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Fed up with filling up? I am!

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Just the other day I was driving back to the city from the suburbs after visiting family, and was in a rush. Of course, when I’m running late to meet friends is when the gas light on my little Honda Civic Coupe turns on! Frustrated that I needed to stop for gas when I was already pressed for time, I started thinking… How much time have I spent filling up at gas stations? And why is this rarely quantified and noted as a benefit to owning an electric vehicle (EV) where you can plug in at home and often times at work?

So I did a little calculation based on my experience at the pump.

Assumptions:

  • It takes approximately 10 minutes to fill up my 13 gallon gas tank from empty to full—from driving up to driving away from the gas station.
  • My car is pretty efficient, so I probably only fill up once every two weeks.
  • I have owned my car since 2005, so about 9 years.

Based on these simple assumptions I calculated, over the time I’ve owned my car (9 years) I’ve spent almost two full days (~39 hours) just standing at gas stations! And if I commuted to work by car or had a less efficient car, I would use a lot more gas and that amount of time would be even larger.

As far as “time-wasted” goes, this is not a very large number, but the thing that struck me is that EVs have the opportunity to basically give that time back to me.

If I plugged in an EV at home it would take seconds, not 10 minutes. And more importantly as I’m driving down the road, splitting time between visiting the many people I care about, I’d have that little extra time with them that I wouldn’t have to spend at the gas station.

Posted in: Vehicles

About the author: Rachael Nealer is an engineer and Kendall Science Fellow exploring the lifecycle environmental impacts of advanced vehicles, specifically hybrid-electric, plug-in electric, and fuel cell vehicles. See Rachael's full bio.

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  • Chelsea

    Filling up is a pain, of course, but having the little “low battery” light flash on in your EV when you’re 25 miles from anywhere in heavy traffic, well now, that’s really a pain! Did it ever occur to you how convenient it is to have a filling station ready at hand whenever your low fuel light blazes? Where will you recharge your EV when not at home or at work (nice to have your bosses recharge your car – mine don’t refuel mine). Electric vehicles are impractical and pretentious. The perfect NIMBY accessory – plug in and a puff of black coal smoke emits from a power plant somewhere far, far away from my backyard – and right into another person’s neighborhood.

    • rnealer

      Thanks for your comment, Chelsea. You bring up some good points but these challenges for EVs also exist for gas-powered cars. First, you can just as easily run out of gas in traffic–which would be a big inconvenience. Luckily, a national EV charging network exists and is always expanding. You can find a map of the stations at http://www.plugshare.com/ So if you were in a crunch, you could stop by one of the listed locations just as you may “top off” at a gas station. And the more you drive an EV the more aware you become of the stations in your area so you don’t need to check the map each time.

      And to your other point, the processes to create gasoline also produce harmful emissions that don’t occur at the place you’re filling up (the gas station). Things like extracting the oil and refining it pollute the environment, too. However, UCS has done some work on the electricity-produced emissions from driving EVs and you can find more information in our State of Charge report: bit.ly/1uTB4fz The report also has some information about the steps you can take to purchase green energy through your electricity provider, if you are concerned about the pollution coming from power plants.

      Hope this is helpful. And thanks again for the comment!

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