Electric vehicles (EVs) versus traditional gasoline-powered cars

Debunking the Myth: Gasoline Cars Use about the Same Amount of Electricity as Electric Ones


9/8/20233 min read

Debunking the Myth: Gasoline Cars Use about the Same Amount of Electricity as Electric Ones


In the rapidly evolving landscape of automotive technology, the debate surrounding electric vehicles (EVs) versus traditional gasoline-powered cars remains a hot topic. One persistent misconception is the belief that gasoline cars consume a similar amount of electricity as their electric counterparts. However, this notion is misleading and warrants a closer examination. In this article, we will delve into the energy consumption of both gasoline and electric vehicles, dispelling the myth and shedding light on the true differences.

Fuel Consumption in Gasoline-Powered Cars

Gasoline cars rely on internal combustion engines (ICE) that burn fossil fuels to generate power. The energy from combustion is harnessed to propel the vehicle forward. This process is inherently inefficient, with a significant portion of the energy lost as heat. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, only about 12-30% of the energy from gasoline is used to move the car, depending on factors like driving conditions, engine efficiency, and transmission.

Furthermore, the energy consumption of gasoline cars extends beyond the fuel burned in the engine. The extraction, refining, and transportation of petroleum also require substantial energy inputs, contributing to the overall energy footprint of a conventional vehicle.

Electric Vehicles and Their Energy Efficiency

Electric vehicles, on the other hand, operate on a fundamentally different principle. They utilize electric motors powered by electricity stored in a battery pack. This leads to a more direct and efficient conversion of energy into motion. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, EVs convert about 77-82% of electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels. This is a substantial improvement over the efficiency of gasoline cars.

It's important to note that the energy losses in an electric vehicle primarily occur during the charging process and the transformation of electricity in the power grid. These losses are typically around 10-20%, depending on the charging method and grid efficiency.

The Charging Process: Comparing Apples to Oranges

One of the main factors contributing to the myth that gasoline cars use a similar amount of electricity as electric ones is the misunderstanding of how charging works. Gasoline cars and electric vehicles do not draw energy from the same source. Gasoline cars rely on liquid fuel that is stored in a tank and burned on demand, while electric vehicles rely on a charged battery pack.

To compare the energy consumption accurately, it's essential to consider the source of electricity for EVs. If the electricity used to charge an electric vehicle comes from a coal-fired power plant, it may indeed have a higher carbon footprint compared to some gasoline-powered vehicles. However, as the global energy grid continues to transition towards renewable sources, this comparison becomes less relevant.

The Transition to Renewable Energy

A key advantage of electric vehicles is their potential to be powered by renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. As the world moves towards a greener energy infrastructure, the emissions associated with charging EVs are expected to decrease significantly. This transition not only reduces the carbon footprint of electric vehicles but also makes them more environmentally sustainable compared to their gasoline-powered counterparts.

Lifecycle Analysis: A Comprehensive Perspective

To truly understand the environmental impact of a vehicle, it is crucial to consider its entire lifecycle, including manufacturing, operation, and disposal. Studies have consistently shown that, even when accounting for the production of batteries and the emissions associated with electricity generation, electric vehicles tend to have lower lifecycle emissions compared to gasoline cars.


In conclusion, the notion that gasoline cars use about the same amount of electricity as electric ones is a misconception rooted in a misunderstanding of how these vehicles operate. Gasoline cars rely on inefficient combustion engines, while electric vehicles harness electricity to power efficient electric motors. When considering the energy conversion efficiency, as well as the potential to transition to renewable energy sources, it becomes clear that electric vehicles offer a more sustainable and energy-efficient alternative to traditional gasoline-powered cars. As we continue to advance technologically and transition towards cleaner energy sources, the benefits of electric vehicles will only become more pronounced, solidifying their role in shaping a sustainable future for transportation.