How Much Does It Cost to Charge an Electric Car?
The cost to charge an electric car is a top consideration as electric vehicles (EVs) gain in popularity. You might want an EV for environmental reasons, or you might like how they perform and handle. Avoiding high gas prices at the pump is another reason for buying an electric car.
Before you can decide if an EV is right for you, you’ll want answers to some key questions. Topping this list is how much does it cost to charge an electric car? Can you really save money over a gasoline-powered car?
Fuel prices vary by location and change according to market conditions. You can get an idea of the cost to charge an electric car by understanding what goes into those costs and generally what you can expect to pay.
Doing the math for EV charging costs
When it comes to figuring out what it costs to charge an electric car, the bottom line is tied to what you pay for electricity.
How an electric vehicle works is that the engine runs on power stored in a battery. You charge the battery and the car goes until the battery runs out of power. You will pay for the electricity you use to charge your battery.
You can estimate the cost to charge your EV by first finding the rate you pay for electricity. If you have a fixed rate contract, calculating your charging cost is straightforward. If your rate varies, your charging costs will similarly vary. If your rate isn’t on your bill, you can divide the kWh used by the total on your bill to get your kWh rate. Rates vary between around 10 cents in Idaho to 32 cents in Hawaii, with a national average of around 14 cents.
The next number is how much electricity your vehicle uses, expressed in the number of miles you can travel per kWh used. This information is in your vehicle’s owner’s manual and you can find it online. Three to four miles per kWh is typical. Driving conditions matter. Fast highway speeds consume more energy than city driving.
The last part of your equation is the distance you drive in a given period. The average American driver travels roughly 13,500 miles per year, or about 1,125 miles per month.
What does it cost to charge an electric car?
To calculate the cost to charge your electric car, divide the total miles you drive in a month by your kWh per mile rate. If you drive 1,000 miles a month and your vehicle is rated for 3 miles per kWh, you will use about 333 kWh in that month to power your EV. To get the cost to charge an electric car like this one, multiply the 333 kWh of electricity you use by the rate you pay. If you’re paying 14 cents per kWh, your monthly supply charging cost is $46.62.
These charging costs assume you are charging your vehicle at home. Your charging costs will depend on how often, how long, and where you charge at commercial charging stations. Don’t get stranded without power by making sure you can find an electric vehicle charging station when you need it. More are being added every day, but it makes sense to plan ahead.
Is it cheaper to fill a gas tank or charge an electric car?
Comparing the cost to charge an electric vehicle with how much it costs to fill up your tank with gasoline requires you to compare your charging cost with what you pay at the pump. The calculation for what you pay for fuel is similar to calculating your cost to charge.
Start with the cost of fuel. The American Automobile Association publishes up-to-date fuel prices. Currently, they range from a low of $3 a gallon in Texas to $4.90 in California.
Next, consider how much fuel your vehicle uses to travel a given distance. The average gasoline-powered passenger car gets around 24 miles per gallon, but that varies by make, model and conditions. Highway driving is more efficient than the stop and start of city driving–the opposite of EVs.
Lastly, consider how far you plan to drive in a given period. We can use the same 1,000 miles per month estimate that we used above to make the numbers comparable.
Using the low range of $3 a gallon, traveling 1,000 miles in a gas-powered car will cost $125 in fuel.
Cost of public EV charging vs. charging at home
It’s generally more economical and convenient to charge your electric car at home overnight. While you can use your regular household current, most people find the process too slow. Figure the amount you will pay to install an electric car charging station at your house as part of the cost of running your EV. It will dramatically reduce charge times. Many utility companies offer rebates and incentives to offset the cost of home charger installations. Some utilities and electricity suppliers even offer lower rates overnight when EV owners tend to charge their vehicles, which may help lower your overall EV charging costs.
It isn’t always possible to charge your car at home. When traveling distances, you’ll likely need to use a public electric car charging station. Prices to charge your vehicle will vary by region and supplier. Keep in mind you will be paying for more than just the electricity. You’ll pay a premium to the supplier and for the facilities. For a point of reference, fully charging your EV at a public charging station in California will cost around $12 for a Level 2 charge and $16 for a Level 3 fast charge.
Final take on EV charging costs
With current market conditions, driving an EV is much cheaper than driving a gasoline-powered vehicle–especially when you do most of the charging at home. This, in addition to lower vehicle maintenance costs, makes EV ownership a reasonable cost for those who may be in the market.
If you’re thinking of investing in an EV, you can keep the cost to charge an electric car down with a Level 2 charger at home. These devices are also convenient, charging your car much faster than plugging it into a regular wall socket.