Light-Duty Vehicle Comparison

The 2020 Transportation Annual Technology Baseline (ATB) provides current and future projections of cost and performance for select light-duty vehicles. The 2020 estimates are specifically for midsize passenger cars.

The charts on this comparison page are for either a trajectory out to 2050 or a single year showing:

  • Fuel economy, reported in miles per gallon gasoline equivalent and representing how efficiently a vehicle converts fuel during operation
  • Vehicle cost, representing an estimated cost to the consumer for purchase of a new vehicle, which includes manufacturing costs plus profit
  • Levelized cost of driving, an indicator of the cost of operation over lifetime on a per-mile basis. Includes initial costs for the vehicle, fuel costs, and, if applicable, residential charger equipment and installation. It does not include other operations or maintenance costs beyond fuel.
  • CO2e emissions, NOX emissions, SOX emissions, and PM emissions (2.5 and 10)

These charts draw from a subset of fuels documented in the Transportation ATB. The full set of data can be downloaded and explored. In addition, each individual powertrain can be explored.

Estimates are provided for multiple powertrains, including fully commercial and early commercial technologies, and all results correspond to high production volume. Each powertrain has unique features and attributes, and each offers distinct advantages and limitations.

Examples of features that influence consumer decisions but are not captured in the cost metrics on this site are:

  • The convenience of fueling (e.g., where vehicles can be charged or filled, the time that it takes to charge or fill, and the frequency with which a vehicle must be charged or filled)
  • The availability of make/models
  • The impact that advanced driving features (e.g., autonomous driving capability) would have on the cost of each powertrain.

Therefore, use caution in interpreting comparisons. No single metric is sufficient to compare the value of different powertrains for all uses. Not all estimates were developed with the same methods, making comparisons more difficult. Different powertrains are at different stages of commercialization and production volume, which influences cost and performance estimates.

Trajectory Comparison

The following chart compares fuel economy by powertrain for trajectories over time. Use the filters on the right to change the comparison metric or vehicle. Click on a scenario name in the legend to change the scenarios displayed.

The following chart compares vehicle cost by powertrain for trajectories over time. Use the filters on the right to change the comparison metric or vehicle. Click on a scenario name in the legend to change the scenarios displayed.

The following chart compares levelized cost of driving by powertrain for trajectories over time for the selected fuel. Use the filters on the right to change the comparison metric, vehicle, or fuel setting. Click on a scenario name in the legend to change the scenarios displayed.

Notes:

  • The levelized cost of driving includes initial costs for the vehicle, fuel costs, and, if applicable, residential charger equipment and installation. It does not include other operations or maintenance costs beyond fuel, or insurance.
  • The levelized cost of driving does not depict other variables that influence consumer decisions, such as convenience (e.g., fill time, frequency, and location), driving experience and consumer preference, and availability of make/models.
  • Changes over time are attributable only to projected vehicle cost and performance; the fuel cost and emissions are constant over time based on the selected fuel.
  • No single metric is sufficient to fully compare the value of different powertrains for all uses.

The following chart compares CO2e emissions by powertrain for trajectories over time for the selected fuel. Use the filters on the right to change the comparison metric, vehicle, or fuel setting. Click on a scenario name in the legend to change the scenarios displayed.

Notes:

  • Changes over time are attributable only to projected vehicle cost and performance; the fuel cost and emissions are constant over time based on the selected fuel.
  • No single metric is sufficient to fully compare the value of different powertrains for all uses.

Single-Year Comparison

The following chart compares fuel economy by powertrain for a single year. Use the filters on the right to change the comparison metric, year, or vehicle. Click on a scenario name in the legend to change the scenarios displayed. Note that differences between scenarios will be increasingly apparent in later years.

The following chart compares vehicle cost by powertrain for a single year. Use the filters on the right to change the comparison metric, year, or vehicle. Click on a scenario name in the legend to change the scenarios displayed. Note that differences between scenarios will be increasingly apparent in later years.

The following chart compares levelized cost of driving by powertrain for a single year for the selected fuel. Use the filters on the right to change the comparison metric, year, vehicle, or fuel setting. Click on a scenario name in the legend to change the scenarios displayed. Note that differences between scenarios will be increasingly apparent in later years.

Notes:

  • The levelized cost of driving includes initial costs for the vehicle, fuel costs, and, if applicable, residential charger equipment and installation. It does not include other operations or maintenance costs beyond fuel, or insurance.
  • The levelized cost of driving does not depict other variables that influence consumer decisions, such as convenience (e.g., fill time, frequency, and location), driving experience and consumer preference, and availability of make/models.
  • Changes over time are attributable only to projected vehicle cost and performance; the fuel cost and emissions are constant over time based on the selected fuel.
  • No single metric is sufficient to fully compare the value of different powertrains for all uses.

The following chart compares CO2e emissions by powertrain for a single year for the selected fuel. Use the filters on the right to change the comparison metric, year, vehicle, or fuel setting. Click on a scenario name in the legend to change the scenarios displayed. Note that differences between scenarios will be increasingly apparent in later years.

Notes:

  • Changes over time are attributable only to projected vehicle cost and performance; the fuel cost and emissions are constant over time based on the selected fuel.
  • No single metric is sufficient to fully compare the value of different powertrains for all uses.

Key Assumptions

The data and estimates presented here are based on the following key assumptions:

  • Technology advances include changes that may reduce costs or may increase costs while improving performance, which implies that costs do not always decline between less-advanced and more-advanced scenarios. However, while technology advancements that improve performance may increase vehicle cost, they may also result in a lower levelized cost of driving due to potential fuel savings.
  • The alternative fuel vehicle markets are less mature than those for internal combustion engine and hybrid electric vehicles; therefore, comparisons of these powertrains are complex. With the exception of fuel cell electric vehicles, all other powertrains depicted in the ATB are produced at high production volume today. Fuel cell electric vehicles are currently manufactured at low volumes, and are available for sale or lease in the US for approximately $58,300 or $379-$389/month. Today, the purchase or lease of the vehicle commonly includes access to hydrogen fuel for free for up to 3 years or $13,000-$15,000 (Honda 2020; Hyundai 2020; Baronas and Achtelik 2019). As production increases, greater economies of scale are expected to bring current, low-volume costs closer to the high-volume ATB trajectories. See the powertrain specific pages listed on the left (and in the Technologies drop-down menu on the top of the page) for details about trajectory estimates.
  • The Transportation ATB does not include all factors that determine the value of each vehicle technology to each user and for each application. Comparisons of the powertrain technologies presented here should be made with caution because their different attributes offer value across many dimensions with metrics that are not available here. Transportation ATB trajectories cover cost, fuel economy, and emissions, but various other factors influence vehicle adoption. For example, driving range, fueling availability and convenience, and driving experience may all affect a consumer's attitude toward a technology. For more discussion of powertrain comparisons, see National Research Council (2013), Browne et al. (2012), and Stephens et al. (2017).
  • The Transportation ATB presents estimates for a representative, single size of light-duty vehicle (midsize); we do not account for variations in make, model, and trim or for pricing incentives or geographic heterogeneity that influence prices in the market. As a result, representative values shown here may differ from specific models available on the market.
  • The assumptions about fuel economy improvements reflect adoption of lightweighting and engine efficiency technologies consistently across vehicle powertrains for a given trajectory.
  • The vehicle ranges shown represent the adjusted real-world, on-road estimated driving range. The range is based on 55% city and 45% highway driving, using the Urban Dynamometer Driving Schedule and Highway Fuel Economy Test drive cycles, respectively. For battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), this represents the all-electric (charge-depleting) range. Range can be an important determinant of cost for PHEVs, BEVs, and fuel cell electric vehicles, with longer ranges requiring higher-cost fuel storage systems (i.e., batteries or hydrogen storage tanks). Based on data from the National Household Travel Survey, 95% of U.S. vehicle trips are less than 31 miles (Oak Ridge National Laboratory 2019).
  • The fuel economy shown for the PHEV is the utility-factor-weighted average. This refers to the weighting of the fuel economy by the share of mileage powered by electricity versus the share of mileage powered by liquid fuel to calculate the average electricity and liquid fuel consumption across charge-depleting and charge-sustaining modes.
  • The levelized cost of driving (LCOD) and emissions estimates shown here are calculated with three sets of fuels: baseline fuel, lowest cost fuel, and lowest CO2e emissions fuel for each powertrain (see selected fuel pathways). Select Lowest Cost or Lowest Emissions to display those selected fuel pathways and see the respective Fuels pages for the entire set of fuels data that can be downloaded for exploration.
  • The baseline fuel and lowest cost fuel are equivalent for gasoline and diesel vehicles. Current market prices for E10 gasoline with starch ethanol and diesel are used for the baseline fuel; future prices are expected to increase with oil prices, and biofuel blends are currently estimated at higher costs, resulting in current market prices to also be the lowest cost fuel in the current Transportation ATB. For battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, the baseline fuel for electricity is based on PEV charging assumptions with the current national grid mix and electricity prices (see Electricity page). The lowest cost fuel price for electricity is only slightly lower than the baseline fuel and corresponds to the future low renewable energy penetration grid mix, which assumes lower natural gas prices. For hydrogen, technology advancements and scale are assumed to reduce hydrogen prices, therefore the baseline fuel and lowest cost fuel prices are more distinct.
  • The fuel price and emissions of the selected fuel pathways (e.g., Baseline, Lowest Cost, Lowest Emissions) are associated with a single year. Because we do not provide a time-series trajectory, here we show fuel price at a frozen level for all years so we can offer a range of fuel price values. In the levelized cost of driving and emissions charts, this approach clearly distinguishes effects of fuels from those of vehicle technologies, because fuels remain constant while vehicle technologies change over time.
  • Fuel prices include taxes for all fuels which are currently taxed (e.g., gasoline). We do not include taxes for fuels that are not taxed for transportation today (e.g., electricity and hydrogen).
  • See the LCOD definition for details about this calculation.
  • See the well-to-wheels emissions definition for additional discussion on the fuel and vehicle emissions.

Select Vehicle

Select Fuel Pathway

Select Year

    Year filter only applies to single-year comparison charts

References

The following references are specific to this page; for all references in this ATB, see References.

Baronas, Jean, & Achtelik, Gerhard. (2019). Joint Agency Staff Report on Assembly Bill 8: 2019 Annual Assessment of Time and Cost Needed to Attain 100 Hydrogen Refueling Stations in California. California Energy Commission. https://ww2.energy.ca.gov/2019publications/CEC-600-2019-039/CEC-600-2019-039.pdf

Browne, David, O'Mahony, Margaret, & Caulfield, Brian. (2012). How Should Barriers to Alternative Fuels and Vehicles be Classified and Potential Policies to Promote Innovative Technologies be Evaluated?. Journal of Cleaner Production, 35, 140-151.

Honda, (2020). 2020 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell. https://automobiles.honda.com/clarity-fuel-cell

Hyundai, (2020). Hyundai Nexo Fuel Cell SUV. https://www.hyundaiusa.com/nexo/index.aspx

NRC (2013). Transitions to Alternative Vehicles and Fuels. National Research Council. https://doi.org/10.17226/18264

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (2019). National Household Travel Survey. https://nhts.ornl.gov/vehicle-trips

Stephens, Thomas S., Levinson, Rebecca S., Brooker, Aaron, Liu, Changzheng, Lin, Zhenhong, Birky, Alicia, & Kontou, Eleftheria. (2017). Comparison of Vehicle Choice Models. (No. SAND2017-13044R). Argonne National Laboratory. https://doi.org/10.2172/1411851


Developed with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.