2022 Kia Sorento plug-in hybrid with surf board on roof
Justin Hart's picture

Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid Fuel Cost Per Mile Revised: After Road Trips

Back in March, before I got a busted window replaced in my Kia Sorento plug-in hybrid (PHEV), I hadn’t taken many long drives and as a result had a stellar per mile fuel cost for the first 1,000 or so miles I drove. That cost was 5 cents per mile combined (gas and electric). But now I have taken multiple long road trips and it's time to update my figures.

Since I wrote about my per mile cost in late March, I have driven a little over 2,500 miles in our Sorento PHEV, primarily on 3 different road trips to the Oregon Coast, Washington wine country, and to a resort in sunny eastern Oregon. Because the distances involved on these trips (the two longer trips were both close to 1,000 miles total), a majority of the miles we put on the vehicle were in hybrid mode, which means we were using gasoline. On all of the trips I was able to plug in at some of the places we stayed or visited and do a good portion of our local miles on battery only, but following those 3 road trips our per mile fuel costs changed, as we might expect. Here’s how they changed, and note I use an estimated average price for gas based on what we pay at fill ups, but of course that’s just an estimate and includes some best guesses (my margin for error is 5% or so).

First, before we started taking road trips, more than 70% of our miles driven were on electricity, mostly on trips of less than 40 miles. After adding over 2,500 miles, mostly from long highway drives on the road trips, our electric only percentage dropped to a little over 46%. We used almost 43 gallons of gas in the last two months (April and May). I estimated the average gasoline cost per mile for these two months to be $4.67 per gallon based on my notes at each of our stops for gas. This means we have an estimated total gas cost of $200.81 for these 2 months. My calculated cost of gas per mile was about 12.5 cents for the last two months. My calculated cost of electric only miles (including the approximately 100 kWh of free, to us, electricity we got while on our trips at the same 9 cent per kWh price we would have paid at home) was just a hair over 3 cents per mile. If I didn’t count the free kWh, our actual electric per mile price would have been less than 3 cents. By blending gas and electricity per mile costs together, at present we are seeing a per mile fuel cost of around 8 cents per mile (up 60% compared to March, before we started taking longer trips).

Of course, our electric only percentage will start to creep back up as soon as we take a break from longer trips that greatly exceed the 34-40 miles of battery only range we have been getting, per charge. If I were to include our June driving to date, and estimate what the rest of our month’s usage would look like, our cumulative percentage of electric only miles would already be back around 50%. We’ll likely take a couple more longer drives over the summer, but by the time fall rolls around, we may not drive more than 50-100 miles in our PHEV on any given day for several months in a row, or at least rarely do so until sometime next year. That may get our electric only percentage back into the 70% neighborhood by the end of the year, depending. That would also mean our blended cost per mile will also go back down, though the average price of gas staying high may prevent that from getting back to 5 cents per mile. I am estimating it will be more like 6 cents per mile unless gas prices significantly improve or we don’t end up taking our Kia on any road trips longer than 100 miles for the rest of the year. That’s still excellent, if it turns out to be true. For sake of additional comparison, if I had been driving the Kia Sorento Hybrid which doesn’t plug in and gets an EPA estimated 37 mpg combined, my per mile fuel costs would be approximately double what I predict I may end up with toward the end of this year in our Sorento PHEV.

Do you tend to drive like I do, with a handful of long highway trips at certain times of the year but otherwise doing a majority of your miles on shorter drives of 50 miles or less? If so, you may be the kind of driver PHEVs are best suited for. If not, might you choose a hybrid or EV instead? Leave your questions or comments below.

Image courtesy of Justin Hart

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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