How Much Does It Cost To Charge an Electric Car?

  • Charging an electric vehicle battery overnight at home is usually the least expensive option.
  • Gas prices fluctuate, and electricity rates vary regionally, but in most cases, it costs less per month to charge an EV than to buy gas for a traditional vehicle.
  • While free options are available, public charging stations have time-based fees that usually cost more than home charging. 

Many people ask the single biggest question about electric cars: What will I spend to charge the vehicle?

If you’re looking at an electric car vs. a gas car, doing some upfront research on charging compared with gas costs will help you make an informed decision. Remember that many new EVs come with some free charging at public stations.

To answer the question of cost, we enlisted the help of John Voelcker, a longtime automotive journalist and industry analyst specializing in electric vehicles. He’s heard every argument made for (and against) electric vehicle ownership, including recharging costs compared to traditional refueling.

You Need To Do Some Math

Don’t sweat it. The math involved is pretty simple. It helps to have a recent electric bill for the most accurate estimate. You’ll want to calculate the amount you pay for electricity in a given month. Then we’ll provide examples so you can determine how much you spend on each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity used.

“For home charging, find your electric bill, then divide the [number] of kilowatt-hours you used into the bottom-line dollar total. That’ll give you the price you paid per kWh,” Voelcker explains.

According to the United States Energy Information Administration, the average U.S. household pays about 16 cents per kWh.

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Let’s apply this rate to a typical electric car. This example does not take into consideration any discounts provided by your utility.

What Is the Cost to Charge an EV in kWh?

“A conservative rule of thumb is that an electric car gets 3 to 4 miles per kWh,” Voelcker says. “So divide the total miles you drive each month by 3 to get the kWh you would use monthly. Multiply that number by your cost per kWh. The dollar amount you get will most likely be lower than what you pay each month to buy gasoline.”

To put this into perspective, let’s give an example. Suppose you drive about 1,124 miles per month (Americans go an average of about 13,489 miles annually). For an EV, you will use about 375 kWh in that timeframe. Using the U.S. household average of about 16 cents per kWh, charging an electric car at home would cost nearly $60 per month.

How Does the Recharge Cost Compare to a Fuel Fill-Up?

According to AAA, the average price of gas hovers at $3.14 per gallon as of this writing. So, filling up a 12-gallon gas tank currently costs about $38. Things get a little tricky because, as we all know, cars and trucks use vastly different amounts of fuel.

Let’s say you’re driving a car that brings a combined average of 30 miles per gallon during a mix of city and highway driving. Using that same 12-gallon tank as a reference point, you’ll have 360 miles of driving range for each fill-up. If you’re driving the same 1,124 miles per month, you’ll need to refuel three times each month and spend about $114 ($38 x 3).

Again, this is only an estimate since fuel prices and mileage vary. But considering few cars and SUVs come close to delivering a 30 mpg combined average, our fairly conservative number-crunching in this scenario makes it clear that recharging will cost less than refueling a car. The financial gap narrows with a more fuel-efficient vehicle, but it remains.

Costs of Charging an EV at Home

Electricity rates are subject to many factors, including the region where you live, the time of year, and even the time of day when peak charges apply. For the most part, electricity usage and costs are at their lowest late at night. That’s good news for anyone considering an EV, according to Voelcker.

“While shoppers worry about access to public charging stations, they need to know that as much as 90% of electric car charging is done overnight at home,” Voelcker said. “The cheapest way to charge your electric car is almost always at home, overnight. Some utilities have special low rates for the overnight period when their demand is lightest.”

Where you live directly impacts your electric bill. People living in Connecticut pay nearly 29 cents per kWh of energy use, more than double the kWh cost in states like Louisiana (about 11 cents per kWh) or Idaho (nearly 12 cents per kWh).

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The Cost of Level 2 and Faster Charging

When talking about public Level 2 charging and Level 3 fast-charging systems, the prices are harder to narrow when compared to standard at-home costs. That’s because charging networks vary in price, not to mention availability around the country.

You can always opt to install a Level 2 charger in your garage. The cost isn’t cheap. About $2,000 for parts and installation is a reasonable ballpark figure. Moving up to Level 2 means you’ll cut your charging time sometimes by half. And it can potentially add value to your home.

“Every electric car (Tesla included) can use public Level 2 stations,” says Voelcker, “but Nissan Leafs use one fast-charging standard (called CHAdeMO) while every other EV uses a different fast-charging standard called CCS.” Many electric cars and charging networks plan to adopt Tesla’s proprietary NACS charge port, with many debuting them for the 2025 model year.

Many states, local municipalities, and utility companies offer rebates and incentives for electric car owners to install home chargers. Those help lower costs further.

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Finding the Right Plug to Charge an EV

Voelcker explains the difference sounds more complex than it is. “The vast majority of fast-charging locations have both kinds, with a different cable on each side of the station. It’s like the same gas pump could dispense both regular gasoline and diesel fuel from different hoses.”

As for the price, a 240-volt (Level 2) recharge could cost you anywhere from zero dollars to a fixed hourly rate. Charging networks often provide membership programs to minimize your recharge cost. That’s especially useful if you can’t regularly charge your vehicle at home.

The Electrify America network determines pricing for DC-fast chargers by charger location, your plan, and, for per-minute locations, the maximum power level your vehicle can accept. For example, to use a DC-fast charger at an Atlanta-area local grocery location, the Electrify America Pass Pricing costs 36 cents per minute based on vehicle max power.  Other popular charging networks include ChargePoint and EVgo. Like many charging networks on the PlugShare app, users can find charging stations, leave reviews, and provide charging tips to other EV drivers. Tips include whether or not the charging station is in use and if it’s working properly.

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The Faster the Charging, the Higher the Rate

Unlike a typical 240-volt Level 2 home charger system, you will find Level 3 chargers in commercial settings because they’re prohibitively expensive for a private individual to install them at home.

Tesla uses its dedicated Supercharger network with more than 50,000 across the globe. But the rates can vary widely depending on region, timing, the Tesla model you’re charging, and the tier you choose for your recharge speeds. Tesla offers four charging tiers. One important caveat: Select Tesla Superchargers now work for non-Tesla vehicles. The non-Tesla Supercharger pilot began in November 2021 in Europe, and earlier this year, the Supercharger network began opening select locations to non-Tesla cars.

Voelcker stresses that home charging is the best option for anyone considering an electric car. Yet, equally important is knowing where to find EV perks close to home.

“Some workplaces offer charging for employees’ cars … But electric-car owners quickly learn which public stations near them are free, which charge for charging, and how much they cost,” he said.

For example, a bustling parking lot in a crowded city center might lure EV owners with the promise of free electric car charging. But the resultant fee for parking there could easily zoom past what you’d have paid to fill up even the thirstiest gas-powered car or truck. Still, drivers will find the network of chargers growing with plenty of free options, including at malls, hotels, grocery stores, and more.

Voelcker’s final advice to EV owners: “Always ask before plugging in!”

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Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it was originally published.

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