The Evelo Blog

The Power of $1 for Transportation

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A single dollar bill can take you a mile or it can take you 600 of them. The difference is in how fast or slow you travel, the purpose of your trip, and how much work you have to put into the journey.

Here are a couple of examples.

Recently, I took an Uber from a semi-rural community west of Boise, Idaho some 22 miles to a modern and popular shopping area called The Village. The drive took about 30 minutes in a silver Dodge Grand Caravan. It cost me some idle conversation and a little more than $37.00.

That same week, I took my EVELO Galaxy TT electric bike on a meandering December ride. I crossed over a set of railroad tracks (it was in the 40s and clear so they weren’t too slippery); stopped at a lonely thrift store with lots of small glass figurines that reminded me of Michael Rooker’s character from the Guardians of the Galaxy; and went into a pub to warm my hands. The journey (stops included) took a couple of hours and cost me much less than a dollar for the electricity that helped to power my electric bike.

I mention these two trips because they represent two transportation extremes in terms of cost. And, perhaps, they can set the stage for our premise. How far can you travel for one dollar in fuel?

In 2014, EVELO published its first article about the power of $1. That post compared six modes of transportation and looked at the relative energy cost (fuel cost) for each mode.

Mode of TravelEnergy SourceDistance Traveled
Car1/4 of a gallon of gas5 miles
Public TransitAbout 2/5 of a fare (NYC)6 miles
Motorcycle1/4 of a gallon of gas12.5 miles
Hybrid Car1/4 of a gallon of gas13.5 miles
Scooter1/4 of a gallon of gas21 miles
EVELO Electric Bicycle13 recharges200-500 miles

 

The original electric bike data came from EVELO co-founder, Boris Mordkovich, who took a pair of electric bicycles across the United States in 2012. Mordkovich’s journey started in New York City and covered 4,000 miles over two months en route to San Francisco. Mordkovish averaged 250-to-500 miles per change during the ride.

What follows is an update of this data.

$1 Will Take You 9 Miles in an Automobile

For more than five decades, the American Automobile Association (AAA) or “Triple A,” has been reporting the cost of owning an automobile in the United States. The AAA’s assessment includes the average fuel cost per mile. In 2018, cars and trucks typically cost about 11.05 cents per mile for fuel. Put another way, the average automobile will go about 9.04 miles for one dollar.

Mode of TravelHow Far You Can Go for $1 in Fuel
Average Car9.04 miles

 

Some American drivers can do much better. The 11.05 cents per mile cost described above is an average fuel cost across all automobile types. If an automobile owner chooses to drive a more efficient car, the cost can be considerably less. Here is a break down for the nine automobile categories the AAA considered.

Mode of TravelHow Far You Can Go for $1 in Fuel
Average Car9.04 miles
Small Sedan12.48 miles
Medium Sedan10.89 miles
Large Sedan8.2 miles
Small SUV (FWD)10.96 miles
Medium SUV (4WD)8.04 miles
Minivan8.42 miles
1/2 ton Pickup (4WD)6.64 miles
Hybrid Automobile17.54 miles
Electric Automobile22.17 miles

 

$1 Will Take You About 23 Miles on a Motorcycle

The AAA data gave us a great start for automobiles, but as we look at motorcycles, we are going to need to do a little work on our own.

First, the U.S. national average selling price for gasoline was $2.32 per gallon the week of December 24, 2018, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. We can use that number for our fuel cost.

Second, we need a model for our miles per gallon estimates. For this, I used a 2019 Honda CB650R, which gets about 53 miles to the gallon. With a little math, we learn that each mile costs about 4.37 cents on a motorcycle.

$2.32 ÷ 53 = 0.0437

 

When we divide our $1 (100 cents) by the 4.37 cent average, we find that a motorcycle can take us about 22.88 miles for $1.

 

Mode of TravelHow Far You Can Go for $1 in Fuel
Average Car9.04 miles
Small Sedan12.48 miles
Medium Sedan10.89 miles
Large Sedan8.2 miles
Small SUV (FWD)10.96 miles
Medium SUV (4WD)8.04 miles
Minivan8.42 miles
1/2 ton Pickup (4WD)6.64 miles
Hybrid Automobile17.54 miles
Electric Automobile22.17 miles
Motorcycle22.88 miles

 

$1 Will Take You About 43 Miles on a Scooter

Using a similar method, I estimated how far a buck would take you on a 2019 Vespa Primavera 150cc scooter averaging 98 miles to the gallon.

$2.32 ÷ 98 = 0.0237

 

At a mere 2.37 cents per mile, a fun-to-ride 150cc scooter like the Vespa Primavera would take you about 43.1 miles for just a dollar in fuel.

 

Mode of TravelHow Far You Can Go for $1 in Fuel
Average Car9.04 miles
Small Sedan12.48 miles
Medium Sedan10.89 miles
Large Sedan8.2 miles
Small SUV (FWD)10.96 miles
Medium SUV (4WD)8.04 miles
Minivan8.42 miles
1/2 ton Pickup (4WD)6.64 miles
Hybrid Automobile17.54 miles
Electric Automobile22.17 miles
Motorcycle22.88 miles
Scooter43.1 miles

 

$1 Will Take you 628 Miles on an Electric Bike

The final mode of transportation to consider is an electric bike.

“An electric bicycle is, first and foremost, a bicycle. It uses the same designs, geometries, and components as any other bicycle, but also includes an added electric motor, fueled by a rechargeable battery, which gives riders an extra boost of power, ultimately providing a smoother, more convenient, and less strenuous cycling experience” according to “The Complete Electric Bike Buyer’s Guide.”

We have two considerations when it comes to estimating how far a single dollar will take you on an electric bike. First, the “fuel” is electricity stored in a battery, so we need to estimate how much electricity it takes to charge an electric bike battery. Next, the range for an electric bike can be tricky to estimate, since the rider can pedal, extending how far the electric bike will go.

Calculate Electric Bike Battery Capacity in Watt Hours

To help determine how much energy it takes to charge an electric bike, let’s consider the EVELO Delta X. It uses a 48 volt, 11.6 amp hour Samsung battery with an estimated range of about 45 miles.

The cost of electricity in the United States is typically measured in cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), so we need to figure out the Delta X battery’s power in watts by multiplying its volts by its amp hours.

48 volts X 11.6 amp hours = 556.8 watt-hours (Wh)

 

Thus, the battery will hold a little more than half of a kWh on a single charge.

In October 2018, the average cost of a kWh of electricity was 12.87 cents in the United States, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

To figure out how much it would cost to charge the Delta X battery, we first divide 12.87 cents by 1,000 watt-hours (a kWh is 1,000 Wh). Then we multiply the result by the battery’s 556.8 watt-hour potential.

12.87 cents / 1,000 watt hours X 556.8 watt hours = 7.16 cents

 

It costs 7.16 cents to completely charge the Delta X battery.

Estimating Electric Bike Range

As a company, EVELO sells class 2 electric bikes that feature both pedal assistance and a throttle.

These bikes are among the best choices for transportation since they allow you to pedal as much as you like, without leaving you worn out or forcing you to arrive at work sweaty and frumpy looking.

A class 2 electric bike’s range can also vary greatly.

At the beginning of this article, I told you about a short December trip I took on my EVELO Galaxy TT. It was a purely recreational ride. I had the bike’s pedal assist level set to five, meaning my electric bike was giving me a significant amount of help as it proportionally added power to each pedal stroke.

At one point in the ride, I was ascending a relatively steep incline, so I applied the throttle. My range would have been significantly different than someone riding a similar bike with relatively less pedal assistance or without using the throttle.

Consider this electric bike testimonial from EVELO customer Steve Brown.

“They do a Georgia Century Ride here where they actually close Georgia 400 down, which is a major expressway,” Brown said. “You get to choose from a nine-mile ride, a 22-mile ride, a 45-mile ride, a 62-mile ride, or a hundred-mile ride, and I did the 62-mile ride on the Delta and still had battery juice left over because I did a lot of the work myself because I wanted a really good workout.”

Here is the point, for our comparison, we will use the Delta X’s specified range of 45 miles, which is based on using an average level of pedal assist over average terrain. But we need to remember that an electric bike’s range varies greatly. Brown could have gone far further than 45 miles on a single charge if he pedaled as he did for the Georgia Century Ride, but I might not have gone as far.

Establishing the Cost Per Mile for an Electric Bike

So far we know that it costs about 7.16 cents to charge the electric bike and that the bike will travel about 45 miles per charge. Thus, to get a cost per mile, we need to divide 7.16 cents by 45.

$0.0716 ÷ 45 = 0.00159

 

This calculation gives us a figure of 0.159 cents per mile, meaning an electric bike will take you approximately 628.93 miles.

Mode of TravelHow Far You Can Go for $1 in Fuel
Average Car9.04 miles
Small Sedan12.48 miles
Medium Sedan10.89 miles
Large Sedan8.2 miles
Small SUV (FWD)10.96 miles
Medium SUV (4WD)8.04 miles
Minivan8.42 miles
1/2 ton Pickup (4WD)6.64 miles
Hybrid Automobile17.54 miles
Electric Automobile22.17 miles
Motorcycle22.88 miles
Scooter43.1 miles
Electric Bike628.93 miles

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