As more car manufacturers develop and release electric vehicle (EV) models, and with the cost of gas per gallon always on the rise, maybe you’re thinking of trading in your gas-powered transportation for emission-free driving. But how much does it cost to charge an electric car?
In this post, we’ll look at the different things to consider when determining how much it might cost to charge an EV. We’ll break down the cost for driving 100 miles in an EV versus a gas-powered car, based on averages. Then, we’ll go over the various electric utility rate plans and how they factor in, as well as the cost to install charging stations at home.
How Much Does It Cost to Charge an Electric Car?
Growing up in the age of the gas automobile, you’re probably familiar with the term miles per gallon (mpg). With electric vehicles, our new unit of measurement is kilowatt-hours per 100 miles (kWh/100 miles).
So now, rather than looking at the cost per gallon of gasoline as you drive by the gas pump, you’ll look at the cost per kilowatt hour through your utility provider.
Electricity rates vary based on where you live and the rate structure your utility charges with. We’ll go into more detail on that later. For now, let’s find the cost for charging an EV based on average numbers.
A standard EV battery requires 30 kWh per 100 miles.1 Using the average national residential utility rate of about 13 cents per kWh, we can find how much it costs to drive those 100 miles.
30 kWh x $0.13 = $3.90 per 100 miles
You can find your state average utility rate at the US. Energy Information Administration website, or check with your local utility provider for even better accuracy. Despite the broad variation of electric rates regionally, electric rates are still more stable than gas prices.2
Cost to Charge an Electric Car vs. Fill Up a Gas Car
In comparison, the average price of gas in the U.S. is $2.69 per gallon.3 If an average gas car gets 25 miles per gallon of gas, we’ll multiply that by four to get the cost for 100 miles.
$2.69 x 4 = $10.76 per 100 miles
Electricity Rates Affect EV Charging Cost
One of the major variables in how much you’ll pay to charge an electric vehicle is your cost of electricity. Again, this is based on where you live and your utility’s rate structure. Here are some major rate structures that most utility companies offer today.
Under flat-rate plans, when you use your electricity doesn’t matter. You’re charged a flat price for your electricity. The advantage here is that you can pretty well figure out what your electric bill will be, based on how much you use every month. The disadvantage is that these rates tend to skew upwards to make up for peaks and valleys in electrical demand. These can work for charging an EV, but they don’t give an electric car owner many options for savings strategies.
Tiered Pricing Plans
These are similar to flat-rate plans, but you’ll pay a higher or lower rate based on how much electricity you use on average in a month. Charging an EV under this rate structure could push you into a high rate tier, but you could also make adjustments elsewhere and stay in the same tier.
Peak Pricing and Time-of-Use Rates
These electric rate plans are similar in that they both charge less during times of low electrical demand, and more when the demand for electricity is high. These give you more options as an electric vehicle owner because you can adjust your charging times to off-peak hours (such as overnight) and spend less.
Charging Stations Affect the Cost to Charge an EV
If you buy an electric vehicle with a standard battery, and drive about as much as the average person, a standard charging option should work for you. This is called a Phase 1 charger. It’s a special electrical cord that you can plug into any outlet and charge your car with.
These will usually come with the electric car you buy, or you can buy one for around $200 online. You can even take them with you while you travel.
For faster charging, you could invest in a Phase 2 electric car charger, which varies in price between $800 and $1500, based on your location. This is because a Phase 2 is an installed unit that requires permitting and professional installation. You could be eligible for state incentives to cut down on the cost of installing a Phase 2.4
You could also use public Phase 2 chargers or the DC Fast Chargers that are popping up around the country as more people switch to electric cars. Some public chargers are free. Others have pay-as-you-go pricing, usually varying from $0.15 to $1.50 a minute depending on whether it’s a Phase 2 or a DC Fast Charger, or subscription pricing models from $10 a month to $25 a month for a specific number of charges.5
Considering these factors will help you figure out how much it might cost you overall to charge an electric car where you live.