MID-MICHIGAN (WJRT) – The auto industry is at a crossroads.

The Big Three automakers in Detroit aggressively are investing in electric vehicles, putting the internal combustion engine and the cars and trucks that comes with it in their rearview mirror by as soon as 2035. But what makes more sense for drivers — gas or electric?

Most people want four things from their ride whether it’s gas or electric: Price, travel range, fuel cost and convenience.

Terry Hanson got a 2020 Chevy Bolt and he’s in love with it.

“Electric I think is the way to go,” he said. “I really like the not going to the gas station and you don’t have to worry about the price of gas.”

Purchase price

The manufacturer suggested retail price on a base model Bolt starts at $36,620. A similar sized gas-powered car like a base model Chevrolet Trax has an suggested price of $21,400.

At the start line, price easily goes to gas at over $15,000 cheaper.

Travel range

Next comes gas mileage. Hanson gets a top range of 259 miles on a charge with his Bolt, which is enough to get from Flint to the Mackinac Bridge. An average gas powered sedan can keep cruising for 400 miles on one tank, which can go from Flint across the Mackinac Bridge and up to Marquette.

Electric car drivers also have to think more about when they are driving. During cold weather, Hanson said his peak mileage dropped significantly when temperatures dipped to single digits in February.

“I had 125 miles range and it normally would have over 220, 225 or 230 miles,” he said.

That means mother nature is robbing drivers of potentially up to 50% of the battery’s charge capacity.

So with mileage, gas-powered cars win again. That’s 2-0 for gas powered cars with two categories to go.

Operating cost

Cost of operation is where electric cars pull ahead. For drivers with a gas powered vehicle that gets 25 miles per gallon costing $2.50 a gallon at the pump and go 12,000 miles per year, they would spend $1,200 a year in gas.

To go 12,000 miles in an electric car at an off-peak electricity rate of $0.09 per kilowatt hour, drivers are looking at 3,480 kilowatt hours to charge their car, which comes out to $313.20 a year for charging. That equates to a total savings of $886.80 over a gas-powered engine annually.

Electric vehicles are certainly a better value.

Operating convenience

For convenience, most people are aware it doesn’t take long to gas up a car. But for electric vehicles, it’s not just charge and go. The process takes a lot more time and should be planned in advance.

“It’s kind of like plugging in your cell phone. You get home at night and you plug it in,” said Graff Chevrolet Certified Technology Expert Kurt Jensen.

But drivers better keep it plugged in all night. A Bolt takes 58 hours to reach a full charge from empty on a 120-volt electric outlet. That’s a total of two days, two nights and 10 more hours. The charging time on a standard 240-volt outlet is 9.5 hours, or a little more than a night’s sleep.

Converting a 120-volt outlet to a 240-volt outlet will cost around $300 on average. Several automakers also sell fast charging kits for their electric fleet at an added cost, which varies by vehicle.

Filling up in the middle of a trip can be a challenge to plan, as well. Michigan has about 4,700 gas stations but only 480 electric vehicle charging stations. While the number of charging stations is expected to increase in the coming years, it still makes taking a long road trip a little less appealing.

“We were going to go to West Branch, which is about 100 miles, and I was afraid to drive it because I didn’t know if I could get it charged,” Hanson said.

Charging alongside the road still takes over nine hours to complete from empty.

So gas-powered cars easily win again on convenience. That’s a 3-1 advantage to gas engines in this comparison.

Evolving technology

Electric is great for saving money on fuel costs, but the technology and supporting infrastructure are still in their infancy.

“Technology is growing every day,” Jensen said. “Just like when the Model T’s came out, the cars didn’t run that long or do that good. They’re just learning and look where we’re at today.”

General Motors is investing billions in switching its fleet to electric. The automaker is the only company to commit to a total electric conversion by 2035, relying heavily on the revamped Factory Zero to manufacture its high-tech next generation of vehicles in Hamtramck.

Ford Motor Co. and Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles also are making investments in electric vehicle technology.

Copyright 2021 WJRT. All rights reserved.


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