RechargeIT Blog

Rethinking Fueling

Monday, September 15, 2008 at 11:55 AM


Posted by Adam Borelli, RechargeIT Team

Today over 95% of our transportation fleet runs off petroleum. As many people say, "America is addicted to oil". However, many argue this might be better than the alternative of being addicted to coal if transportation were fueled by a dirty electric grid instead of petroleum. Neither is ideal; the ideal solution is to consume less energy and yet get more from the clean renewable sources like wind, solar, and geothermal.

In our recent post about the Driving Experiment, we discussed the significant environmental and fuel consumption benefits in mileage gained by driving our converted Prius PHEVs and Escape PHEVs over conventional vehicles and even over their hybrid counterparts. When comparing the CO2 emissions savings from the RechargeIT Prius PHEV, the PHEV generated 72.9% fewer emissions than conventional vehicles and the PHEV Ford Escape produced 59.7% fewer emissions. This is 13.8% and 21.3% fewer emissions than their Prius and Escape hybrid counterparts, respectively. It is important to note that the basis for these calculations was a California grid. While not powered by a large portion of renewables, the grid is cleaner than most grids as it is virtually coal-free. Other studies examined dirtier grids to see if plug-in hybrids would be effective agents in fighting climate change from an emissions standpoint, even with electricity produced primarily from coal. The results were a resounding yes. Plug-in hybrids, even powered from a coal grid, emit fewer greenhouse gasses than conventional vehicles. As the grids become greener, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles will still have an increasingly net positive impact.

Emissions is only one important factor in considering fueling from the grid versus fueling from the gas pump. Cost, especially today, is a very important consideration. During this same Driving Experiment, we realize significant savings per mile when driving electrified transportation. The findings were based on the average price of gasoline in California -- $4.52 -- and electricity -- $0.148 per kWh -- when the experiment was concluded.


Ford Expedition
Toyota Sienna
Toyota Corolla
Ford Escape Hybrid
Toyota Prius Hybrid
Ford Escape PHEV
Toyota Prius PHEV
Total Cost per 100 miles
$31.90
$22.27
$14.68
$14.05
$9.34
$11.26
$6.90
Total Gas Cost per 100 miles
$31.90
$22.27
$14.68
$14.50
$9.34
$9.21
$4.83
Total Electricity Cost per 100 miles
--
--
--
--
--
$2.05
$2.07

With the current climate of high and volatile gas prices, fueling from the grid is more environmentally sound and more economical. The challenge is that the up-front cost is greater for purchasing plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles. It will take time for them to pay off, but it is a sound long term economic decision.