Average Electricity Prices Are Very Stable Compared To Gasoline Or Diesel

8 months ago by Mark Kane 63

Average U.S. Retail Fuel Prices per Gasoline Gallon Equivalent, Selected Dates from 2000 to 2016 (source: energy.gov)

Average U.S. Retail Fuel Prices per Gasoline Gallon Equivalent, Selected Dates from 2000 to 2016 (source: energy.gov)

The US DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy released an interesting comparison of fuel price fluctuations.

Toyota Prius Prime

Toyota Prius Prime

And as it turns out, electricity pricing is pretty stable, although the chart does reveal some periodic changes in winter vs. summer.

On the other hand, gasoline prices could change by upwards of 100% in relatively short period – which could be really good, or really not-so-good for consumers after a new ICE (internal combustion engine) purchase.

“Retail prices for most transportation fuels have been highly volatile over the past 16 years. The prices are displayed in gasoline-gallon equivalents (GGE) which equate the energy content of any motor fuel to that of a gallon of gasoline. The prices are collected in gallons (except for CNG and electricity) and are converted to GGE. In this figure, the prices were also adjusted for inflation to 2016 dollars.

Since 2000, gasoline, diesel, propane, ethanol (E85), and biodiesel (B20) have all experienced significant fluctuations. Electricity prices show cyclical price variations from the summer months to the winter months. Over the 16-year period, electricity ranged from a low of $3.47 per GGE to a high of $4.51 per GGE, a $1.04 difference. In contrast, gasoline prices ranged from a low of $1.46 per GGE to a high of $4.36 per GGE, a $2.90 difference. Although CNG experienced larger price fluctuations between 2005 and 2009, the price was generally more stable from 2009-on.”

Notes:
CNG = compressed natural gas.
E85 = 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.
B20 = 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel.
Prices were adjusted for inflation using the quarterly Gross Domestic Product Implicit Price Deflator.

source: energy.gov

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63 responses to "Average Electricity Prices Are Very Stable Compared To Gasoline Or Diesel"

  1. William says:

    $147.00 for a barrel of oil is not stable. The fluctuation in the energy commodities index, is volatile to say the least. Home Solar and Powerwall, with a few EVs, not so much!

  2. no comment says:

    even with today’s comparatively low gasoline prices, the cost/mile for gasoline is still over 3 times the cost/mile of electricity. in that aspect, electricity is probably always going to be superior to gasoline because converting electricity into propulsion is so much more efficient than turning gasoline combustion into propulsion.

    1. William says:

      Electricity, quite probably, will always be superior in efficiency and cost, to supply automotive propulsion systems, than gasoline. Overcoming the challenge surrounding the generating source of electricity, and its time of use, and dispersion, are the big impediments to wider adoption for large scale automotive use.

      1. SJC says:

        Electricity has the PUC, no such thing for Exxon.

      2. speculawyer says:

        “Overcoming the challenge surrounding the generating source of electricity, and its time of use, and dispersion, are the big impediments to wider adoption for large scale automotive use.”

        What? We have absolutely no problem generating electricity. Batteries are still a bit expensive and that is the big issue for EVs. But electricity can be easily made with solar PV, onshore wind, natural gas, tidal power, OTEC, geothermal, hydropower, offshore wind, nuclear, etc.

      3. Samwise says:

        The only challenge to overcome is peoples perception and vested interests. The later being by far the biggest impediment in the US as far as I can see.

    2. William says:

      Powerwall is not an energy source, you are absolutely correct. Could you have gotten home more easily today, had you been able to charge with the grid down at work? Bad implementation of a Powerwall “big misuse of battery cells”, could have kept you from having to “crawl back home”.

      I hope you new car experience with an ICE and Battery works better for your current situation.

  3. Toby says:

    Owning an efficient inexpensive $14k car like a 1 liter Fiesta still saves you significant amounts of money over the life of a vehicle.

    Fuel prices need to go way up ($4+) or EVs need to come down to the 20k range for an EV to net a savings as basic transportation.

    EV registration is also becoming a big factor increasing your overall yearly costs.

    1. John says:

      “a big factor” is really overstating it.
      I have yet to see a fee that is more than what I was paying for oil changes in a year…Overall yearly costs are still MUCH lower than with an ICE car. Even with being ripped off by the tax-man.

      1. William says:

        Every other year, the Smog Check Station gets a little boost from you, along with your oil change. If you need one new sensor, for one of your emissions systems diagnostics, figure in approximately another $200.00 for that part.

      2. zzzzzzzzzz says:

        You must be taxi driver or traveling salesman if you are paying some $150/year for oil changes. $150 is in the ballpark what 40 mpg car driver doing 12,000 miles per year pays in gas taxes, or around $0.50/gal in the US, and some states charge just that as yearly plugin fee.

        Here where I live synthetic engine oil & filter change is $10-$50 at dealer for mass market cars, if automaker free maintenance period has expired. It doesn’t need to be done more frequently than once a year anymore, or 12,000-20,000 miles.

        You really need more down to Earth prices for batteries and battery cars for meaningful adoption outside enthusiast niche.

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          “…$150 is in the ballpark what 40 mpg car driver doing 12,000 miles per year…”

          Wow, so many lies and half-truths in so few sentences! That’s an impressive achievement even for a serial ant-EV FUDster.

          Reality check: The average American gasmobile travels about 14,000-15,000 miles per year, and gets ~28 MPG.

          My “napkin math” shows the average gas taxes (both State and Federal) paid by the average American driver is nearly $200 per year.

          1. zzzzzzzzzz says:

            Pu-pu, you have serious reading comprehension problem

    2. ffbj says:

      TCTO has been shown to favor evs by a fair margin.

    3. Nick says:

      My new LEAF was 18k after incentives and discounts. It would have been 16k if I’d have bought the cheapest model. It’s a no brainier for super cheap and low impact transportation.

    4. speculawyer says:

      Well, you can easily get an EV for $20K after tax-credit these days. However, it will have an annoyingly short range.

      But the total cost of ownership will be cheaper than that of the Fiesta since there is no way the gas prices stay this cheap over the next 10 years.

  4. TM says:

    Mark – can you explain the electricity cost per GGE numbers and how they were derived? Is this just pure energy content (as in Joules)?

    So to get cost per mile for energy type, we’d have to multiply by either the mpg * useable energy per gallon fraction in the ICE case or in the EV case miles-per-kwh * electrical losses in the process of charging.

    1. Nathanael says:

      Yeah, it looks like they used pure energy content.

      Which is misleading because electric cars are >95% efficient and gasoline cars are <25% efficient.

      1. SF Energy says:

        Adjusting then:

        Tesla MS ~3 miles per KWH
        Average ICE: ~20 mpg on road today

        $3.00/gallon gas yields:
        $0.15/mile for the ICE

        So that requires electricity cost $0.15 per mile * 3 miles/kwh = $0.45 per KWH.

        Anyone really paying that?? I think someone is cooking the numbers AGAINST electricity here.

        1. TimE says:

          I was enrolled in an EV Time of Use program in Minnesota.

          It was $.435 per KWh… … … from 4 to 9 pm weekdays.

          It was $.13 per KWh from 8 am to 4 pm weekdays.
          And $.053 per KWh from 9 pm to 8 am weekdays and all day weekends.

          So, in a year, I accumulated a whopping 40 KWh at the $.435 rate. And 2500 KWh at $.053.

    2. Jason says:

      I don’t really care much about these reports, just the reality as it affects me. I bought a Leaf for running around town, so 100km per day is just fine. I use a watt meter on the EVSE and stat that daily. $0.03/km, which is easily 1/4 less than it would cost in the cheapest ICE we have in our family.
      Plus no tail pipe emissions, quiet drive, smooth and responsive. Motor bikes are somewhat surprised when you are sitting next to them after take off from lights. Good fun, 2nd hand it is a cheap vehicle.

  5. ClarksonCote says:

    So the chart is saying that electricity is more expensive than any other fuel? That seems like an odd conclusion given 12 cent/kWh electricity is equal to roughly $1.40 per gallon gasoline for an EV these days.

    What’s the “equivalent” being used for the axis, energy content?

    1. no comment says:

      you might want to click the link referenced in this article. the figures for gasoline are off by a factor of 3.4 because it does not take into account the efficiency of electric vehicles. specifically, the reference says:

      “The electricity prices will not match the Alternative Fuel Data Center (AFDC) due to the AFDC use of an electric motor efficiency factor of 3.4. That factor was not used in these data, which come directly from the Energy Information Administration. Also, these data are adjusted for inflation”.

      1. no comment says:

        note to jay: you might want to consider editing this article to include the disclaimer that i cited from the source. if all someone does is read this article and look at the graph, they would get a very misleading impression about the relative cost of actual electric vehicles.

        1. Chris C. says:

          Indeed, that graph is a terrible misrepresentation of the cost reality. I wonder if there was an internal battle at DoE (energy.gov) over publishing that. Either way, InsideEVs should be qualifying that graph, including an adjustment to the caption, not just a paranthetical comment in the article.

    2. speculawyer says:

      Electricity is more expensive on per energy unit basis, HOWEVER, since EVs are FAR more efficient and get ~100MPGE, the EVs are cheaper to fuel per mile.

      1. Nathanael says:

        Exactly. Typically, 4/5 of the energy in gasoline is wasted. Nearly all the energy in electricity actually goes to move the car.

      2. no comment says:

        when it comes to energy density, electricity is a fairly inferior energy source.

    3. Bill Howland says:

      Yeah, I see this as electrics getting ‘twice the mpge mileage’ of gas cars, but then the juice is twice the price. Some places the juice (not by me) is confiscatory.

      So it is pretty much a wash, except for the higher price of the EV. Well, the trend is in the right direction at least.

    4. Jason says:

      The comparison is between the cost of fuels as it relates to stability of pricing, not as it relates to what the fuel can be used for, so in this context the graph is fine, it shows that electricity price is very stable compared to other forms of fuel.

      The fact you do not need 1gal of electricity to do the same work as 1gal petrol is not the point of the article, but for EV enthusiasm it would help to clarify for the masses reading this.

      If you want to compare the work rate of the fuels, then a comparison to solar generation would really tell an interesting story and make you wonder why everyone has not put solar on their home. $3k investment for me has paid for itself in 3rd and for the foreseeable future effectively is free.

  6. Robert Samuels says:

    I drive a Chevy Volt – lease is up next month. Going back to gas. Electric makes no sense here in New York @ $ 0.234 per kw and $2.379 for regular gas, $ 2.699 for diesel. Not to mention what running the heat does to the range. Looking to test drive the new Cruze 1.6L turbo diesel with a manual transmission.

    Loved my Volt however. Will miss it.

    1. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven says:

      As a fellow New Yorker, I feel you pain. 🙁

      However, keep in mind some of the financial and non-financial benefits of Evs in NYS:
      – many insurance companies offer discounts for green cars,
      – toll discounts for bridges, tunnels, and the NYS Thruway,
      – HOV privileges with only a single occupant
      – NYS will start offering a $2,000 rebate for EVs purchases/leases by the end of this winter (I believe the deadline to setup the rebate program is March 31, 2017, but don’t quote me on it).

        1. Josh Bryant says:

          In the effort of maintaining civility to our comments, I want to point out sven’s comments above. He regularly gets attacked when making any criticism of EVs. Note this clear recommendation back towards a plug-in and the benefits of doing so.

          We are all on the same team here; just trying to sort out the facts/reality from the embellishments. Some more critical than others 😉

      1. Bill Howland says:

        $2000 NYS rebate or tax credit, whatever.

        When does it go in effect, to what extent is it retroactive, and why haven’t I been able to find any hard facts about it? Everything I read is shouting around the edges, but no firm info. Can you help SVEN?
        Is this an IT-253 credit issue?

    2. pjwood1 says:

      A big pitfall of progressive electricity states is regulators aiming for conservation through higher prices, claiming “no impact to the bill because they use less”, but then ultimately beginning to chase away those who’d otherwise switch from gasoline to an EV.

      NYS sits on top of the Marcellus Shale. The O&M costs to make electricity on ~$1/mmbtu natural gas is maybe 2 cents/KWh. There’s a mountain of other BS between that generation, and your bill.

      I was offered space in a “solar garden”, yesterday: If I sign a 20 year PPA set at current-10% price/KWh (paying ~16), and I assume a $1,250 early termination charge. No thanks!

      1. William says:

        That PPA has a substantial penalty and time lock, without a significant upfront near term savings.

      2. zzzzzzzzzz says:

        “The O&M costs to make electricity on ~$1/mmbtu natural gas is maybe 2 cents/KWh. ”
        1 MMBtu = 293.29722222222 kWh
        Henry Hub spot price now is ~$3/mmbtu, not $1. It varied a lot from just below $2 till $13.
        https://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/rngwhhdm.htm
        You have around $0.01/kWh for $3/MMBtu, but this is just thermal energy. To convert it to electricity you would need 11,302 Btu/kWh for gas turbine or 7,655 for combined cycle average
        https://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/html/epa_08_02.html
        You end up with around $0.03/kWh gross just for fuel, plus a lot of extra for power plant capital cost, transmission and distribution.

        1. Nathanael says:

          Transmission & Distribution is about 6 cents / kwh in upstate NY.

    3. speculawyer says:

      Seems like you COMPLETELY MISSED THE POINT of this article. That electricity price will remain very stable at that level. But that gasoline price . . . it might be back up at $4+/gallon in a year or two.

      I tell you one thing, that gas price is not going down below $2/gallon again.

      But it is your choice.

    4. Chris C. says:

      Let’s do the math!

      $0.234 per kWh (not kW)
      Volt gets around 300 Wh per mile (in EV mode)
      $0.234/kWh x 1 kWh/1000 Wh x 300 Wh/mile
      = 7 CENTS PER MILE

      $2.379 per gallon
      comparable car gets 30 miles/gallon
      $2.379/gal / 30 miles/gal
      = 8 CENTS PER MILE

      The EV number is much lower (like 4 cents per mile) in other parts of the country where electricity isn’t so expensive.

      Don’t let them fool you. EVs are cheaper to operate than gas cars, much cheaper in most cases. If you see someone concluding otherwise, check for bias.

      1. speculawyer says:

        And anyone that thinks gasoline will continue to cost $2.37/gallon for the life of the next car they buy is completely insane. Oil prices are currently artificially low. It is only a matter of time before they go back up. They may stay this low for another year or two but not for 5 years.

        1. Nathanael says:

          Actually, I think oil prices will end up low… after everyone switches to electric cars, thus rendering oil irrelevant.

          But even at current low oil prices, electricity is cheaper — because electric cars are so much more efficient than gasoline cars — and solar & wind are forcing electricity prices down.

      2. zzzzzzzzzz says:

        Whatever part of the country or world you are in, upfront cost often makes much more difference than few pennies saved or lost on fuel.

        Otherwise everybody would be buying 50+ mpg hybrids that are available for just few thousand $ premium over 30 mpg cars you are comparing.

      3. Bill Howland says:

        Those numbers fall flat in NY State especially this time of year, since to get the juice into the battery requires substantial wasted kwh.- probably at least 3 out of 15.

        Then in this cold weather, much of the juice is wasted in battery heating – if you are making several short trips, the waste can be as high as 50%, and that’s with the precious juice that was put into the battery at great expense..

        Finally downstaters pay 50% more than the numbers quoted, so your argument doesn’t go very far.

    5. Mister G says:

      Robert you are forgetting to factor in the cost of Healthcare for respiratory conditions in NY. When a new yorker sees a doctor for asthma you are indirectly paying for that visit and medication. GIVE A HOOT DON’T POLLUTE and save some money.

  7. Robert Samuels says:

    Let me add to my reply above: 36,000 miles on my Volt, and no problems what-so-ever with it. Not a single warranty claim against Chevy.

    For those of you in the sub 18kw range, I would highly recommend a Chevy Volt, first gen or second.

    1. William says:

      Some of the first gen Volts are tremendous values on the resale second hand market. Especially if your EV range is within its limits.
      Looks like NY might have a some more soon.

  8. blandman says:

    I agree with the previous comment about how the cost electricity is being calculated. My personal experience is electricity is about 1/2 to 1/3rd of the cost of gasoline in my local market. I am not even counting the “free” charge I get at home from my solar panels.

  9. Priusmaniac says:

    Electricity prices are indeed more stable but it also has a fantastic PV maxim cap price going down each year.
    The trend of various KWh prices according to energy source over time favors photovoltaic energy.

    http://peakoil.com/alternative-energy/trends-in-the-cost-of-energy

    So, in other words electricity is more stable but it is also bound to become the cheapest one available as years go by.
    That is a huge boost for Tesla because it means electric cars will gain, photovoltaic will gain and battery storage will make it available all the time including at night. Over time, Tesla will win win and win. Tesla or anyone surfing the same win win win wave.
    And best of all, it is good for the environment, for health, for energy independence and for technology development.

  10. Get Real says:

    The (potential) number one advantage of driving electric is you can MAKE YOUR OWN FUEL with solar if you get solar.

    With any other fuel source you are always at the mercy of someone else who will charge you as much as they can.

    1. Gary M says:

      You are absolutely correct. I have a 10kW solar array in my yard, installed in 2007.
      Is supplies all of the power I need for the house (including substantial A/C in the summer) plus the power for our Honda Fit EV.
      Just get electric bills in Dec. and January for about. $100. The rest of the year the usage bill is 0.

  11. Bob Nan says:

    Electricity comes from multiple sources like Coal, Gas, Nuclear, Hydro, Wind, Solar and so on, so its price will never fluctuate as wild as Oil.

    It makes a better sense to buy Electric & Plugin vehicles.

    1. William says:

      That is unless you have to plug in your car near the close proximity of Chernobyl or Fukashima Prefecture. Otherwise your “better sense” is spot on!

      I would swap out Geothermal for your Nuclear, on my list of sources. But that’s in a more perfect world, where people don’t have to flee an entire region, and become energy refugees. These circumstances occurred all because of some unforeseen human or natural events, that weren’t factored into the initial engineering or implementation. Only approximately 400 other Nulkes operating currently, here’s to hoping “the third times a charm” never arrives!

      1. speculawyer says:

        If you live in close proximity of Chernobyl or Fukushima, electricity prices are the least of your concern.

  12. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    “…electricity pricing is pretty stable…”

    …unless you live in a country where the government cowardly caved in to public hysteria about “RADIATION!!” and shut down perfectly good nuclear power plants.

    Yeah, I’m looking at YOU, Japan and Germany!

    1. Tom says:

      Couldn’t agree more. And now NY has been on a witch hunt for the nuke plant that supplies Manhattan its power and it’s been announced that the company is finally giving in to the massive amounts of legal hassle it is getting for no good reason at all. A nuke plant with no issues that’s been running properly for years and years supplying one of the biggest single concentrations of energy draw in the US. NY says it plans to replace the energy with renewables. OK then why not keep the nuke plant running and put the renewables in anyway to replace some other source from a different plant? I wish more liberals would actually take things like you know….science class.

      1. Nathanael says:

        Don’t lie. Indian Point has had LOTS of issues, including large numbers of the bolts which hold the containment vessel in place “going missing”.

        It’s past its design life. It’s given good service; let it retire honorably rather than trying to extend the life of a rustbucket which is falling apart.

        1. Bill Howland says:

          Or the people who got leukemia who moved out of Buchannan, NY a little too late.

          Hey everone’s gotta die right?

          Of course when you mention that the little annoyances that have been going on over in Japan 6 years ago have decimated the northern pacific ocean – the big experts always say that marine life always have huge die offs every now and then – like the last time when they did all that above ground Atomic Bomb testing in the Pacific.

          The next little ‘whif’ of radiation should be reaching an Alaskan, or Californian coast near you by around 2019. (Thats in addition to the new normal). Seems the collapsing plants are losing their spent fuel pools – and – enough time has elapsed that the direct explosion danger has decayed somewhat, but you’ll still get a ‘whif’ when it gets here.

          We’ll be told again that a potato-chip is more dangerous because of radioactive potasium-40, but what is conveniently left out is that the body regulates the level of this radioisotope, whereas others, such as have ‘bothered’ residents of Buchannan, Ny for instance, are not.

    2. terminaltrip421 says:

      nothing like having to finds ways to store pure death safely for thousands if not millions of years. brilliant choice.

      nothing ever went wrong, I mean hows that clean-up in europe (can’t remember precisely) going, it was only supposed to start leaching a dozen or so years before they could safely remove it all. and that would hardly be the first instance.

      1. terminaltrip421 says:

        and I think “a dozen or so” is being generous, if I remember correctly it was closer to 30.

  13. Brian F says:

    Please see fuel pricing data here (http://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/prices.html) Same organization except it shows the efficiency of the electric motor for better context.

    *Electric prices are reduced by a factor of 3.4 because electric motors are 3.4 times more efficient than internal combustion engines.