The U.S. Energy Department today launched its online eGallon calculator, which allows consumers to compare the costs of fueling electric vehicles versus their gasoline-powered counterparts. In photo above, electric vehicles manufactured by Tesla on display last year in Montclair.Star-Ledger file photo
At an average cost of $3.54 a gallon, New Jersey ranks among the cheapest nationwide for unleaded gasoline.
But it’s still more than twice as much as an electric vehicle owner will pay to travel the same distance.
That price: $1.51 an eGallon, according to the U.S. Energy Department.
Today, the agency launched a web tool to calculate the cost of fueling electric vehicles compared to their gasoline-powered equivalents.
“Not only can electric vehicles save consumers on fuel and reduce our dependence on oil, they also represent an opportunity for America to lead in a growing, global manufacturing industry,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement.
The eGallon price varies from state to state, depending on the price of electricity, which has seen a historic drop over the last few years. New Jersey’s electricity prices are still among the highest in the nation, so though the cost of unleaded gasoline is $3.84 in Iowa, because of lower energy prices, the eGallon price is $1.03 to travel the same distance.
To determine the eGallon price for each state, the Department of Energy calculated how much electricity five popular electric vehicles would require to travel the same distance as similar gasoline-fueled vehicles on a gallon of gasoline. That amount of electricity was multiplied by the average cost of electricity for the state.
Moniz said eGallon prices will be “far more stable and predictable than gasoline prices,” Alternatively, he said, “gasoline prices depend on the global oil market, which can be very unstable and are driven by unpredictable international events.”
While more fuel efficient, there are far fewer plug-in electric vehicles on the roads and they are costlier to buy than gas models.
Electric filling stations are also few and far between in many parts of the country. There are just under 6,000 public electric charging stations in the United States, mostly on the East and West coasts, according to the Energy Department. That compares to more than 150,000 gasoline stations across the country.
Jim Appleton, who is president of New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, said electric vehicles represent a small but growing niche in the industry, though problems persist like range, price and vehicle choice. “I don’t see consumer acceptance there yet,” said Appleton, whose group represents 515 new car and truck retailers.
“The vehicle needs to fit your lifestyle. We don’t see electric trucks and SUVs built because of hauling and uphill towing issues and cold-weather starts,” he said. “Not everyone is a millionaire playboy or a commuter driver. But what you’ll see over the next three or four or five years is a real explosion in the type and number of vehicles. Dealers are anxious to be part of that.”
A report released last year by the Union of Concerned Scientists showed that not all electric cars are equal when it comes to carbon emissions. Though the cars themselves don’t release greenhouse gases, the fuel type used by the local power plant can dramatically alter carbon impacts.
The study found that coastal areas of the country, including the Northeast, have some of the least polluting electric fill-ups in the United States, giving New Jersey electric cars nearly the same carbon footprint equivalent as a 60 mile-per-gallon gas burning vehicle.
And there are still other factors to consider, said Cathleen Lewis, a spokeswoman for AAA New Jersey.
“As you move to those energy efficient vehicles , which can be great for the environment, you’re not paying into the gas tax, which is how we maintain our roadways,” Lewis said. “If there’s no money going into the roadways, that will mean maintenance issues to our vehicles like new tires, wheel alignments or more significant damage. We’re not there yet, but it’s very easy to see.”