Electric vs. Gas Cars: What’s the Real Difference Between Them?

Electric vs. Gas Cars: What’s the Real Difference Between Them?

If you're budget-conscious and environmentally friendly – and you're in the market for a new vehicle – you've probably considered electric or hybrid cars. At the very least, you've done some research to see whether it's worth making the switch from gas-powered counterparts.

With a relatively new presence in the automotive industry, the current choices for electric cars are slim but growing, and adherents to this switch swear by the long-term savings. They also praise electric vehicles for their reduced carbon emissions on the road.

On the flip side, fans of gas-powered cars will say that the up-front cost of electric vehicles is too hefty. The ability to find sufficient charging stations can also be slim. Both sides are vocal in their support for their favorite ride, and both have a point about the opposition.

However, if you're torn between the two, it's crucial to know the ins and outs of the differences between electric and gas-powered cars. Should you be concerned about the downsides? Are the upsides enough?

Read on as we dive into those details here.

No items found.

Electric vs. Gas Cars: What’s the Difference?

Right away, it should be made clear that when it comes to exterior looks, there's very little difference between these two types of vehicles. Many electric cars are smaller and more modern-looking, with frame and body types favored on city roads. Beyond that, you'll be hard-pressed to tell them apart.

That said, the interior workings of EV versus gas cars are vastly different, specifically in how they generate their power. The internal combustion engine uses the heat from an ignited fuel source to keep things running with gas cars. With electric vehicles, a battery generates the vehicle's power.

Electric vehicles also come in three different flavors of battery reliance: battery-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and hybrid electric.

For battery-electric vehicles, also known as BEV vehicles, you're looking at cars that run 100 percent on the battery. That means that nothing in the car, internal or external, uses gas to power the ship. Popular models of the BEV include the Chevy Bolt, with its distinctive smooth-edged shape, the Volkswagen e-Golf, and the BMW i3, which has the benefit of being one of the earliest BEVs on the market. 

Stepping up from the BEV, you'll find the plug-in hybrid electric. The PHEV runs on a mix of gas and electric power. Its regenerative braking system allows the car to process additional energy each time it stops. Drivers can plug in the vehicle for a recharge, but you'll still need to have some fuel intake to keep things functioning. Popular models of the PHEV include the Chevy Bolt and the well-known Toyota Prius.

Finally, you'll find the hybrid electric vehicle, or HEV, which is the closest vehicle to a traditional gas-powered model as you can get. Running most of its components on gas, the HEV does have regenerative braking. Still, its fuel economy is less efficient than the all-electric just because of that gas pump reliance. 

Well-known models in this class include the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the Honda Civic Hybrid.

Electric Cars vs. Gasoline Cars: Which Has Better Fuel Economy?

Engines and fuel economy are where you'll see the next most significant difference between an electric and a gas vehicle. With gas, you'll always have less-efficient fuel stats. That's because the vehicle runs entirely on gas, and many electric cars don't. 

It's important to note that automakers of gas-powered internal combustion engines have been trying to improve their fuel economy specs over recent years to fit market trends and be more environmentally aware. As a result, options for fuel-efficient gas vehicles have never been so many. This list of the best gas mileage you can get on used cars gives a fantastic overview of those gains, and this roll call of the best fuel-efficient trucks will also help you in a pinch.

Even with these gains, gas cars will cost you more at the pumps, and the specific cost at those pumps will vary on your car's fuel capacity and the price of gas at the time of purchase. If you travel frequently, those numbers will also add up. 

On the opposite side of the spectrum, even hybrid cars with their reliance on gas will cost you less. That is because they power some of their internal components with a battery, meaning they distribute their fuel consumption more equally.

If you have a plug-in car, that gas pump price drops further. Instead of gas, you'll be paying to charge your vehicle like a laptop device. Charging stations are more affordable, with exact prices varying from state to state. 

Many people also charge their cars at home, further cutting down on their expenditure. However, this may increase your utility bills at home, too.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier (from $21,200)

 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier (from $21,200)
30-Day warranty
Free 7-day return
Free 7-day trial return
30-days warranty
No-Contact Test DrivesButton Text
No-Contact Test Drives
Shop Used Chevy Bolt
 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier (from $21,200)
30-Day warranty
Free 7-day return
Free 7-day trial return
30-days warranty
No-Contact Test Drives
No-Contact Test Drives
Shop Used Chevy Bolt

Fuel vs. Electric Cars Maintenance

Beyond the engine and fuel economy, another area where electric and gas vehicles differ is how far these engines will get you on the road.

With electric vehicles, many or all of your car's components are running on a battery. And, while this battery gives you excellent stats for fuel consumption, it can also be depleted quicker when used for multiple things at once. 

Usually, the solution to this problem would be simple. All you have to do, in theory, is recharge your car. However, the popularity of electric vehicles and the frequency of their charging stations can vary from state to state. You may find yourself in a situation where those charging stations are not too common, and if that is the case, you'll have to plan your trip ahead of time to make sure you don't run out of places to charge up. 

That's not a problem with gas-powered vehicles, where pumps are plentiful, even in remote areas.

Electric cars edge out gas vehicles on the maintenance end, as they have fewer components that require regular upkeep. That's is not to say they don't exist, because after all, you'll still need to check your brakes and do tire changes. Other repairs like oil changes, however, are few and far between, if applicable.

2014 BMW i3 Base w/Range Extender (from $18,950)

 2014 BMW i3 Base w/Range Extender (from $18,950)
30-Day warranty
Free 7-day return
Free 7-day trial return
30-days warranty
No-Contact Test Drives
No-Contact Test Drives
Shop Used BMW i3
 2014 BMW i3 Base w/Range Extender (from $18,950)
30-Day warranty
Free 7-day return
Free 7-day trial return
30-days warranty
No-Contact Test Drives
No-Contact Test Drives
Shop Used BMW i3

Should I Buy a Gas or Electric Car? The Final Verdict

Now that we’ve gone through the differences between gas and electric cars, how do they stack up?

Does the critique that electric cars are too expensive hold true?

When it comes to the variety in what you can buy, gas vehicles still win. Overall, you pay a steeper up-front price for electric cars, and finding charging stations can become an issue. However, they have an excellent fuel economy. They make up for their early costs by being less expensive in the long run, too. 

Also, if you buy an earlier model of an electric car, you can get it at a reduced price. Doing so allows you to be environmentally friendly while not breaking the bank. Shift can help you shop for these earlier models online, where you’re offered the best-in-class service contracts at a fair price without all the sales pressure that comes at the typical traditional car dealer. You’ll also get the excellent price and value of a used car, with the bumper-to-bumper protection of a new one. 

If you want to read further on switching to electric, check out the best electric cars to buy used in 2021. For other makes and models to choose from, consider reading up on the best electric SUVs, too.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE (from $24,500)

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE (from $24,500)
30-Day warranty
Free 7-day returns
Free 7-day trial return
30-days warranty
No-Contact Test Drives
No-Contact Test Drives
Shop Used Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE (from $24,500)
30-Day warranty
Free 7-day return
Free 7-day trial return
30-days warranty
No-Contact Test Drives
No-Contact Test Drives
Shop Used Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

No items found.

No items found.

No items found.

Author
Shift Editorial Team