An Electric Vehicle Cost Savings Story

By: Cleve Pinnix | Thurston Climate Action Team Volunteer

In early September my wife and I drove our Kia Niro Electric Car to Leavenworth to visit our daughter, Julia. Julia has a 240 volt outlet at her house which made it easy for me to charge up the EV while staying there. Julia gets her household power from the Chelan PUD – a big utility in that region, which manages multiple hydroelectric power dams on the Columbia River. Power rates in Leavenworth are extremely cheap. 

I did a little experiment for our drive back home, noting down the numbers. Here’s what I found: We drove 170 miles from Julia’s home to ours. The Niro went 4.9 miles for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) it used. In other words, it took us 34.7 kWh to drive home. Julia’s electricity rate is 2.7 cents per kWh. Doing the math: our trip of 170 miles cost 94 cents!

By comparison, a Prius hybrid car getting 50 mpg on gasoline would make the same trip for $13.60, with gasoline at $4/gallon. Or, a conventional vehicle getting 30 mpg would cost $22.67 to make that same trip. We did it in an EV for 94 cents.

It’s a little tricky to compare the electricity cost with our local provider here in the South Sound, Puget Sound Energy, since they use a tiered rate structure. Residential customers pay 9.36 cents/ kWh for the first 600 kWh per month. Anything above that costs 11.4 cents/kWh. Using the lower number the same EV trip would have cost $3.25 at our lowest local rate.

Now here’s the real kicker: I looked up Chelan PUD’s power generation mix. It’s 99.99% hydropower, and 0.01% wind. In other words – it’s 100% carbon-free power! Zero carbon emissions associated with driving an EV powered by Chelan PUD. In a way, this is a look at our hoped-for future here, as PSE transitions away from coal & natural gas power generation. We’re not there yet. But it makes me smile to think that our trip home from Leavenworth was zero-carbon transportation, and that it’s possible here in Thurston County.

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