Plugs vs. Pumps: The costs of electric cars vs. gasoline cars

CAA Auto Advice December 06, 2019
Red car with a gasoline pump and a yellow car with an electric charger.

Vehicles powered by electrons are no longer being relegated to the fringe. Where they were once little more than science projects, all-electric cars are now a viable alternative for a certain segment of people in certain parts of the country.

Gas stations are abundant and, technically, so are electrical outlets. However, not all plug-in points are created equal, meaning EV pilots may have to plan their route a bit more carefully than their gas counterparts. 

The good news? Advancements in battery technology have greatly increased the distance electric cars can travel on a single charge, meaning range anxiety is very nearly a thing of the past.

Canadians are buying more EVs than ever, with more battery-powered cars sold last year than the previous two years combined. This leaves us to answer a question: what’s better – electric or gas? 

As with all big financial decisions, the answer starts with a bit of math. Earlier this year, Transport Canada announced a $5,000 maximum incentive for customers who buy or sign a 48-month lease on an all-electric car. EVs with a battery size equal to or above 15kWh qualify for the full incentive, cars with a smaller battery capacity (or shorter lease term) qualify for smaller inventive amounts.

For simplicity, let’s examine a single EV model that has a rough equivalent with a gasoline engine: the Volkswagen Golf and e-Golf. Both are 2019 models in Comfortline trim and pricing is accurate as of this writing. Financing is based on 60-month terms and leasing is based on a standard-kilometre 48 month agreements and include Ontario taxes.

The math of the matter.


The e-Golf Comfortline retails for $36,720 and can be leased for $708/mo or purchased for $747/mo including the $5,000 incentive. Compare that to a $22,500 gasoline-powered Golf Comfortline with a manual transmission at a $357/mo lease or $483/mo finance.

On the surface then, it seems that going electric costs much more per month, a sum which is no small amount of money. This is where mathematics comes into play. 

The e-Golf has an advertised range of 201km and a 35kWh capacity battery. Assuming one charges their VW overnight at the off-peak electric rate of 8.7c/kWh, a fill-up will cost $3.05. A gasoline powered Golf is rated by nrCan at 7.4L/100km in combined driving conditions meaning, with gasoline at $1.20/L, it would cost $17.76 to travel the same distance. 

This means a person driving 20,000 km per year would annually spend about $300 on electricity or $1,800 in gasoline. Dividing that difference by 12 teaches us the EV driver saves about $125 per month in fuel costs. Factor in the EV’s lack of oil changes, plus the ability to charge up for free at certain places, and suddenly the math starts to make a bit of sense.

CAA Auto Advice.

It remains an excellent idea to do your homework before signing on the dotted line, of course, and that’s where CAA can help. As the leader in automotive information, we are well equipped to help you crunch the numbers on the path to making a good decision. Members can give our CAA Auto Advice experts a call toll-free at: 1-866-464-6448 or email us at: autoadvice@caasco.ca.

Written by: Matthew Guy.