Category Archives: gas consumption

Is a Gasoline or Electric Powered Car the Better Buy?

Earlier this summer, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) made news as she bragged high gasoline prices don't matter to her because she drives an electric car, a Chevrolet Bolt EUV, which allows her to drive past gas stations without having to pay for petrol. Here's video of her statement:

While high gasoline prices may not matter to the senator, they may matter to you if you're considering following her example and buying an electric-powered vehicle. Do they provide a bigger bang for the buck for their owners than a petroleum-fueled vehicle?

To find out, we need to compare gasoline and electric powered vehicles that are as similar as possible to one another. Unfortunately, we cannot do that with the Chevy Bolt because there isn't a gasoline-powered version of that vehicle. But we can do that with a Mini Cooper Hardback 2-Door, which comes in gasoline-fueled and electric-powered versions.

We've entered the data for both these vehicles as the default entries in the following tool. If you're accessing this article on a site that republishes our RSS newsfeed, please click through to our site to access a working version to find out how different their costs of ownership, or the vehicles whose data you might enter instead, may be over three years.

Gasoline-Fueled vs Electric-Powered Vehicle Data
Input Data Gasoline Electric
Vehicle Purchase Price
Government Tax Credit/Subsidy (if Available)
Maintenance Costs (Over 3 Years)
Depreciation Costs (Over 3 Years)
Energy Consumption (Fuel Gallons or kWh) per 100 miles
Average Cost of Fuel (per Gallon) or Electricity (per kWh)
Mileage Data
Input Data Values
Average Annual Distance Driven (miles)

Estimated Cost of Ownership Over Three Years
Calculated Results Gasoline Electric
Total Energy Cost
Total Out of Pocket Ownership Cost
Is a Gasoline or Electric Car the Better Buy?

Most of the default data in the tool comes from a Car and Driver article from 2020, which we've updated with early September 2022's average gasoline cost and electricity cost data, both of which you can update as needed with more current gasoline and electricity costs that apply in your region.

The vehicle cost data comes from Edmunds, which we extracted during 2022's Labor Day Holiday weekend. We should note that the electric version of the Mini Cooper Hardtop 2-Door appears to have increased by $4,115 since the federal EV tax credit of $7,500 was enacted as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. The manufacturer's suggested retail price of the gasoline fueled version of the vehicle was unchanged. Other manufacturers have similarly hiked their electric vehicle prices in the weeks since the government subsidy for electric vehicles was passed.

For the default data loaded in the tool, we find the gasoline powered version of the Mini Cooper Hardtop 2-Door is the better buy. Playing with the tool, we found an average gasoline price of $6.37 per gallon with the electricity cost unchanged would be needed to make the electric vehicle a less costly choice over three years of ownership. But, as they say, your mileage may differ - take the tool for your own test drive!

Thanksgiving Travel on Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Buses and Light Trucks

In the United States, the days before and after the annual Thanksgiving holiday represent busiest days for travel in the U.S. each year. If you care about the environment, what do you suppose is the mode of travel that will consume the least amount of energy on average and will have the smallest carbon footprint for how far you might travel to be with your friends and family this year?

The answer may surprise you! We've visualized data showing the trends for the average energy intensity, or rather, the average energy consumed per passenger mile, for several different modes of passenger transportation in the U.S. from 1975 through 2016 in the interactive chart below. If you're accessing this article on a site that republishes our RSS news feed, please click through to our site to access it there.

In the chart, "Light Truck" refers to any two-axle, four wheel truck, which would include anything from pickup trucks to SUVs. "Air" refers to commercial air travel, while "Intercity Rail" in the U.S. means train travel via Amtrak.

Probably the most remarkable thing is how air travel has become less energy intensive per passenger mile than both transit buses (after 1996) and cars (after 2004). The second most remarkable thing we find is how transit buses have become worse over time.

We should note however that the values in the chart represent the average for each mode of passenger transportation. Individual vehicles within each mode have a wide amount of energy intensity variation, where your carbon footprint for travel will depend on it. For example, there's a big difference in fuel efficiency between jets that began flying 25 years ago and are still in service and newer versions that have rolled off their assembly lines more recently. The same is true for all the other modes of transportation.

Environmentally speaking, the average BTUs per passenger mile for each mode is directly proportional to the amount of carbon emissions it produces, where each 1 million BTUs consumed produces the equivalent of 53 kilograms of emitted carbon dioxide. If you're traveling, the greenest thing you can do is choose the least energy intensive mode of transportation that can get you to where you need to be within the time you have available to travel.

If you're traveling to your Thanksgiving destination today, you have our sympathy!


Davis, Stacy C. and Boundy, Robert G. Transportation Energy Data Book. Edition 37.2. Table 2.14: Energy Intensities of Highway Passenger Modes, 1970–2016. Table 2.15: Energy Intensities of Nonhighway Passenger Modes, 1970-2016. Oak Ridge National Laboratory. [PDF Document]. August 2019.