Showdown: Gas vs. EV

Roberto Orozco inspects an engine in Los Angeles, Calif., on April 4, 2024. Photo by Ashley Shellmire

Roberto Orozco is no stranger to gas vehicles, but when he stepped into a Tesla for the first time it felt like going into a new world, like something from a video game. He was caught off guard by the electric vehicle’s silent motor and soft mattress-like seats.

Orozco is a part-time intern at the Los Angeles East YouthSource Center while he strives to become a mechanic. To be successful, he has to get familiar with both gas and electric vehicles.

Last year, traditional internal combustion vehicles accounted for 84% of total passenger vehicle sales in the United States, the lowest-ever share, according to Canary Media. Meanwhile, sales of fully electric vehicles are climbing to new heights.

And although Orozco loves gas vehicles, he is open to change.

“If gasoline engines were not to be in production anymore, I would not mind driving an electric car,”  he said.

Pierce College Industrial Technology Department Chair Alex Villata believes that the transition away from gas-powered cars is bound to happen in the future.

“The government, by 2050 they are pushing all the manufacturers to sell all-electric vehicles,” he said. “Not having any internal combustion engines for sale, a lot of people don’t like the idea, but there are a lot of benefits from having electric vehicles.”

But Villata said one problem is that charging estimations are not accurate.

“Let’s say my Tesla, if I plan a trip of 300 miles, I’m not going to make it,” Villalta said.  “And the reason why is because those ranges are being registered under a controlled environment, and it’s not counting the stereo being on, the heater, the wipers, and if you’re in stop-and-go traffic, which is applying more load to the system.”

However, the mileage inconsistency applies to gas vehicles as well.

“With a gas car, the mileage is inaccurate depending on how you drive it, whether it’s speeding or stomping onto the gas pedal,” Orozco said.

The difference, however, is that currently there are many more gas stations than places to charge an EV.

In August 2019, Los Angeles County released a regional sustainability plan that would lead to the installation of 5,000 EV charging stations by 2025, according to the Internal Services Department.

California has led the way in producing electric charging stations. In May 2023, California reportedly had more than four times as many charging stations as New York, according to Statista.

Even with the increase in EV charging options, time remains a factor. 

“Technology has started to change now that they have fast chargers called superchargers,” Villalta said.  “A supercharger can charge your vehicle within 20 to 25 minutes. But, if you go to a gas station, you can fill up your car in two minutes.”

Cost for maintenance leans in favor of the EV, as gas cars have more parts that need maintenance.

“With electric vehicles, you don’t do oil changes, you don’t do brakes as you do with a regular car, you don’t change fluid filters, you don’t have to do transmission flushes,” Villalto explained.  “There are just so many savings that people don’t see.”

 Also, electric cars can go for years before needing a mechanic.

“Electric cars can last up to 10 years before the battery needs to be changed,” said Axel Osanya, a window tinter at Tint My Ride. “But an electric battery can cost from anywhere between $5,000 to $20,000 to replace.”

On average, EV owners can expect to pay around $4,600 on lifetime regular maintenance and repair costs, as compared to the $9,200 to maintain a gas car, according to Lectron, an EV manufacturing website.

 The price of electricity is also much less than gasoline.

If you calculate the average of all Tesla Models, it costs $614.95 to charge per year. In comparison, gas cars cost an average of $1,850.42 to fuel per year, according to Energysage, a website comparing clean home energy solutions

In terms of everyday use, each car has its positives and negatives.

“I have been in a few situations where you’re running out of charge and you start to get this anxiety because you don’t know where you’re going to charge and you don’t know if the car is going to break down,” Villata said. “It comes down to planning your day.”

Electric vehicles will account for 62% to 86% of global sales by 2030, according to RMI, which is why, Villalta said, regardless of what some people want, the change is coming. 

“People will be more prone to actually driving a fully electric vehicle,” Villalta said. “The reality is that it is inevitable, and we can’t live on fossil fuel forever.”