Electric cars are the future, of course. But what about the present? Our 10,000 mile road trip to find the best mobile network in the US gave us a unique chance to compare electric, gas and hybrid cars in a fuel showdown. We rented all three varieties of cars from Hertz, which has libraries of hybrid and electric vehicles in dozens of locations across the United States.
Our test map for the EV route of the best mobile networks (Image: Sascha Segan)
As our Tesla Model 3 roamed the western part of the country, we drove 1,400 miles through Georgia and Florida in a 2021 Hyundai Ioniq hybrid, and the rest of our trip in gas-powered cars. Here are three surprising facts we discovered about feeding our three varieties of cars:
1. The long-range Tesla may have better range than some gas-powered cars
Many electric cars have a short range, but not the Tesla Model 3 Long Range.
The Tesla’s range approached that of our 2022 Toyota Camry, which scored 28.4 mpg for our trip, and therefore a range of 448 miles in its 15.8-gallon tank. It closely matched our 2022 Chevy Malibu, which got 27.8 mpg and therefore a range of 439 miles, but both trailed our Hyundai hybrid, which managed 50.5 mpg and a range of 595 miles.
That said, we charged the Tesla more often than necessary due to range anxiety. Of the 21 charges for which we recorded data, five of them started with a battery over 50% – the drivers were just recharging a battery that was already half full. Obviously our drivers were a bit worried about finding chargers in convenient locations or having time to charge when they needed to.
2. Charging isn’t that hard (but it’s harder than refueling)
Our drivers had no trouble finding chargers, although they had to search for them using an app. We’ve loaded at 35 locations, from the city of Los Angeles to remote parts of Idaho and Utah.
Tesla’s Supercharger system was absolutely essential to continuing our road trip. A Supercharger would add 15% in about 12 or 13 minutes, and 76% in 47 minutes. Compare that to the CCS charger we encountered in Pasco, WA, which gave us a 15% charge in two hours, or the Chargepoint charger in Seattle which managed 7% in an hour and 18 minutes.
A Tesla Supercharger station in Beaver, Utah (Photo: Chloe Albanesius)
Overall, we saw an average charge of 2.6% per minute on the most powerful 250kW superchargers; 1.4% per minute on other Superchargers; and 0.1% per minute on standard chargers.
If you can’t find a Supercharger, it’s best to find a place to plug in overnight. We had recharge spots at some hotels on our trip, but not all, and best of all, it’s usually free. Our hotel in Crescent City, CA, the Anchor Beach Inn, had 32 amp CCS chargers that allowed us to boost our Tesla battery by 70%…although it took about 10 hours.
And of course, there are still many more gas stations than electric vehicle charging stations, and you can fill up a car in about five minutes – 10, if you buy Doritos. And gas stations are more visible. Again, you need a dedicated app like ChargePoint or PlugShare to easily locate charging stations.
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3. You don’t save a lot of money down the road, even with very high gas prices
Gas costs an average of $4.86 per gallon in the United States at the time of this writing. That’s high for the US, although prices are generally higher in many other countries.
We got pricing details for 13 of our Tesla Superchargers, and overall they averaged $9.38 per 100 miles when calculated against the reported range of 358 miles from You’re here.
It’s cheaper than gas-powered cars, but not by much. Gas-powered cars cost between $14.50 and $15.44 per 100 miles. Our Hyundai Ioniq hybrid ran $9.72 per 100 miles, even with gas prices averaging $4.90 on its leg, thanks to its effective 50.5 mpg.
So when it comes to the great debate between electricity and gas, it turns out that there is no clear winner.
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