Fuels

Extra Travel Costs Could Reduce EV Savings: Study

Travel company Upgraded Points calculates cost of five American routes in electric vehicles vs. gas cars
Upgraded Points study of road trips traveled by EV
Image: Upgraded Points

You might hear “Are we there yet?” more often if you travel the country in an electric vehicle compared with a gasoline-powered car, according to research conducted by travel company Upgraded Points.

That’s because the amount of time it takes to recharge an electric vehicle (EV) becomes more relevant when calculating how long it will take to travel long distances.

The company compared travel in an EV with a gas-powered car on five different American routes for the study, Iconic American Road Trips as Traveled by an EV [2023 Study]. The research determined EVs don’t come close to gas cars in making a long-distance trek swiftly because of charging times. Longer travel times could mean more money spent on food and lodging.

A coast-to-coast cross-country trip from Boston to Newport, Oregon would involve traveling 3,305 miles, the company said. Driving an EV would cost about $99.96 and require 82 hours and 16 minutes, compared with a fuel cost of $457.64 for a gasoline-powered vehicle, which would take about 69 hours and 16 minutes, Upgraded Points said. The gas car would save 13 hours and 28 minutes of travel time but cost $356 more, the company’s founder Alex Miller reported April 17.

The extra 13.5 hours, which represents charging time for the EV, could require extending the trip by one additional night's stay, said Jillian Fellows, a research assistant for the study.

“The national average of a one-night hotel stay is approximately $200, so travelers need to be aware of those extra accommodation costs when considering how much they're saving on gas by using an EV,” she said. The kind of lodging you prefer and the amount you’re willing to spend depends on personal preferences, she said.

“EVs and the desire to travel the country in them are becoming increasingly popular because of the potential cost and environmental benefits. But planning these trips can be complicated. By diving deeper into the data, road trippers can decide whether these trips are worthwhile in an EV when it comes to time and cost tradeoffs,” Fellows said.

Traveling with an EV as transportation requires planning for charging stops, meal breaks and possibly for hotel stays. “It's not as simple as pulling off to the nearest gas station when you need to fuel up. Travelers may also be concerned about range anxiety, or the fear of running out of battery power before they reach their destination or a charging station. It's important to plan your route carefully and make sure you have access to charging stations along the way, even though newer EVs can travel up to 300 miles on a single charge,” she said.

In California, the state with by far the most charging stations installed to date, a 523-mile trip from Dana Point to San Francisco would take about 13 hours and 45 minutes in an EV, with 2 hours and 11 minutes spent charging, compared with a total trip time of 11 hours and 37 minutes in a gas-powered car, including about 3 minutes to fill up the car with $95.74 in fuel. The EV trip would save about $65.79 in fuel costs but increase the time required to travel the distance by 2 hours and 8 minutes, Upgraded Points said.

Upgraded Points' researched the travel times of EVs and gas cars on five American routes, using location information on EV charging stationsto see which vehicle type is the most economical and to answer the question: Is saving money on gas really worth the tradeoff in travel time? The question is not just rhetorical. Lawmakers in Wisconsin and on the federal level are considering legislation that would prohibit bans on sales of gas-powered vehicles to preserve choice in the marketplace, while others have sought relief in the courts through litigation over state emissions regulations.

“EVs and the desire to travel the country in them are becoming increasingly popular because of the potential cost and environmental benefits. But planning these trips can be complicated. By diving deeper into the data, road trippers can decide whether these trips are worthwhile in an EV when it comes to time and cost tradeoffs,” Fellows said. 

The Austin, Texas-based Upgraded Points, launched in 2016, uses in-depth studies to provider travelers with an understanding of how to maximize points and miles when they travel.

“If you're considering an EV for a longer trip, it's vital to research the route and plan ahead to ensure you have access to charging stations,” Fellows said. “And if you're concerned about range anxiety, a gas car may still be a better option for you. Ultimately, the decision between an EV and gas car will depend on your personal preferences and priorities.”

Driving time information for the other three routes and data and electric vehicle usage by state is available online.

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