If environmental stewardship is simply a way of life, automakers and their latest electric vehicles have us covered. Plaid, a Tesla executive, praises the company’s performance. The Volts, Leafs, and Priuses all preach humility. Ford is also flexing its might by introducing electric Mustangs and F-150s. Consumers, on the other hand, need the ability to make wise purchase decisions if their choices are going to contribute to a greener future – if they are going to choose energy efficiency over flash. To do so, an old-fashioned measuring stick from the gasoline era could be useful: the miles per gallon notion.
Car purchasing in the electric vehicle (EV) era is no longer only about selecting a car with a high MPG and a cheap gallon of gas. The cost of electricity is perplexing. Information on price and efficiency is difficult to come by and even more difficult to comprehend. And, in the end, you must do the math.
That involves learning about the kilowatt-hour, or kWh, the standard unit of electric energy – a string of characters better suited to an engineering textbook. Drivers must answer the brain puzzles that convert kWh to money and kilometers in order to assess their costs and carbon footprints.
If you don’t do so, you’re putting your faith in the automakers to do what’s best for you and the environment.
On this issue, the government can take the lead. In reality, it has and continues to do so. Gas pumps have long been obliged to display the price of a gallon, the number of gallons pumped, and the total cost of the fill-up. The EPA-mandated miles-per-gallon value of a vehicle, which is displayed on dashboards and on every new car’s MPG sticker, connects everything together.
So, for the EV age, perhaps we already have a common denominator. A familiar, physical energy unit allows us to compare cost, efficiency, and emissions on an equal footing.
Say welcome to the gallon once more, fellow Americans, we can keep the energy unit even if we abandon the gas-powered vehicle. It’s real, and if it works for the energy in gas, we’ll be able to make it work for electricity.
A gallon of unleaded gas contains around 34 kWh of energy, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Knowing this, you can quickly calculate the cost of your energy purchase and how far it will go you. The gallon can also help you better understand your other electricity usage by comparing your home energy prices to your car’s energy costs.