2022 Kia Sorento PHEV in front of Seattle Public Library
Justin Hart's picture

2022 Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid fuel cost per mile: 5 cents, so far

I bought a 2022 Kia Sorento because I wanted an SUV large enough to haul up to 6 family and friends along with our stuff. My Sorento also happens to be a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), because I know my 3 row SUV’s ability to travel 32+ miles on a full charge means I will be able to cover the majority of the miles I drive on electricity, and burning less gas matters.

Another reason I bought a Sorento PHEV was the price. I could have purchased a Volvo XC90 Recharge or a Tesla Model X (or even a 3 row Model Y, which would have been a good deal smaller), but all of those cost a lot more and I already own an EV which I actually drive more frequently. Our SUV is our 2nd vehicle, intended for family camping trips and other road trips where we need to carry a lot of gear or treasure (yes, we’re pirates… well, actually just wine collectors, but tomato, toma-toh).

Because I am a data nerd and a spreadsheet jockey, I have kept track of the energy consumption and fuel efficiency of every plug-in vehicle I have owned for the last 11 years. This includes a 2011 Nissan LEAF, a 2017 Chevy Volt, a 2018 Tesla Model 3, and now the 2022 Sorento PHEV (I no longer own the first two). I put about 1,000 miles on my Sorento (would have been a good deal more but it was hardly driven the last 5 months while I waited on a replacement for a busted out window), and will soon be taking multiple longer road trips. I’ll also do a lot of shorter trips to the lakes and local wine country during what will hopefully be a summer full of outdoor activities and socializing.

As I get ready to do so, I compared data I collected over the last 11 years and found something striking about this relatively large, heavy, and hardly aerodynamic Sorento PHEV: my cost per mile for fuel (gasoline and electricity combined) is only 5 cents so far! For comparison, my Nissan LEAF EV had about a 2 cent per mile fuel cost after almost 70k miles, my Chevy Volt PHEV and Tesla Model 3 EV both have about a 3 cent per mile cost (in both cases after about 32k miles). If I had purchased the most nearly equivalent non-electrified version of the 2022 Kia Sorento (with a 2.5 liter turbocharged engine averaging 24 mpg), my per mile fuel costs would have been 16 cents per mile if the average price of gas was $3.75 per gallon, or 20 cents per mile if the average cost of gas were $4.85 per gallon which is what it was earlier this week when I drove by a gas station. Since I expect to drive about 10k miles per year in my Sorento PHEV, I imagine I will save at least $1k per year in fuel costs (with an estimated 65-70% of my total mileage being in EV mode). Of course, if I take more than my planned 3-5 road trips per year in the Sorento PHEV I might end up a little lower than my estimates, but the only way I see that happening is if the other 3-5 road trips I plan to take in my EV can’t be done in it for some reason.

People reading this may want to know details behind my per mile figures. Here they are: I live in the Seattle area and electricity costs about 9 cents per kWh. According to a quick internet search for “current average gas price in Seattle WA” I get $4.90, slightly higher than the station down the street from my house earlier this week. I expect to drive about 10k miles a year, but at about 1,000 miles so far, and about 72% of that being on electricity, and at an average of 3.41 miles per kWh so far, I will extrapolate two different values for my cost of fuel, combined, and toward the end of the year revisit this to update on my actual figures.

At 65% of my miles on electricity with 3.41 miles per kWh average, I would spend about $188.71 on electricity (note this includes about 10% extra cost due to losses during charging). At 35% of my annual driving on gas, using the current average price I just looked up and 34 mpg (which is exactly what my average is when running on gas, so far), I would spend $504.41 on gas. Combined, my annual fuel bill would be $693.12, or just a hair under 7 cents per mile. Wait a minute, didn’t I just say my cost per mile was 5 cents? What gives?!?

I have only had to purchase gas once in about 1,000 miles (and used a total of 7.38 gallons so far). When I bought gas back in January, it was only $3.91 per gallon. That is why my per mile cost is currently lower. Depending on how the price of gas fluctuates, and how many trips/how far I drive on gas/electricity, my per mile cost fluctuates. I love that the PHEV gives me more control over this (as does my other vehicle, which doesn’t use any gas at all).

If only 30% of my annual driving is on gas, using the same average kWh per mile and price for gas, then my total cost for fuel would be $617.10 and my per mile price drops to just a hair over 6 cents per mile. Unless I drive fewer long trips than expected or the price of gas comes down, I expect to end up with a little higher per mile fuel price by the end of the year. But either way, I should see per mile costs that are lower than that fuel economy super star, the Toyota Prius (which would be about 9 cents per mile at $4.90 per gallon). Not bad for a vehicle that weighs about 2,500 lbs more and is a bit more brick-like than a Prius, not bad at all. Of course, your mileage may vary, but it makes me wonder, why hasn’t Toyota announced a plug-in hybrid Highlander yet? Well Toyota, what are you waiting for?

Image provided by Kia.

Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 14 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Twitter for daily KIA EV news coverage.

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