TomTom Traffic Index headlines: 2022’s traffic insights and the cost-of-driving
Just as the coronavirus pandemic faded into memory, new challenges thrust themselves upon the world. War in Ukraine, a looming recession, market unease and the subsequent cost-of-living crisis. Continued uncertainty is bleeding onto our roads and making it more expensive to refuel our vehicles, deliver goods and move about our cities. TomTom’s Traffic Index, now more detailed than ever, shows us the full story. Here's what we learned.
A new methodology brings more detail than ever
This year, TomTom has calculated travel times, the environmental impact of traffic and the cost of driving for petrol, diesel and electric vehicles. It’s also organized the data by inner city traffic and the wider metropolitan area that considers the rest of a city. Diving into the data, you’ve got more options than ever to understand the impact of traffic in your city.Experiment with the slider and toggle switches to see how traffic manifests in your city. Above are figures for London, U.K., it’s the slowest city in the world, but that’s not just because of traffic. It’s slow in optimal conditions. Knowing these differences allow us to see the impact of not only traffic, but also infrastructure, speed limits and other factors that might otherwise be overlooked.
So, how did TomTom do it?
In simple terms, the company took a robust sample of GPS traces from more than 380 cities around the world and cut all the journeys into sections. Travel times for each of these segments were calculated. TomTom then used these insights to simulate a typical driver who undertakes a 10 km commute each day, for a year. Doing so makes the complex data easier to understand and creates a consistent platform to compare city to city.
All figures cited and shared in this article are based around this 10 km typical journey.
To read the full methodology, click here. Now, let’s dive into some data.
Diesel and gasoline drivers feel the financial pinch
At the start of 2022, diesel and gasoline prices started to increase. Spurred on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions placed on Russian oil, prices remained high for most of the year. This had a clear impact on the cost of driving, around the world.
The global average cost for filling up your petrol car in 2022 was 27% higher than in 2021. For diesel drivers, it was 48% more expensive.
United States of America
Across the United States, on average, the cost of driving petrol or diesel for a typical 10 km inner-city trip went up, by 23% and 56%, respectively, compared to the previous year.
For EV drivers relying on DC fast chargers, the cost of driving only went up by 1%, year-on-year. That doesn’t sound so bad, but that’s not the whole story.
Charging by fast charger in the U.S. is expensive. In some cities like San Francisco and Seattle, it’s more expensive than petrol or diesel — even when fuel prices are at their peak. Worse still, the charging network in the North American nation is in a sorry state. A recent study by JD Power revealed that one in five U.S. EV drivers experiences problems with public chargers and is unable to charge. The number of these cases is rising steadily too.Broken EV chargers. Unable to power your electric car. Frustration. Sights like these have become too common a reality for a lot of U.S. EV drivers.
Charging EVs by slower alternating current (AC) remained the cheapest way to power a vehicle and was relatively unaffected by rising energy costs.
In the U.S., the recommendation goes: charge at home, favor AC charging. Fleet operators and logistics firms should absolutely install chargers on site and at their delivery hubs.
Across the pond, the situation was the same for drivers of fossil fuel vehicles, however EV drivers, especially those that rely on fast chargers felt the financial crunch as well.
Drivers of petrol vehicles across Europe saw the cost of a typical 10 km inner city journey increase by 22%. For diesel drivers it was 40%.
However, the data needed to compute an accurate average cost of driving an EV is incredibly hard to source for Europe. The data for 2021 that does exist isn’t reliable or transparent enough to give a robust picture of how costs of charging an EV have changed.
TomTom does have the numbers for how much the average EV driver paid on AC and DC charging for 2022, though.
Across Europe, the average EV driver (driving 10,000 km a year) spent $1,245 (€1,166) refueling at fast chargers. For those that favor slow charging costs were significantly lower at $732 (€685).
Petrol and diesel drivers paid an average of $1,407 (€1,308) and $1,211 (€1,302), respectively, based on 10,000 km of driving per year.
The United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, petrol drivers paid $1,436 to cover 10,000 inner city kilometers over the year, 29% more than they did in 2021. Diesel drivers paid $1,410 to drive 10,000 km in 2022, 34% more than the previous year.
In the U.K., the cost to run an EV is slightly higher than the rest of Europe. For those that use fast chargers, it’s nearly as expensive as fossil fuel.
The U.K.’s average fast-charging EV driver spent $1,285 (€1,203) to cover 10,000 km in 2022. On AC slow chargers, the same driver would have spent nearly half as much, paying $784 (€735) for the year.
Historically, driving an EV in the U.K. has been cheaper than driving a combustion engine vehicle. But in 2022, that began to change and the allure of the low running costs of EVs lessened.
EV drivers who relied on fast chargers in the U.K. faced significant rises in costs in the second half of the year — a result of the increase in the country’s wholesale energy prices. In some cases, filling up with electricity was as, or more, expensive than petrol or diesel.
A recent report from British automotive services agency, the RAC, highlighted just how dire the situation is. According to the report, the cost of charging at a fast (rapid) charger rose by more than 50% over the second half of the year. In May, costs average 44.55 pence (54.5 cents) per kilowatt-hour. By January 2023, costs averaged 70.32 pence (84.8 cents) per kWh.
EV drivers who favor AC charging were far better off. Indeed, as the Traffic Index figures above show, in most parts of the U.K. (and Europe), charging by an AC slow charger cost about half as much as a fast charger.
In the U.S., experts say fuel prices should drop this year. In the U.K., prices at the pump are already starting to decrease. EV drivers will have to closely watch wholesale energy prices to see when things will improve for them.
Did rising fuel prices affect traffic and congestion?
Despite the increase in the cost of driving, congestion wasn’t dramatically affected. In many locales, the fuel price spikes weren’t long-lived enough to completely change people’s driving habits.
On average over the year, Berlin saw a 1% drop in congestion. Paris and Madrid, however, did not. In Paris, congestion increased by 1.5% and in Madrid, it went up by 2.8%.
In Paris and Madrid, the fuel price spike levelled out by the end of summer (see images in the next section), however, Berlin experienced high and uncertain fuel costs throughout the year — starting in March, dropping over summer and increasing again over winter. This goes some way to explain why overall average congestion in Paris and Madrid rose, but it didn’t in Germany.
Zooming into March, when fuel prices started spiking, congestion dropped across Germany. In Berlin, it dropped by 0.5%, in Munich by 1.3% and in Hamburg by 1.5%. As the realities of rising costs set in, Germans reneged on driving, opting for other forms of transport or avoiding driving entirely. With many having the option to work from home, it’s easy to reduce costs by driving less.
Electric vehicles, the cost-effective choice?
If you can charge on an AC charger, driving an EV is the most cost-effective transport choice in most of the world (assuming all other costs remain equal). Although, that might not remain the case forever.
The cost of driving fluctuated and increased significantly over the course of the year for drivers in some European cities. And for EV drivers, where you charge greatly dictates how much you pay.
Internal combustion engine drivers (ICE) paid the highest prices. But by the end of the year, EV fast charging in parts of Europe, like London and Paris, was so expensive, it reached parity with ICE vehicles. AC charging was still the cheapest, but rising wholesale energy prices sent costs skyward at the end of the year and made AC charging far less appealing than it once was.
Cities such as Berlin and Oslo were less affected by rising energy prices. Good news for EV drivers, as they didn't have to stomach the rising costs like Londoners and Parisians.
In some U.S. cities, like San Francisco, DC charging has long been more expensive than filling up with diesel or petrol. So this is nothing new for them.
All that said, EVs are still the better choice when it comes to fueling costs. The cost of charging on slow chargers by AC is still low enough that it makes an EV worth having, rather than an ICE vehicle. Not as much as it once did, but EVs still have the advantage here.
However, if you do regular long-distance drives in your EV where you rely on public fast chargers, you’ll want to consider the costs as these can be surprisingly high and volatile.
The environmental cost of driving
When we talk about the cost of driving, usually we refer to the financial cost. But in today’s climate of driving, transport, logistics and fleet operations we need to zoom out. Driving vcosts money, for fuel, parts and maintenance, but it also comes with an environmental cost — one which everyone pays.
As the climate crisis remains an important issue for the entire world, we must understand the impact we have as drivers, so we can address the consequences.
Think of it this way: if your company goal is to reduce financial outgoings, you must first understand where you’re losing money. The same goes for addressing environmental costs. To reduce emissions, we need to know where and under what conditions they’re produced.
European cities tend to be some of the worst offenders when it comes to the amount of CO2 generated by combustion engine vehicles. [Take a look at London and Paris above.] Cities in Europe are often dense, with old road networks, on which traffic moves slowly even when conditions are good. And the slower traffic moves, the longer journeys take, and the more emissions are created.U.S. cities do surprisingly well, compared to Europe, when it comes to emissions generated from traffic. Their faster moving road networks are a good platform for reducing CO2 levels.
If we’re to reduce emissions in our cities there’s one big reality we must accept: we need to drive less.
World events and their impact on traffic
As we saw with the coronavirus pandemic, world events can have a big impact on traffic. In the case of COVID-19 lockdowns, we had to stay at home for long periods. Gyms, bars, museums and most other places had to close, leaving us with nowhere to go the brief times we could leave our homes. Naturally, traffic on the roads dropped to some of the lowest levels TomTom has ever recorded.
In 2022, TomTom continued to observe the impact world events have on traffic.
In February 2022, severe flooding hit parts of Eastern Australia. Following periods of intense rain — a year’s worth fell in just a few days — hundreds had to be rescued, and as The Guardian reported at the time, eight people lost their lives.
Brisbane and the surrounding area experienced the worst of the floods. Many roads became impassible, and focus turned to rescue efforts — as reflected by the drop in traffic. A massive 55% drop in congestion paints a clear picture of the serious impact the flooding had. Sydney was not affected to the point that it had any impact on congestion or traffic.
Dutch rail strikes
On August 30, 2022, Dutch rail workers went on strike to campaign for better pay and working conditions — trains across the country came to halt. The country’s train operator, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), said the strikes will have major consequences, but seemingly none of those consequences were felt on the roads.
In years gone by, this kind of strike action would turn the roads into chaos as commuters eschew public transport for their own vehicles. Add that to already busy rush hours, roads grind to a halt and stress levels peak. But according to TomTom’s Traffic Index, there was 0% change in congestion in the country during the strike action.
While much of the world’s traffic has returned to normal, our approach to dealing with public transit strike action hasn’t. One thing that’s remained is hybrid working. We’re no longer under pressure to get to the office every day, so when something like a train strike happens, it’s easier just to work from home until the hassle blows over.
That doesn’t mean strikes aren’t having an impact. We might not see the immediate impact of strikes as we used to, as congestion on the roads, but further down the line we end up paying. Moving goods by rail becomes more difficult and expensive during strike action. Those costs will be felt by fleet operators and in some cases will be passed on to the consumer. But knowing that roads aren’t plunged into total chaos, it might make sense for haulage firms to favor trucks and vans to mitigate the impact of rail strikes.
A year in traffic and movement
Last year was a tough year for drivers. Driving got more expensive across the board, world events threw us our biggest challenges since the pandemic and the future is still looking uncertain.
The perks of EVs lessened as the cost of energy rose, making their cost effectiveness less pronounced. Driving an EV is still cheaper than a fossil fuel car, so long as you stick to AC/slow charging.
Going electric isn’t going to solve congestion, but it will help reduce emissions. For those that rely on their vehicles, it’s the perfect time to explore buying an EV. For everyone else who doesn't need to drive, we need to exercise that option as much as possible to reduce emissions.
On our roads, everything is connected. The more cars on the road, the slower traffic moves. The slower traffic moves, the longer it takes for congestion to clear and the more emissions are generated.
If we’re going to fix the state of traffic and its environmental impact, we need to take a holistic view that considers not just cars, but fleets, pedestrians, cyclists and public transit options.
We’ll need to use location data and traffic insights to point us in the right direction as we strive to understand how all modes of transport can function together, for everyone's benefit.
Want more details? Take a look at the TomTom Traffic Index for yourself. There's an ocean of data to swim through.
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