One of the great promises of the electric car is the fact that it will save you money, at least when it comes to fuel costs. This is more true than ever with the recent rise in gas prices, making it fairly easy to spend $100 or more on a tank, depending on the car model. But perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about electric cars is the fact that they’re not free. That’s right, you still have to pay to charge your car.
But how much exactly? Well, it varies radically. Things like the location of your charger, the car you drive, and more can affect how much it costs to charge a car.
In general, you should expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $30 for a full car load. You’ll be closer to the $5 mark if you have a car with a smaller battery and happen to be charging somewhere cheaper. And it will cost you more if you have a car with a large battery and charge it on a fast charger.
Charging costs basically boil down to the following equation: the number of kilowatt hours (kWh) of the battery in your car is multiplied by the price per kilowatt hour charged. Public charging stations should quote a price before you start charging.
To get a more detailed look at how much you’ll be charging, let’s dive in and do some math.
Cost of charging an electric car at home
It is cheapest to charge an electric car at home. Public charging companies charge a premium to cover things like infrastructure costs and of course to make a profit. Aside from the charger that probably came with your car (or a faster one if you fancy), you don’t have that cost.
Calculating the cost of charging at home can get complicated due to the different electricity costs. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average retail cost per kWh in the US in 2021 was 10.59 cents. This average varies widely depending on the state you are in. If you’re in Louisiana, you’ll pay 7.51 cents per kWh kWh. At the other end of the spectrum is Hawaii at 27.55 cents per kWh. We will not add the complications of higher costs at different times of the day or year.
Then you need to consider the size of your car’s battery. According to the Electric Vehicle Database, the average size of an electric car battery is 65.6 kWh. That means it costs an average of $6.94 in the US to fully charge an electric car at home. On the most expensive end of the spectrum, like owning a Lucid Air Dream Edition with its massive 118kWh battery and charging it in Hawaii, you could expect $32.51.
These numbers essentially take into account charging your car from 0% to 100% – so in most cases you’re only spending a few dollars at a time charging, say from 60% to 80%.
Cost of charging an electric car at a charging station
Charging your car at a public charging station is a whole different ball game. Public charging companies have invested a lot of money in their fast charging technology, not to mention the cost of installing stations, paying employees and so on. The result? You pay significantly more at charging stations.
Charging stations can charge with different tariffs. So-called Level 1 chargers are most useful overnight, as they take up to 24 hours to fully charge a car. Level 2 chargers typically deliver a little less than 30 mph. Level 3 chargers, or DC fast chargers, can often fully charge a car in less than an hour.
Due to the large cost differences, it can be very difficult to narrow down prices. Electrify America (EA) is one of the most popular charging networks in the US and charges $0.03 per minute for Level 2 charging. However, most Electrify America chargers are fast chargers that charge a price per kWh no matter how fast you charge . In California, at the time of writing, EA charged $0.43 per kWh for guests and Electrify America Pass members and $0.31 for Pass+ members. So if you’re a guest, you’ll pay an average of $28.21 for a full fee, or $20.33 if you’re a Pass+ member. You have to factor in the Pass+ fee of $4 per month.
Charge electric car for free
The best and most consistent way to charge your electric car on a daily basis is at home, relying on public chargers for road trips and fast charging. However, there are a few ways to top up for free.
First of all, your employer may offer charging stations at your workplace and these may be accessible free of charge. This is a great way to recharge during your workday.
You can also find free Tier 2 charging stations in many public car parks. For example, your local mall may have a number of Volta charging stations that allow you to charge for free while you shop. Grocery stores sometimes have these too.
Your car manufacturer may also offer free charging for a limited time. Tesla, for example, offered free charging to Model S and Model X customers who bought their cars between 2012 and 2016. Unfortunately, it no longer offers that. But other manufacturers like Audi, BMW, Ford and others often offer free charging at Electrify America or EVGo stations for at least a year.
The last “free” way to charge your electric car is not to use energy from the grid. With solar panels and household batteries, you may be able to avoid buying electricity from your local supplier. Of course, that’s not really free – you still have to pay for solar panels and batteries. But if you already have these set up or plan to use them to charge your car, there is no additional cost provided your system can handle the extra load.
How much cheaper is charging an electric car compared to filling up a gas tank?
It’s basically impossible to give an exact number to answer this question. Aside from the fact that there are myriad variables when discussing charging electric cars, there are perhaps more that are related to filling up a gas tank – like the fact that the price of gas changes every day. In other words, take the next few paragraphs with a pinch of salt. We’re going to be talking about averages, and it’s incredibly unlikely that your numbers will be the same.
According to the AAA, the average price of gasoline on November 7, the date of this writing, was $3,804 per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline. Most cars have a tank between 10 and 20 gallons, so we’ll take 15 as a decent average considering we couldn’t find any good data on the actual average tank size. Filling up your car would then cost $57.06.
In other words, if you charge your car at home, it costs $50.12 on average fewer charge an electric car if you have done so at home. If you were to charge as a guest at an Electrify America charging station, it still costs $28.85 less than filling up an average tank of gas. That’s about half the price.
take that away
In the vast majority of cases, you pay less to charge an electric car than to fill up a car with petrol. How much less can vary wildly depending on your car mode, where you load and more. And that doesn’t even stem from the fact that electric cars are usually more expensive to buy than petrol ones. We have an entire article that breaks down the total cost of ownership of electric vehicles versus gas-powered cars, from maintenance to insurance.