Saving with the car: petrol, diesel, gas, hybrid or electric?

You’ve seen them advertised on television, someone you know already has one, are you wondering if your next car will be electric?

At the same time that several countries have put a limit on diesel, in Spain aid to buy a new car has already forgotten about petrol and diesel. Is it time to save by buying an alternative vehicle to conventional fuels?

Types of cars with alternative fuels

To begin the article, it is convenient to detail what type of vehicles we find in the market as an alternative to the combustion of gasoline and diesel:

  • BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle). They are those that work exclusively with electricity and can also obtain energy when braking and on unevenness. They have a range of up to 300 kilometres.
  • HEV (Hybrid Electric Vehicle), or hybrid cars. They have a combustion engine and an electric engine powered by batteries. Both provide propulsion according to the driving moment (start, acceleration, cruising). The batteries are recharged when braking and with excess engine power.
  • PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle), or plug-in hybrid cars. They are hybrid models (HEV) but with rechargeable battery connected to the electrical network, which allows journeys only with electrical energy with reduced autonomy (about 50 kilometers).
  • REEV (Range Extended Electric Vehicle), or extended-range electric cars. They are similar to HEVs, i.e. they run on electrical energy, but additionally they have a combustion engine that charges the battery when it is about to run out.
  • FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle), or fuel cell cars. They are powered by an electric motor, but unlike HEVs their battery is recharged quickly by reacting compressed hydrogen with oxygen. Its autonomy can reach 600 kilometers. Due to price and availability, they are the least common in Spain.
  • LPG, CNG and LNG. They are the ones that work by means of gas. Liquefied petroleum gas or Autogas (LPG), Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) or Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). They represent an alternative less polluting and more economic than those of gasoline and gasoil.
  • Bifuel are those gasoline cars that also have a gas tank, so they can run on both fuels.

Global savings with electric cars

Beyond the savings derived from choosing one model or another, it is essential to consider the overall savings in fossil fuels resulting from the choice of fully electric or hybrid vehicles.

In the whole world there is no other country with a higher number of electric vehicles per inhabitant than Norway, with 34.72% (adding BEV and PHEV). It is followed by Iceland with 9%, Sweden with 4.31%, Belgium with 2.29% and Finland with 1.99%. Spain is far below in the list with only 0.4%.

The combustion required for daily journeys in cities is responsible for 80% of urban pollution. In that sense, reducing the amount of harmful gases in our streets is one more incentive to migrate to the electric vehicle. Without forgetting the least noise pollution, as its propulsion is almost silent.

To encourage their purchase, more and more cities offer free parking spaces exclusively for this type of vehicle and some motorways have free tolls. In addition, governments approve large grants for the purchase and installation of charging points (MOVALT plan) and there are reductions in the circulation tax and registration tax.

Of course, it should also be borne in mind that the electricity used to charge the batteries could come from non-renewable sources (fossil fuels or nuclear). As a solution, in countries such as Spain, where self-consumption disconnected from the electricity grid is not as frequent (or as easy), choosing electricity generated by renewable resources (hydroelectric, solar, wind) is possible by choosing 100% green marketers.

Simple example: 100 kilometres with each car

As an illustrative example, in order to calculate which type of vehicle saves the most, we are going to calculate how much it costs to cover 100 kilometres with an approximate average consumption.

We will ignore the cost of acquisition and the deterioration resulting from its use. In order to homogenise the data, we only consider electricity consumption for plug-in hybrids (PHEV) and extended-range hybrids (REEV).

With the parameters established in the example we see that with the electric car or hybrid in electricity consumption the cost for 100 kilometers is the lowest of the four alternatives.

A type of car for every saver

No matter how many calculations we make, the reality is that every saver must consider what is the most efficient way to get around, once public transport has been ruled out.

The consumption figures provided by car manufacturers are only calculations made on predetermined driving models. The way each person drives drastically influences these figures, which are still an approximation or average of consumption on the road, in the city or combined.

On the basis of the initial outlay, a diesel or petrol model already consolidated in the market will be cheaper than an electric or hybrid model. However, the MOVALT plan aid greatly reduces the extra cost of choosing an alternative fuel.

In spite of their theoretical savings, their reduced autonomy and dependence on the electrical network of the BEV (100% electrical) will not be the choice of many families. It will be for those who only use the car for short daily journeys. Another negative point is that normal charging requires 6-9 hours, and fast charging points are still scarce in cities.

And when range is the main drawback, then the solution may be to extend it through hybrid, plug-in or extended range hybrids. This option will reduce savings due to its high price and by combining the use of traditional fuels.

Although the breakdowns and maintenance required for an electric car promise to be less than those of traditional fuel, the truth is that the batteries have an estimated life of 5 to 8 years and its replacement easily exceeds 5,000 euros. Being a relatively modern technology, any inconvenience will force us to go to the workshop of the brand, without alternatives of lower prices.

The gas vehicles, or those that combine gasoline and gas, represent a saving in fuel, but they subtract space of storage to the trunk and they require points of refueling of gas near, not very frequent.

And, as a final conclusion, it should be pointed out that if we opt for an electric vehicle, even if it is more efficient, the savings will be conditioned by the price of the kWh of our electricity bill, unless we have space at home to install photovoltaic solar panels, the installation of which would mean another outlay to transfer to the cost of driving our new electric car.