Electric cars aren’t seven times more expensive than gasoline-powered cars, as claimed on Facebook

An electric car “costs more than seven times as much” as a gasoline powered car
Factually inaccurate: The claim that electric cars cost seven times more than gasoline-powered vehicles is based on an electricity price that is 10 times the actual price of electricity per kilowatt hour in the US.
Misleading: The claim generalizes the characteristics of hybrid cars to all electric vehicles, which is misleading. Hybrid electric vehicles combine a short-range battery with a combustion engine to lower costs and emissions for commuters, whereas electric cars possess a larger battery designed for longer trips.
In general, battery-operated and hybrid vehicles are more expensive to purchase, but have lower operating costs than gasoline-powered cars. The price to purchase electric and hybrid cars has declined since 2000.


CLAIM: “The gasoline-powered car costs about $25,000 while the Volt costs $46,000 plus. So the Government wants us to pay twice as much for a car that costs more than seven times as much to run, and takes three times longer to drive across the country.”

A series of Facebook posts (such as this one) claims that electric cars are more expensive to purchase and operate than gasoline-powered cars. This claim is based on a 2012 video interview on Fox News where a journalist, Eric Bolling, performed a driving test on a Chevrolet Volt Plug-in Hybrid Car.

As detailed in a fact-check published by Snopes, the claims made in the Fox News video and Facebook posts are based on wrong numbers that mislead viewers and readers about the cost of purchasing and operating hybrid vehicles.

In the video, Bolling calculates how much an electric car costs compared to a gas-powered car. However, he uses a price of electricity per kilowatt hour (kwh)  that is 10 times higher than the average price of electricity per kwh in the US. Specifically, Bolling calculated the cost of the Chevy Volt using a rate of $1.16 per kwh of electricity, whereas it is currently $0.126 per kwh (a rate that has stayed relatively constant since 2012). Because Bolling used an inaccurate price for electricity in his calculation, the analysis is also inaccurate and results in a false price for the estimated cost of operating a Chevy Volt hybrid vehicle.

Bolling also claims that the Chevy Volt takes 10 to 12 hours to fully charge the battery at his house. As shown by Das et al. (2020)[1] in the table below, this time of charge is typical for a Chevy Volt charged using a Level 1 charging socket, such as the typical electric socket type in a house. However, the claim misses context since this charging time is reduced to 4.5 hours or about 20 minutes if different electric socket types are used (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 : Data on battery capacity, range, and charging time for various Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV). From Das et al. (2020).

Furthermore, Bolling claims that the car battery of the Chevy Volt stopped working after 25 miles. This model is a plug-in hybrid car, which combines a traditional combustion source of power with a small battery. As explained in the Snopes article, a hybrid car is “a niche vehicle that attempts to offset the current [electric vehicle] issues of limited range and scarcity of charging stations by combining [electric vehicle] capabilities with a gasoline engine to provide enough battery range to satisfy many consumers’ daily driving needs while also accommodating extended travel beyond that range.” Because the battery of the Chevy Volt is only about 16-18 kW, it’s range is limited to 40 – 500 km, as noted in Das et al. (2020).

The criticism made on all electric cars is also not valid, as the video and posts only comment on one hybrid car model that was made for complementary use with a combustion engine, and not all electric cars.

Finally, the costs of electric and hybrid vehicles has been declining since 2000, whereas the cost of gasoline-powered vehicles has increased. As described in a 2021 Bloomberg article, the median price of a new car is now $40,000, which is similar to the price of the Chevy Volt that Bolling tested. The price of electric and hybrid cars is decreasing partly due to the reduced prices of batteries. In a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report from 2017, the author explains that the prices of battery vehicles and internal combustion engines are expected to become equal in 2025.


Published on: 21 Oct 2021 | Editor:

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