may be helpful to know local cost of living.

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