In 2022, California became the first state to require all new cars and light trucks sold to be zero emission vehicles by 2035. Because several states have laws or rules on the books agreeing to follow California’s vehicle emission standards, about 34% of states in the US are expected to follow suit.
While electric vehicles (EVs) currently represent a modest proportion of the automotive market, sales of all types of EVs are expected to continue growing in the near-future.
This raises questions over how much more electricity would be needed to power these cars, and how much more cost-effective EVs are per mile.
Based on 2019 data, the US would need to produce 20-50% more electricity in a year if all cars were EVs.
According to data from the Department of Energy (DOE), the cost of powering EVs is approximately 35-75% cheaper than the cost for gas-powered vehicles per mile.
Since generating electricity often relies on the use of fossil fuels, switching to EVs won’t eliminate vehicle-related emissions of greenhouse gases. The emission rates for EVs would vary by state based on how electricity is generated.
In 2019, drivers across the US consumed roughly 3.4 billion barrels, or 142.8 billion gallons, of motor gasoline.
According to the EPA, every gallon of gasoline is equivalent to 33.7 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity. Based on these metrics, an equivalent of approximately 4,800 billion kWh was used to fuel gasoline vehicles over that year.
According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, EVs are roughly two and a half to six times more efficient using energy from the power grid than conventional cars are using gasoline. Given that comparison, it would take roughly 800 to 1,900 billion kWh of electricity to power all vehicles if they were EVs.
The US used about 4,130 billion kWh of electricity in 2019. This means if all cars were EVs that year, the US would have consumed 20-50% more electricity.
This estimate doesn’t account for the number of charging stations or the differences in energy efficiency across all EVs.
Compared to fuel economy rates for all gasoline-powered vehicles in 2021, fueling costs for EVs were anywhere between 35% to 75% cheaper than vehicles which used retail motor gasoline, on average.
The annual fuel cost for all EVs on the market ranges from $500 to $1,850 per year, according to DOE data. Using the assumed fuel economy benchmarks set in those estimates, this translates to a cost range of $0.03 to $0.12 per mile travelled in an EV.
Furthermore, a 2021 study by the DOE comparing the costs of driving gas-powered cars to EVs found that the average fuel cost savings for an EV driver was about 60%. This range varied by state depending on the local electricity and gasoline prices.