The New MPG is MPD – Miles per Dollar

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Electric Vehicle charging stations at an eVgo outlet
50 miles in 15 minutes of charging. This is one of eVgo’s Nissan LEAF Electric car at the Freedom Station in Houston, Texas. John Brian Shannon illustrates with an example why it makes sense to buy an EV car if you prefer to drive with the lowest cost of travel per unit distance. Photo-eVgo Network/Flickr/CC

For decades, we have measured fuel economy and miles traveled by car or truck in the familiar miles traveled per gallon of gasoline, or MPG. Some nations don’t use miles as they use the metric system and distance is measured in kilometers (American spelling) or kilometres (European and Canadian spelling) which translates into litres of gasoline used to travel 100 kilometres and is abbreviated as L/100km.

Either way, it worked pretty well for a century — although not perfectly. Think of all those drivers idling their vehicle engines in traffic gridlock for hours at a time, or these new electric vehicles (EV) which just don’t have a gas tank, period!

Somebody smart decided to place a value on the cost of travel per unit distance – no matter the motive power source, no matter if the distance traveled was in miles or kilometres, and whether or not the vehicle was stuck in traffic, idling away it’s fuel. No matter the scenario, the miles per dollar equation works better than anything before it. Try this MPD calculator.

Whether you live in Norway or Italy where gasoline costs over €1.80 per litre and your distances are measured in kilometres — or you live in Los Angeles and your gas costs $4.00 per U.S. gallon and your distances are measured in miles — or if you drive a Nissan LEAF that doesn’t require liquid fuels — everyone can determine their cost per unit traveled.

Here are some examples for you:

Steve commutes to downtown Los Angeles, CA, from Rancho Cucamonga, CA, 70 miles away. When he bought his new SUV, the EPA sticker said that his SUV is capable of 22 MPG highway driving and 17 MPG city driving. Good luck with that! But his SUV gets radically different miles per gallon figures at different times during the trip, as some of his daily commute is spent idling the V-8 engine in heavy traffic. But at first, he cruises along at 80 miles per hour, then 55 miles per hour and finally, when he gets near the office, he is driving at 25 miles per hour. How relevant are miles per gallon figures in this case? What really matters is that Steve pays $24.00 to drive from Rancho Cucamonga to downtown Los Angeles. And then pays another $24.00 to drive home again at night. For a total of $48.00 per day, times five days per week. Ouch, $240. per week.

If you want to know miles per dollar (MPD) for Steve’s SUV, it costs about $0.35 per mile to drive in mixed traffic. (Maintenance not included in these figures.)

Suzy delivers flowers in her Hybrid Prius and consequently, does a lot of stop and go city driving. Because it is a hybrid, that is not so bad. Her EPA sticker says she should get 48 MPG city driving and 45 MPG highway driving. At $4.00 per gallon for gas, she uses $8.00 of gas (2 gallons) to travel 96 miles. Her cost per mile? Suzy’s Prius costs about $0.08 per mile to drive in mixed traffic. (Maintenance not included in these figures.)

Ken drives his Nissan LEAF, which doesn’t even have a gas tank because it is an electric vehicle, but the EPA sticker on the car when it was new advertised an equivalent of 95 MPG, which is expressed as 95 MPG-e.

Scenario A) If Ken charges his car at home, he pays for the electricity to charge up the battery pack resulting in an electricity cost of $0.04 per mile. Depending on how Ken drives and the price of his utility company electricity, each $1.00 (of electricity) could get him up to 38 miles.

Scenario B) If Ken uses the many available and free fast chargers placed around his city to recharge his EV battery pack, he doesn’t pay anything per mile — as most 30-minute chargers for electric vehicles are free to use in the U.S.A. In which case, his cost is $0.00 per mile. (Buy the car, drive it for free!) (Maintenance not included in these figures.)

It may interest you to know that there are over 11,500 EV chargers in the U.S.A. as of January 2013 — and more are being added every month. Not only that, they are easily located by smartphone app and are conveniently located next to office towers, Starbucks and shopping malls in almost every city.

Using the MPD equation, you can now choose how much you wish to pay per mile — and then buy your car accordingly.

Here’s an infographic from Compliance and Safety LLC which illustrates the impact of electric cars not only on the economy but on the environment as well – while breaking down the cost comparison.

  • Less than 1% of all cars sold are electric.
  • About 7% of all cars sold in 2015 will be electric cars. (The U.S. target is one million electric vehicles by 2015)
  • High profile government investment in electric vehicles, costing billions of dollars — along with tax subsidies to buyers.
  • Predictions for lower-cost batteries and rising gas prices may help lower the overall ownership costs.
  • The impact on the environment provides reduction in CO2 emissions, however if the 2015 goal is met it will only be a reduction in the U.S. CO2 emissions by 0.034%.
Infographic - The impact of Electric Vehicle (EV)
Infographic – The impact of Electric Vehicle (EV)


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