The True Cost of Charging an Electric Car
The True Cost of Charging an Electric Car
Thinking of purchasing an electric car? There are many benefits to making the switch. For instance, ongoing car maintenance is much cheaper on an EV than on a conventional gas-powered car or truck. Even the savings of paying to recharge your electric car at home over filling up that thirsty gas guzzler can be substantial.
Will charging an electric car raise my electric bill?
We all know how much it costs per month to put gas in our cars. When you own an EV, one of the first things you’ll notice (other than the lack of oil dripping on your garage floor), is that you won’t be buying gasoline anymore. You will, however, notice a bump in your monthly electric bill. On average, charging your electric car will cost you half as much as fueling a gasoline-powered vehicle. It is actually very easy to predict how much electricity you will use to charge your EV and what it will cost you. Let’s take a look at the true cost of charging an electric car.
First, check with your electricity provider to see how your home rates on the efficiency scale. Does your residence use too much electricity? Your electric company will provide you with an energy audit that is free of charge to see where you stand. Make sure your air conditioning and heating system is clean and efficient. Once you know the monthly baseline for your typical energy use, you can calculate how much more electricity you’ll use to charge your electric vehicle.
EPA Fuel Economy
Visit the Vehicle Comparison Grid or the EV Catalog to look at and compare the EVs you are considering for purchase. Not all electric cars are created equal and you’ll get an idea of the true MPGe (Miles Per Gallon equivalent) and the EPA fuel economy rating of the vehicle. One gallon of gasoline is equal to 33.7 kilowatts of electricity. For instance, a Nissan Leaf with a 62 kW-hour battery gets a combined MPGe of 108. That’s 31 kWh per 100 miles. The Chevy Bolt has a combined MPGe of 118. That’s 29 kWh per 100 miles. Obviously, all EVs do not have the same energy usage per mile. Just as with gas-powered cars, bigger, heavier and more high-performance vehicles use more energy to operate. Also, just like fossil fuel-powered cars, a heavier accelerator foot means you’ll use up more energy which will reduce your range.
The energy used is shown as kWh/100 miles. That’s kilowatt hours per 100 miles of travel. Your electric company charges you by the kWh and you’ll see that on your monthly statement making it easy to formulate and compare the increase when you start charging your EV at home.
For the sake of this article, let’s assume that you drive what the EPA considers to be the average amount of miles per year, which they set as 15,000 miles. That’s 1,250 miles per month. You may actually drive quite a bit less than that, especially now during COVID. Using the Chevy Bolt as our EV of choice for this experiment, we figure that the Bolt driver will use around 350 kWh per month of electricity. Add that to your monthly electric bill based on what you pay per kWh and you’ll get an idea of how much your monthly bill will increase. Just remember that though your electric bill will go up, you will not be buying any gasoline each month.
Get the Best Rate
With all of this in mind, you want to make sure you are getting the best possible rate from your electric company. Check to see if your plan has a separate EV charging rate. Suppliers that offer these plans charge less for EV charging. This requires that you have an EV charging station installed at your home to separate electricity use. A charging station may cost you $1,000 or more to buy and install, but there are incentives available to reduce this out-of-pocket expense.
Check to see if your electricity provider has a time-of-use electric plan in which the cost of electricity fluctuates throughout the day. Your cost for charging can be very different depending on whether you plug in your EV during peak hours, mid-peak or off-peak hours.
Driving Electric is Less Expensive
On average, electric vehicles are much less expensive per mile to operate than gas-powered vehicles. A real world test by Forbes using a Tesla Model S found that a full charge based on a range of 259 miles cost $13 in the United States, which averages to just a nickel per mile. Americans are currently paying 15 cents per mile for gasoline on average, based on $2.96 per gallon.
In the United States, the cost of power can vary dramatically, from over $.23 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in Rhode Island to less than a dime in Washington state, where cheap hydropower is used. Californians pay almost 20 cents per kWh, while just to the north in Oregon, it’s about half that much. So, at the end of the day, what you’ll pay to charge your EV per month is a matter of location. Cost depends on the vehicle you choose, your particular driving needs, style of driving, how many miles you drive and your local electricity rate.
Use our EV Catalog for help calculating and comparing the cost of ownership for specific electric vehicles (see screenshot below). Simply navigate to the EV Catalog, select a vehicle of interest, then scroll down and click on "Cost of Ownership / Gasoline Vehicle Comparison."