We often, though sometimes incorrectly, assume that it's cheaper to operate an electric vehicle than a comparable gasoline auto. Hey, who hasn't? While this assumption generally holds true, electrical rates vary widely across the nation and can throw off the numbers. In some instances, like when Inside Line's engineering editor, Jason Kavanagh, drove the Chevrolet Volt out in sunny California, one discovers that operating a vehicle powered by electricity can indeed cost more than running it with the liquid fuel that pours from a pump. Kavanagh explained how he discovered that operating a Volt on electricity is not always as pocketbook-friendly as it may seem:
It should be mentioned that the base rate for electricity in the Volt's early roll-out states is $0.16 per kilowatt-hour and many areas of the nation charge significantly less than that. So, we're still going to assume e-miles are cheaper than gas ones, but we do know this is not always the case.During its time with us, our 2011 Chevy Volt tester consumed energy at the rate of 39.0 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles when in electric-only mode and averaged 31.1 mpg in gas engine assistance mode. We paid an average of $0.31 per kilowatt-hour of electricity and $3.31 per gallon of 91 octane swill, so the magic of arithmetic tells us that each one of the Volt's miles driven on electricity cost us more money than if it'd simply consumed gasoline instead. That's due in part to our high electricity rate - had our rate dropped to $0.24 per kilowatt-hour, we'd have reached parity on a cost-per-mile basis between electrons and dinosaurs.