Want fuel prices from the 1970s? Buy an EV!

I came across an interesting tweet the other day that expressed what many gasoline car drivers are feeling every day, especially with fuel prices in 2022.

As you can probably see, it shows fuel prices (and fuel types) that we haven’t seen in a long time. It shows regular fuel at 79 cents, unleaded (which was not regular at the time) at 72 cents, and premium at 92 cents. It was unclear exactly when the photo was taken, but the account is from the 1970s, so it’s a safe guess. But, these prices could be found in the 1980s, as shown by at least one answer:

However, you don’t have to go back to when the movie with that famous line (“Yippee ki-yay, mofo”) was made to see such low prices. Even if your DeLorean could only date back to the mid-1990s, you’d be able to find unleaded for as little as $0.85. It’s the cheapest fuel I personally remember seeing, as I was just a kid in the 80’s and never thought of buying gasoline. It was, however, an aberration.

But, whichever decade you want to go back to, the main point still stands. Gasoline is much more expensive than before. It’s easy to fondly think back to the days when gasoline cost less than a dollar a gallon and imagine how great it would be for today’s more fuel-efficient vehicles to run on gasoline. gasoline also cheap.

But, in the same Morpheus style, I have a question for our friends and family who still drive gas-powered cars: what if I told you that you could still get those fuel prices around 1980 in 2022, and on- of the ? A lot of people would look at me like I was crazy, suggesting some kind of scam, or trying to harbor stolen fuel.

But, there is a very real, safe and legal way to get those low fuel prices in 2022. However, you will have to do the opposite of Morpheus and Neo, and connect to the network to get it.

Some quick napkin math

As you probably guessed, this is a website that deals a lot with electric cars, so I’m going to suggest buying an electric vehicle. I know there will be reasonable objections, and I’ll get to that in a minute. But, first I have to make my point that you can get this cheap fuel today.

Let’s give the gas-powered car the benefit of the doubt and assume it gets 25 MPG. That wasn’t true in 1980 for most cars, and it still isn’t true today for many vehicles. But, I’ll go with that 25 MPG figure so no one can argue that I was biased against gasoline cars in my calculations here.

If you take 79 cents/gallon of gasoline and divide that by 25 miles, you get 3.2 cents per mile in fuel costs. This does not include any maintenance or convenience benefits for local driving. That’s just what it costs at the pump for a 25 MPG car to go a mile on 1980 fuel.

Now let’s look at my Bolt EUV. If I’m not driving hard, I get 4 miles per kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity. At home, I pay 13 cents per kWh. Take that 13 cents and divide it by 4 miles, and you arrive at a figure of 3.25 cents per mile. In car equivalent 25 MPG, that’s like getting gas for 81 cents a gallon.

Sure, we’re a long way from 2 cents, but compared to even $3/gallon of gas, that’s damn close. But, there are other benefits that more than wipe out that 2 cent difference. Before we get to that, let’s talk about the big objection that’s probably on your mind if you’re skeptical about buying an electric vehicle.

“But I can’t afford an EV!”

Yes, I understand, but it’s probably not as bad as you think.

It is absolutely true that the most exciting and talked about electric vehicles today are very expensive. The cheapest Tesla costs nearly $50,000. The same goes for the cheapest electric F-150, and the other vehicles Americans probably want are even more expensive. I know richer readers will scoff at this and say something like “let them eat cake”, but if you’re like me and can’t afford a $1000/month car payment ( and you don’t want to go for a 10 year auto loan), no amount of “but that’s pretty close to the average price of a new car” will change that.

However, there are other options.

Today, there are several interesting options for small budgets. You can get a Chevrolet Bolt EUV, a small crossover with around 250 miles of range, for less than $30,000 if you don’t want the leather seats and luxury features. The Bolt EV, a smaller sedan with a range of around 260 miles, can be had for around $26,000 (again, with cloth seats and a more basic option package). Not a GM fan? The Nissan LEAF can be purchased for around $27,000.

Cheaper is possible if you go second-hand, but you’ll have to compromise or get a plug-in hybrid. Low-end used EVs, like first-generation Nissan LEAFs and Chevy Spark EVs, can be had for $13,000 to $15,000. They can’t go very far on a charge, but they’re enough to get to and from work in most cases. Plug-in hybrids, like the Chevy Volt, can be purchased for a bit more. They only have a range of 30-50 miles, but they can also burn gas once the battery runs out.

There are a number of other used models to choose from, both short-range EVs and plug-in hybrids, but the fact is that it’s affordable for a lot more people.

I know $15,000 is too much for a lot of people, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We all have our situations, and many of us are just beginning our adult lives. There are also even cheaper options for you. Electric motorcycles, scooters, and e-bikes are even cheaper than cars and can get you a lot for as little as a few hundred dollars. It would take several articles to detail these options, but they exist. These are even cheaper to run than an electric car and could give you 1940s fuel prices (per mile).

Fuel cost per mile is not a fair comparison. Electric vehicles earn more than that.

The truth is, getting an electric vehicle you can afford and paying less per mile for fuel is just the beginning of what you can save. Skipping things like oil changes, tune-ups, and timing belts is a big money saver that further lowers your cost per mile. Plus, there’s the convenience of recharging at home. When you can wake up every morning with a full “tank” and avoid the gas station for most of your local trips, that’s not saving money, but time is money, so it really is a money saver.

So the next time you get nostalgic for the best gas prices of yesteryear, keep in mind that you can get them today by going electric.

Image courtesy of the US Department of Energy/Alternative Fuels Data Center.

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