With gas prices going through the roof and showing no signs of slowing down, we’re seeing more people debate the switch to an EV or hybrid vehicle. If you’re on the fence about going electric and are wondering, “is it cheaper to charge an EV than filling a car with gas?” you’re not alone.
If you’re sick of feeling pain at the pump, you’ll be happy to know that in almost all scenarios, charging an EV is significantly less expensive than fueling up with gasoline, or worse, diesel.
However, there are several different factors and things you’ll want to know before jumping in head first. The cost of charging an EV varies at home vs. public charging stations, especially if you opt for faster charging. And, just like gas, electricity prices can change with time and location. Here’s an outline of how much it costs to charge an EV and how it compares to filling up with gas.
Gas vs. Electric: By The Numbers
With an EV, instead of paying per gallon of gasoline, you’ll get charged per kilowatt-hour to charge the battery. And just like gasoline prices differ at each gas station, the price of a kWh is vastly different depending on where you live and, in some states, the time of day and peak hours. This makes it difficult to say how much it costs to charge an EV, but here are some averages.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average new gas vehicle sold in the US in 2020 had a combined fuel-economy rating of 25.4 miles per gallon. Driving 100 miles in one of those vehicles would use roughly 3.9 gallons of gas.
Things get a little confusing when you rate electric vehicles. The EPA’s efficiency rating for EVs is known as “MPGe,” which stands for miles per gallon equivalent. This rating gives consumers an idea of how far an EV can travel on the chemical equivalent amount of energy as a gallon of gas.
That same EPA report suggests the average electric vehicle will consume 33.7 kilowatt-hours of energy to match a gallon of regular gasoline. The numbers haven’t been updated to account for 2021 or 2022, so this is as close as we can get.
The average MPGe rating for 2022-model-year EVs sold in the US is about 97, so driving 100 miles in that hypothetical average vehicle would use 34.7 kWh of electricity.
Doing the math here with hypothetical gas prices, if you spend $4.50 per gallon of gas, it’ll take nearly $18 to get 3.9 gallons and drive 100 miles. On average, the national price for 1 kWh of electricity (at home) is around $0.14. Using the EPA’s 34.7 kWh rating with energy price averages, it’ll cost approximately $4.85 to get 3.9 “gallons” worth of electricity to drive 100 miles.
I know that’s a bit confusing, but the bottom line is that, on average, it’ll be 3-4 times cheaper to fill your EV with battery power than it’ll be to fill up a gasoline-powered car. Those numbers fluctuate, and in some states like Arizona, South Dakota, Oklahoma, or Washington, electricity is even cheaper and would cost around $3.47 to drive 100 miles in an EV.
So yes, charging an EV from your house is much cheaper than buying gas. However, those savings quickly diminish when you travel and use public chargers. And in some states, if you use fast chargers, you could spend more, but we’ll get into that below.
The Cost of Charging an Electric Vehicle at Home
Charging an EV at home is significantly less expensive than fueling up with gasoline, and it’s also drastically cheaper than using a public charging station. That’s an essential aspect here and something you’ll want to remember.
On average, most US households pay nearly 14 cents per kWh, but that price can double during peak hours or in California and New York. On the flip side, that price is as low as 10 cents in Oklahoma. Still, the average cost is $0.14 per kWh, which is far cheaper than gas. Just remember that some regions cost more.
Using our same math as above, if it costs around $4.85 to get 3.9 gallons worth of electricity to drive 100 miles, you can expect to pay under $15, on average, to drive 300 miles in an electric vehicle. Most EVs have a range of about 300 miles, so it’s essentially $15 to fill the electric tank. You can’t drive 300 miles in a gas vehicle for $15.
The new Ford F-150 Lightning EV truck has a 131 kWh battery. Paying $0.14 per kWh at home will cost $18.34 to charge your truck to 100% battery capacity. It’s slow and will take 6-8 hours to charge at home with a level 1 charger, but it is cheaper than gas.
Keep in mind that you’ll likely need to spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars to put a charger in your home, and for faster home chargers, that can cost nearly $3,000. So add that to your calculations in the long run.
Most EV owners will charge their car at home, sitting on a charger overnight. And considering most regions offer discounts on electricity at night when usage is low, that’s the cheapest place and time to recharge your electric car.
However, installing a home charger may be impossible at some rental homes and apartments. If so, you’ll have to rely on public charging stations.
The Cost of Charging an EV at Public Chargers
If you can’t install an EV charger at home or plan to take many road trips, you’ll use public chargers. Again, things get confusing here, as the charging speeds and cost can vary. Most public EV charging stations throughout the United States deliver fast-charging speeds, which means they’re more expensive than a home charger.
Tesla has over 30,000 Superchargers throughout the globe, but the average cost is about $0.27 per kWh, nearly double what you’d pay at home. And in some states, like California, Tesla drivers see prices upwards of $0.43 per kWh. So, instead of costing $15 to drive 300 miles after a charge at home, you’ll spend around $44. In some cases, we’ve seen electricity prices reach over 50 cents per kWh.
See the difference? It’s absolutely cheaper to charge an electric vehicle than to fill up with gas, but it’s also confusing, and the price can be substantially different based on where you charge, how fast you charge, and where you live.
There are more affordable public chargers, but they’re also slow. Fast charging stations can take a battery from 20-80% in around 25 minutes, but you pay for that premium. The website MyEV has a detailed list of different charging network locations, pricing, and subscription fees for those interested. You can often join a charging subscription service and get discounted prices, but it won’t be as affordable as if you charge at home.
And while you can find a slower charging station in public, no one wants to wait an hour for only 75-100 miles worth of driving battery power. As a result, most public stations offer faster, albeit more expensive, charging services.
If you plan on charging your fancy new electric vehicle at home, it’ll be significantly cheaper than buying gasoline. However, those savings dissipate a bit with public fast-charging stations. It’s still more affordable, but the cost of electricity is going up, just like everything, so it may not be for long.
There is a silver lining, though. Until 2017, Tesla offered free Supercharging with most vehicles, which was a huge perk. These days, we’re seeing big-name auto manufacturers like Volkswagen offering two years of free charging with each EV purchase, and Nissan is doing the same. Other brands like KIA have partnered with Electrify America and will give owners limited free public charging.
It’s important to remember that not everyone buys an electric car expecting huge savings at the pump. Everyone has their reasons. Plus, when you factor in how expensive EVs are starting to get, you’ll need to weigh your options before making the switch.
All said and done, your mileage may vary, but that’s usually the case.
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