Home » Man Does The Math To Brag About EV Road Trip Savings But Finds It Would Be Just As Cheap And A Full Day Quicker In A Hybrid

Man Does The Math To Brag About EV Road Trip Savings But Finds It Would Be Just As Cheap And A Full Day Quicker In A Hybrid

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There’s a tweet that is currently going somewhat viral, all about a long road trip taken in a Tesla Model Y. It’s a 3,605 mile road trip, which is absolutely no joke by any standards of a road trip. What’s notable about this trip is that the taker of this trip, Alex Gayer, kept some nicely meticulous records and did some math to figure out how much time was spent charging, how much money was spent, and what the equivalent would be in miles per gallon. One gets the sense that this was all done to brag about his Tesla, which is fine since we don’t kink-shame here, but interestingly, I think the end result of this is not an aggrandizement of Tesla, but actually a pretty solid argument in favor of plug-in hybrids!

As I think we’ve made pretty clear, we’re very pro hybrids, especially plug-in hybrids. They may not be the absolute platonic ideal of perfect efficiency, but they make a lot of sense for the flawed, messy reality we all actually live in. There’s a pragmatic beauty to hybrids. Yes, you’re dragging around two entire types of drivetrains, but the capabilities of those drivetrains dovetail so well with each other, with each one’s strengths filling in the weaknesses of the other – electric motors’ instant torque helping the combustion engine, the reclamation of normally lost kinetic energy from braking, the energy density of gasoline, all of these traits combine to make a system that’s more than the sum of its parts.

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Let’s take a look at this proud Tesla owner’s math and see what we think of all this. First, let’s look at the overall trip:

Damn, that’s a long trip! Based on that map, it looks like it took, what, 24 recharging stops? Alex breaks down some of the math for us, helpfully:

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So, we have 3,605 miles, with an average cost per mile of 12 cents, and just under 11 hours of charging time for the trip. Oh, and that doesn’t count “destination charges” which is charging done once they reached their destination for that leg of the journey. The total spent on electrons to feed into those big lithium batteries came to $421.84. Okay, all that seems in order. But it was this next tweet that I really think got everyone wondering:

Okay, so I suspect everyone here is thinking the same thing: 30 mpg? That’s, um, normal? Like, almost anything can hit 30 mpg on the highway now, right? And the way this is phrased – “I would have had to achieve an average of 30.0 MPG” – makes it sound like this is some incredible feat? Big-ass modern SUVs can pull off about 30 MPG now. I just had a press V8 Mustang that was hitting about 30 mpg on the highway recently, too. This isn’t nuclear fusion here.

Okay, so using Alex’ numbers here, let’s figure out what an equivalent trip in a combustion car that gets 30 mpg highway would be like. Let’s say we’re taking an Acura Integra, why not, which gets a combined 30-33 mpg (city 30/highway 37, if you’re curious) and that car has a 12.4 gallon gas tank.

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So, the range of that car at a conservative 30 mpg would be 372 miles, so if we divide 3,605 miles by 372 that means we’d have to stop for gas 9.69 times, which we’ll round up to 10 because we probably want more Nutter Butters and Munchos and pee breaks, anyway.

Each tank of 12.4 gallons at $3.516 is $43.60 to fill the tank (completely, which is unlikely, but whatever so that comes to $436.00 for all the gas, a bit more than the electricity, but effectively the same, since it’s unlikely you’ll be draining that tank to bone-dry each time.

Now let’s think about time. Let’s err on the side of slowness and say each fill-up takes 15 minutes, so we have 10 stops, which means 150 minutes, or two and a half hours total. That’s a hell of a lot less than 11 hours. It’s eight and a half hours less, in fact.

And, keep in mind, 30 mpg is just a baseline here – it’s not hard to find all sorts of cars, like Toyota Priuses or Honda Civics or Volkswagen Jettas or Toyota RAV4s or any number of other cars that get well over 30 mpg, 35 and up, even 40 mpg for highway mileage is not uncommon. So the reality is likely to be less fuel needed and less fill-ups than we calculated here.

Of course, people on eX-Twitter pointed out these facts, Alex pointed out that in non-highway use, his Tesla gets well over 30 mpg, often up to an EV equivalent of 90 mpg. And that’s true! But it’s also true that plug-in hybrids can get similar equivalent mpg numbers when running on battery power in-town, and can also take advantage of having a combustion engine that quickly refuels when being used on a long road trip.

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If we look at the electric-only ranges of PHEVs, we can see that most of them can cover the average American daily commute distance of 12 miles just on battery power:

  • Jeep Wrangler 4xe: 22 miles
  • Ford Escape plug-in: 37 miles
  • Chrysler Pacifica PHEV: 32 miles
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe: 26 miles
  • Hyundai Tucson PHEV: 33 miles
  • Mazda CX-90 PHEV: 26 miles
  • BMW X5 xDrive50e: 38 miles
  • BMW 330e: 23 miles
  • Toyota Prius Prime: 44 miles
  • Toyota RAV4 Prime: 42 miles
  • Lexus RX450h+: 37 miles

Hell, even the worst of these can pull off almost the whole back-and-forth commute without needing to start the combustion motor at all:

Model Y Vs Wrangler 4xe

I know Alex Gayer didn’t really intend it to be this way, but I think his carefully-tracked road trip tweets will actually do a lot of good, just not in the everyone-should-get-a-Tesla sense. I think it’ll do good in the we-should-all-seriously-consider-plug-in-hybrids sense. Sure, they’re conceptually a clunky compromise, but in reality, in actual practice, they really do seem to offer the best of both worlds.

Had Alex and his four companions and all their luggage been in a plug-in hybrid, they could have spent the same amount of money and finished their trip an entire eight and a half hours earlier, which perhaps could have spared them seven or so hours of listening to Alex talk about how awesome his Tesla is.

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I kid, Alex, I kid! I’m delighted you love your car! We should all be so lucky! But if we’re talking hard numbers, I think this whole thing has been a win for the plug-in hybrids.

I hope you had a fun trip, though!

 

Relatedbar

Ford Is Delaying EV Plans So It Can Build More Hybrids

I Think I Found The Big Flaw In The Otherwise Great Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid

America Focusing On Electric Cars And Not Plug-In Hybrids Was A Huge Mistake

 

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BernStee
BernStee
24 days ago

Earlier this year I did a trip from the Poconos to Indianapolis to see my sister. The vehicle we used was a 2022 Toyota Sienna Hybrid. Going cross country we averaged 35.2 MPG with 5 people, car seats and luggage.

Parsko
Parsko
24 days ago
Reply to  BernStee

Thank you for the great comparison! That’s awesome mileage.

SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
23 days ago
Reply to  BernStee

My A6 Allroad has a mild hybrid setup and it gets about 34MPG if I drive sensibly on highways.

Toyota Hybrid technology is unmatched.

Autopizen
Autopizen
23 days ago
Reply to  BernStee

Pretty amazing for such a people & stuff hauler.

Dest
Dest
20 days ago

Idk seems pretty good compared to the 15 I get with my Jeeps.

Caleb Martin
Caleb Martin
21 days ago

“Okay, so I suspect everyone here is thinking the same thing: 30 mpg? That’s, um, normal? Like, almost anything can hit 30 mpg on the highway now, right?”

Respectfully disagree. If by “anything” you mean EVs or hybrids, you may be onto something.

But I just bought my wife a 2019 Acura MDX as a family vehicle upgrade, and it pains me to say that thing gets about 21mpg highway (recently confirmed on a 2000 mile roadtrip). In fact, unless you start looking at hybrids, what I discovered during shopping is that basically every used ICE van or SUV with more than 5 seats gets under 25mpg highway, some even under 20mpg.

Sad, but true.

Tsorel
Tsorel
21 days ago

Whereas doing a road trip in my 86 Westfalia I’m getting 18-20 mpg, packed to the hilt with family and camping gear. Perhaps that’s offset by the fact that I paid $6,500 for it back in 2006 instead of $45,000 for a Model Y. My insurance, registration, and maintenance comes out to around $800/year and the last major repair was $25 to replace a torn CV joint boot back in 2021… when I’m not driving the Vanagon, I am on my 1991 BMW K75S that I paid $3,000 for back in 2012 and gets ~45mpg.

Amschroeder5
Amschroeder5
21 days ago

I’ve talked about this a lot. Roadtripping EVs is doable (I’ve done 60k miles in my MY), and it isn’t more expensive than a similarly powerful car, but yeah checks out that a good hybrid would be cheaper. With home ele prices, a prius can sometimes get sortof close when gas is cheap, but other times you’d need something like 90mpg gas averages.

Also with roadtrips, need to figure in bladders and food. YMMV but for me, taking my MY is about 30min slower per 500 miles than my prior Fusion Hybrid was, because I like to stop and eat and drink too much soda. So it isn’t as bad as it looks with 10 hours charging, but it certainly is never faster.

Regardless the OP was/is stupid.

AJ
AJ
21 days ago
Reply to  Amschroeder5

If you drink less soda, you may be able to avoid some of those full bladders and have fewer stops! 🙂

Amschroeder5
Amschroeder5
21 days ago
Reply to  AJ

Don’t I know it!

MerlinsSpareTire
MerlinsSpareTire
22 days ago

My 2021 Mitsubishi Mirage Carbonite Edition averages around 45 mpg highway
When I came up to Indiana from my hometown in Florida. I loaded her up with all my clothes and gear. At least hitting the chassis haul limit, she was a wee bit heavy. 60 mph all the way, cruise control, I had done the math to get the most *bang* for my buck..I got around 36-43 MPG. Only stopping four times for fuel. It cost me around $145~ one way up. Post pandemic, expensive fuel pricing.
40 PSI in my tires, broken in tread, no mods, all stock.

36 with traffic, including the mountains. 43-46 with no traffic, including mountains. This includes running at rest stops, full blast A/C the entire time and idling while I ate. (Had my two cats inside in a carrier) I didn’t turn off the car only until I stopped to rest at a hotel, which I ran it for 30 minutes prior to turning it off.

Daily driving, I average close to or around 41 MPG if I take care of it and make sure all fluids, PSI and tread are top notch. (They usually are)

Oxfordreno
Oxfordreno
22 days ago

My math comes out to the fact that I’ve saved over $13k on gas in the 5 years I’ve owned my model 3.

I do 8 hour road trips regularly throughout the year and while it might take a bit longer to get places I usually find when charging the car is ready to go at about the same time I am after getting a coffee etc.

If anything this i think this proves how great EVs can perform. Keep in mind this is an extreme situation. Huge distances. Fully loaded with both people and gear. Moving at a good clip. A/C etc on and it did as well as the best gas cars. Under normal daily driving conditions they are IMO superior certainly in terms of monthly cost.

I am not a Tesla fan-boy and other than for the charging network I have to real allegiance to them. I am lucky to be able to charge at home. I understand if you can’t an EV might not make sense. I didn’t get home charging until year 2 so I understand the hassle. But if you can charge at home and aren’t required to cover massive distances on a regular basis you’re never going to convince me a PHEV or ICE is better than an EV.

Rippstik
Rippstik
22 days ago

Forget the MPGs, BEV vs ICE vs PHEV, etc. This just makes me itch for a good ‘ol epic American road trip. Darn shame my PTO is already spoken for… and the toddler at home. No more 15 hour driving days for me for a bit.

Hotdoughnutsnow
Hotdoughnutsnow
22 days ago

I chose to do this trip on public transportation (Greyhound), thus saving money and CO2, it took me three extra days, but I only got stabbed twice.

JShaawbaru
JShaawbaru
22 days ago

That same trip would have cost $259.21 in my Prius, at my real-world average MPG of 48.9. I would have fueled up 8 times at most (I usually stop between 450 and 500 miles, depending when I hit one fuel bar), taking 2 hours of fueling time based on the 15-minute stop.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
23 days ago

While I do agree with the analysis here, let’s keep in mind that it’s only cost based.

Alex’s trip still emitted less CO2 than it would have in a hybrid (depending on the grid’s energy mix), and that’s worth mentioning.

Ben
Ben
22 days ago

Not necessarily. Around here the emissions breakeven for EVs is only 34 MPG due to heavy fossil fuel usage in the electrical grid. It’s entirely possible this trip could have been done faster, cheaper, and cleaner in a hybrid.

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
23 days ago

That power consumption on the Tesla is pretty high. It implies more like 85mph. At that speed, the 30mph hybrid is also going to fall pretty far short of 30mpg. My Volt is rated something like 40mpg highway on gas, and it’ll probably do that easily at 60mph, but at 85mph it may not even break 30mpg.

Nick Thomas
Nick Thomas
23 days ago

I wish the article had included the gas-only MPGs for each of those PHEVs. The Jeep 4xE gets only, like, 20 MPG after the battery runs out. So while it might be good for some people for daily city driving, beyond that it’s pretty crap. For long trips, like the one this article is about, it would be complete dog doo doo.

Not to say that I’m not generally pro-PHEV though.

John Fischer
John Fischer
22 days ago
Reply to  Nick Thomas

My 2.0T Wrangler Unlimited gets 25MPG on the highway pretty easily. When the battery “runs out”, it still gets recharged going down hills, etc and can contribute some power back to the vehicle while it’s on the highway. Much like a traditional hybrid. I’d be surprised if the 4xe can’t do 25 on the highway as well even when you’ve exhausted the pure EV mode.

Goblin
Goblin
23 days ago

Can we now restrict the choice of hybrids and ICE vehicles in the comparison pool to vehicles that will have the same acceleration/passing performance and in general – the same performance as the EV used, and re-run the math ?

Just curious.

Plesiomorphus primitivus
Plesiomorphus primitivus
23 days ago
Reply to  Goblin

Why? The point of the original post was the efficiency. Yes the Tesla is fast, but no cars are really slow anymore. For a point of comparison, my 2005 Honda Accord V6 gets ~28 on the highway and is rock solid at 120 MPH with the A/C blowing frost in my face. I can assure you the VTEC allows rapid passing. And I would have made it there much faster. Speaking of economic efficiency, it cost me $4500 used.

Goblin
Goblin
23 days ago

Just trying to keep it to comparable size and comfort. But yes, as far as efficiency being the part discussed – you’re right.

Plesiomorphus primitivus
Plesiomorphus primitivus
23 days ago
Reply to  Goblin

I am not sure if a Tesla is larger or more comfortable than your average 4-door: Accord, Camry, etc. I mean, yes, you can get the speakers to make fart noises next to the passengers, which is cool.

JC Miller
JC Miller
23 days ago

and now you have to add 10 hours for time wasted charging despite all that awesome passing performance

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
23 days ago
Reply to  Goblin

How about we just account for the time saved by all that additional performance and shave twenty minutes off the total time travelled?

Marlin May
Marlin May
23 days ago

Torch, which has fewer tailpipe emissions? Isn’t that the point?
And no, don’t get me started on lifetime cradle to grave emissions. I have the facts on hand and I’m willing to use them like a blunt instrument.

Feck Yuvonivich
Feck Yuvonivich
23 days ago

Dude, this guy a comparing a fully loaded Tesla with Sentry Mode on, a mini fridge, and video games getting 30mpg to a hybrid getting 30mpg. He’s completely subtracting all that weight and power from the hybrid and saying “look! They both get 30mpg!” No way a hybrid fully loaded is getting 30mpg.

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
21 days ago

Correct. A hybrid would get way over 30mpg.

Andrew Pappas
Andrew Pappas
23 days ago

I often drive people’s cars between Florida and Massachusetts as a side gig. My wife and i can get to Jacksonville in a pretty consistent 20 hours. We’ll often stop for one sit down meal, but otherwise keep stops to 10-15 minutes.

Did it in a 2018 model S once. Cut him a discount because it came with free supercharging. Took 30 hours. I told him i couldn’t do a discount anymore because even though i saved $2-300 in gas, it took 10 hours longer. I baked in a night’s stop in Florida as a safety which i needed to make room for the flight home.

You can totally do a long road trip in an ev. But if you like to make time, stopping every 2 hours is a total momentum killer

JC Miller
JC Miller
23 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Pappas

What platform do you use? That seems like an awesome gig

Joke #119!
Joke #119!
23 days ago

I don’t get this.
First it’s on Twixter.
Second, he actually did the trip in his Tesla, so give us the actual numbers!!
Sure, it is one datum. When we get a thousand data, then we can analyze

And to do a road trip efficiently, one has to waste time planning the trip. EV planning seems to take on a lot more time.
And, yes, as someone already posted, this trip is about half an oil change, and fractions of other ICE maintenance, so add that in.
Oh, and subtract the difference of the cost of tires.

BOSdriver
BOSdriver
23 days ago

That $0.32 per kwh is what I pay in the Boston area for electricity. Been saying everything in this article for years… You have to account for climate, driving style, road conditions and fuel/electricity costs and weigh them all against all of the other criteria used to purchase a vehicle.

Drew
Drew
23 days ago
Reply to  BOSdriver

Yeah, there is a huge difference in power costs depending on where you go. Here in Idaho, on hydro, the highest residential power rate (charged only after 2000 kWh and only in the summer) is 14.43 cents. Outside of summer, the highest is 10.86 cents. Most people, even with EVs, end up paying less than 10 cents in the winter and less than 12 cents in the summer.

You see a lot more EVs than you might expect given the politics here, since the savings can be pretty significant.

James Hathaway
James Hathaway
23 days ago

As usual, everyone, including the author, is externalizing the cost of gasoline (and the energy generated for the Y for that matter).

“Cheaper”, “More efficient” is always going to be relative until we start looking at the whole system, rather than individual results.

But I guess I shouldn’t expect anything else in the neoliberal hellscape we live in…

Alex p
Alex p
23 days ago

On a road trip with a full family, there is NO WAY you’re only stopping every 372 miles.

11 hours of charging is 22 half-hour breaks, which is a 30 min break every 160 miles (on a 3600 mile trip). A good chunk of that time would be spent on bathroom & food breaks anyway.

I just did a 450 mile round trip this weekend on my 270 mile range EV (BMW i4 m50), and the cost of home charging + supercharging came out to $28, or $0.062/mile. I spent the 20 min charging time eating.

On home charging alone, I average $0.026/mile. That’s equivalent to 115mpg on $3/gal gasoline, in a car with 536 horsepower and INSTANT acceleration.

Last edited 23 days ago by Alex p
IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
23 days ago

I’ll start by saying that I appreciate the time Alex took to crunch the numbers. Getting the equivalent of 30mpg in a crossover with 5 people in it is pretty damn good. We’re not that far removed from a time where breaking 20mpg in that situation would put a smile on your face. Really though, the trip he took is the perfect use case for a modern hybrid. I’ll use the example of an Accord hybrid because I have first hand experience with taking one on a 600 mile round trip. With 3 people and 1 week’s worth of luggage we averaged 55mpg. If you toss in a couple more people and their stuff, which is doable because it has a large trunk, I would guess you are looking at 45-50mpg. The powertrain is understressed cruising at 70 because the car has good aerodynamics and is switching between low RPM gas use and electric. It also only weighs about 3,300 pounds since it doesn’t need a huge battery.

Eco-friendliness will hopefully go to the EV in the future due to using renewable energy. Right now though in the US, the electricity you are recharging the EV with is mostly generated with fossil fuels. The transition to renewables is slow because we have a massive amount of infrastructure to replace and the progress can easily be slowed or stopped after any given election. That’s every 2 years where a change in president or congressional majority can fuck up everything. You also have to consider the possibility of anti-renewable legal action reaching the Supreme Court, where a free luxury vacation or motor coach has as much of an influence on the ruling as any kind of legal reasoning.

My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
23 days ago

Everyone seems to get caught up on cost of fuel, mpgs and so on. The bigger issue (eclipsing all else) for me is the wasted time.

I love our EV for DD duty. Plug it in the garage and skip standing around at gas stations. But road tripping… nope. Not interesting in spending hours of my vacation sitting at a truck stop charging. So, unless we can make it to our destination (and there is charging there) I’ll pass on that hassle and take the other car. Fill it with petrol and go and spend my extra 8 hours at the beach with my feet in the sand.

Robert L
Robert L
23 days ago

I have an EV and I think it’s a fine vehicle but I look at this and think who in their right mind would want to do this trip?

He just proved that it is technically possible but also quite pointless – you can just rent a van if you have to take a trip of that distance and probably come out money ahead just by saving on the wear and tear for his vehicle even if it wasn’t an EV.

My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
23 days ago
Reply to  Robert L

I think renting is a great value in a lot of ways. Even in the ICE world.

I know so many people that buy more car than they use 99% of the time because (insert something they do like once a year: road trip, towing a camper or boat, when grandparents are in town and need 6 passengers in a car.)

Get something that is awesome at DD, costs less, is easier to get around in and is probably more fun. And then rent a few times a year for your special cases.

Randal Son
Randal Son
23 days ago

Cost of operation for PHEVs needs to include ICE maintenance.

BOSdriver
BOSdriver
23 days ago
Reply to  Randal Son

Beyond 1-2 oil changes per year, free from many mfgs for up to 3 years, there isn’t much to worry about for the term most people keep vehicles.

Jb996
Jb996
23 days ago
Reply to  Randal Son

Then they should amortize the average annual repair cost of both the PHEV and the Tesla into the trip. But…
Average Annual Repair Cost:
Acura: $501
Tesla: $832

https://jalopnik.com/advisor/auto-warranty/tesla-maintenance-cost
In general Tesla’s are more expensive than the average car.

https://arstechnica.com/cars/2024/01/hertz-is-selling-20000-used-evs-due-to-high-repair-costs/
https://www.geekwire.com/2023/spendy-and-slow-tesla-repairs-frustrate-drivers-as-automotive-tech-drives-up-cost-of-collisions/

Both cars have brakes, suspension, wheel bearings, ball joints, wipers, tires, and a plethora of sensors.
I don’t think EVs are the simple maintenance-free devices they get portrayed to be.

Haranguatank
Haranguatank
22 days ago
Reply to  Jb996

That trip is about 50% of the life of a set of tires if it was done in a Rivian.

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