Just Fun to Drive! (and even more…)

Elon Musk
Elon Musk

A Shocking Fact Unearthed
Dan Neil and Elon Musk, speaking in a Q&A after the debut of The Revenge of the Electric Car,” talked about the amount of electricity required to create a gallon of gas. Elon said,

[With the amount of electricity required to make gasoline], you get more miles out of an electric car than you would get out of a gasoline car. Just stop the refining of gasoline, and you have all the electricity you would ever need.”

I was surprised. I had never stopped to consider how much electricity is required to produce a gallon of gasoline. I knew a tremendous amount of water is required, but I had never considered how much electricity is used.

So, I did a little research. Jack Rickard claims it takes between 4 and 7.5 Kwh of electricity to make one gallon of gasoline. Several sources state as much as 8 Kwh. (I’m sure many factors impact this number.) This peeked the curiosity of Dan Armstrong, who wrote,

Jack inspired me to ask an authoritative source (as if he isn’t?).  The DOE.  So I emailed them, and in less than 5 business days received an answer.”

The DOE’s official answer is 6 Kwh. (Source:  Jacob Ward Program Analyst/PMF Vehicle Technologies Program Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy U.S. Department of Energy)

Building on the Facts
To drive a gasoline car that averages 22 mpg* a distance of 100 miles requires 4.5 gallons of gas. Since producing a single gallon of gas requires 6 Kwh of electricity, a gasoline powered car uses 27.27 Kwh of electricity to drive 100 miles.

For the month of May, we averaged driving exactly 4 miles per Kwh of electricity in our Leaf**. So, using the exact same amount of electricity a gasoline car uses to drive 100 miles (27.27 Kwh), our Leaf can drive 109 miles–that’s nine miles further for every 100 miles a gasoline powered car drives.

Doesn’t sound like much? Well, let’s multiply it out for a year and compare those numbers. The average American drives about 15,000 miles per year. Our Leaf could have driven 16,350 miles on that same amount of electricity. And when you consider that there are about 70,000,000+ cars on the road in this country, if all of our cars were electric, we could have driven 94.5 BILLION more miles on the amount of electricity used to create all of that gasoline! Or, to put it in more realistic terms, we would have saved a tremendous, tremendous, tremendous amount of electricity to travel silently the very same distance we normally would travel. This fact equates to far, far less air and water pollution.

But our Leaf has no tailpipe. For the month of May, we did not add 372 pounds of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, which we would have done had we driven a gasoline powered car. So driving electric uses less electricity than gas and adds none of the CO2 emissions to the atmosphere that burning gasoline adds.


  • Gasoline powered cars use more electricity to drive the same distance as an electric car. (The “but the production of electricity pollutes the air” argument just went out the window. Gasoline powered cars require more electricity per mile traveled than electric cars do!)
  • Refining gasoline also requires a tremendous amount of water (between 44 and 97 gallons of water per single gallon of gasoline produced***), another precious natural resource!
  • Gasoline powered cars add tons of CO2 emissions to the air we breathe. (Remember, our Leaf has no tailpipe. At all.)
  • Charging our Leaf with electricity that actually costs 3x the national average (because it is produced with clean natural gas) is still cheaper than buying gasoline at today’s prices.
  • Our Leaf has vastly more torque (that’s “get-up-and-go”) than a gasoline car.
  • Our Leaf has a very low center of gravity (because of the weight of the batteries under the center of the car) and therefore handles better than any car I’ve driven.
  • Our Leaf is silent. (Unexpectedly, I’ve become really annoyed with how incredibly loud gasoline powered cars are, including our hybrid!)

The Only Remaining Issue I Can See
The only problem I can see with owning an electric car: driving range. But, having said that: In the 8 months we have now owned our Leaf, the car has proven completely adequate for literally all of our day-to-day, around town driving. No, it has been much more than adequate. It’s a pleasure to drive. It’s comfortable. It has plenty of room in the passenger compartment, and the space in the hatchback area (trunk) is incredibly ample. It’s quiet–literally, totally silent. I don’t have to take the time to stop at gas stations, and plugging it in when I drive into the garage is simple and fast. But, it’s absolutely true: I can’t hop in the car and drive to Los Angeles–yet! The charging infrastructure is not here yet.

So, for the two car family, I highly recommend a Leaf and the hybrid of your choice. I suspect you will be like us and drive your Leaf vastly more than your hybrid! We hardly drive our Lexus RX450h at all. The Leaf is just fun and inexpensive to drive!

I truly anticipate that driving electric is the future of transportation. It solves so many problems. When the cell phone was first introduced, you could only talk a few minutes in a very limited number of places. People said it would never catch on. Battery technology advanced. Communications infrastructure built out. Now, we can’t imagine our lives without our cell phones. The same will happen with electric cars.

Join the revolution. Make your second car an electric car.

*In October, 2011, the average fuel economy of cars sold in the USA was 22.1 mph. (Source)

**And we live in an area with numerous, extremely steep hills! The car keeps track of all of this data.

***”It takes 1851 gallons of water to refine a barrel of crude oil. One barrel of crude oil produces 19 gallons of gasoline and 10 gallons of diesel fuel, in this respect it takes 97 gallons of water to produce a gallon of gasoline. If you combine gasoline and diesel, it takes 63 gallons of water to produce a gallon of “fuel.” A total of 42 gallons of petroleum products are produced from a barrel of crude oil, in this respect it takes 44 gallons of water to produce each gallon.” (Source)