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Electric vs. Hybrid vs. Gas: Which One Saves the Most Money?

(Illustration: Bob Al-Greene)

We took a 4,500-mile road trip in a Tesla Model 3 Long Range EV and compared its ‘fuel’ costs with hybrid and gas cars. As they say, the results will surprise you.

By Sascha Segan

Electric cars are the future, sure. But how about the present? Our 10,000-mile road trip to find the best mobile network in the US gave us a unique chance to compare electric, gas, and hybrid cars in a fueling face-off. We rented all three varieties of cars from Hertz, which has libraries of hybrid and electric vehicles at dozens of locations around the US.

Our testing map for the EV route of Best Mobile Networks (Image: Sascha Segan)

As our Tesla Model 3 tooled around the western part of the country, we drove 1,400 miles through Georgia and Florida in a 2021 Hyundai Ioniq hybrid, and the rest of our trip in gas cars. Here are three surprising facts we found about fueling our three varieties of car:

1. The Long-Range Tesla Can Get Better Range Than Some Gas Cars

Many electric cars have a short range, but not the Tesla Model 3 Long Range.

The Tesla’s range approached that of our 2022 Toyota Camry, which scored 28.4mpg for our trip, and thus a range of 448 miles in its 15.8-gallon tank. It closely matched our 2022 Chevy Malibu, which got 27.8mpg and thus a 439-mile range, but both trailed our Hyundai hybrid, which managed 50.5mpg and a 595-mile range.

That said, we recharged the Tesla more often than we needed to because of range anxiety. Of the 21 charges where we have recorded data, five of them started with the battery at higher than 50%—the drivers were merely topping off a battery that was already half full. Clearly, our drivers were a little worried about finding chargers in convenient places or having time to charge when they needed to.

2. Charging Isn’t All That Hard (But It’s Harder Than Refueling)

Our drivers didn’t have trouble finding chargers, although they had to look for them using an app. We charged at 35 locations, from urban Los Angeles to isolated parts of Idaho and Utah.

Tesla’s Supercharger system was absolutely critical to keeping our road trip going. A Supercharger would add 15% in about 12 or 13 minutes, and 76% in 47 minutes. Compare that with the CCS charger we encountered in Pasco, WA, which gave us a 15% charge in two hours, or the Chargepoint charger in Seattle that managed 7% in an hour and 18 minutes.

A Tesla Supercharger station in Beaver, Utah (Photo: Chloe Albanesius)

All in all, we saw an average of 2.6% charge per minute on the highest-powered, 250kW Superchargers; 1.4% per minute on other Superchargers; and 0.1% per minute on standard chargers.

If you can’t find a Supercharger, it’s best to find a place to plug in overnight. We had parking lot charging spots at some, but not all, of the hotels on our trip—and what’s better, it’s usually free. Our hotel in Crescent City, CA, the Anchor Beach Inn, had 32-amp CCS chargers that let us notch our Tesla battery up by 70%…although that took about 10 hours.

And of course, there are still far more gas stations out there than EV charging stations, and you can refuel a car in about five minutes—10, if you’re buying Doritos. And gas stations are more visible. Again, you need a dedicated app like ChargePoint or PlugShare to easily locate charging stations.

3. You Don’t Save Much Money on the Road, Even With Super-High Gas Prices

Gas averages $4.86 per gallon in the US right at the time of this writing. That’s high for the US, although prices are usually higher in many other countries.

We got pricing details from 13 of our Tesla Superchargers, and overall they averaged $9.38 per 100 miles when calculated against the Tesla’s 358-mile stated range.

That’s less expensive than the gas cars, but not by much. The gas cars cost $14.50 to $15.44 per 100 miles. Our Hyundai Ioniq hybrid ran $9.72 per 100 miles, even with gas prices averaging $4.90 over its leg, thanks to its effective 50.5mpg.

So when it comes to the great electric vs. gas debate, it turns out there’s not a clear winner.

Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com.

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