How Much Does It Cost to Charge an Electric Vehicle?

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  • 2022 was a year of high gas costs, making many people consider buying an electric car, despite their higher purchase prices.
  • The cheapest way to charge your EV will be at home, using an existing electrical outlet.
  • You'll spend more upfront if you spring for a dedicated home charging station, but you'll get faster charging that way.

Consider all your costs when buying a new car.

The high gas costs we were all subject to this year has more and more people thinking about making the switch from a traditional gas-powered car to an electric car instead. Admittedly, purchasing an electric vehicle (EV) will likely come with a higher upfront cost, but you could qualify for a tax credit if you buy one.

While you're browsing dealer websites and reworking your budget to see if you can afford an electric car, don't forget to also account for your costs to charge its battery. While you may no longer be stopping at your local gas station and cringing at the prices at the pump, you will still have to pay to fuel your ride. What kind of costs will you be looking at for powering an electric vehicle?

EV battery considerations

If you've shopped for a gas-powered vehicle before, you're familiar with evaluating MPG (miles per gallon) ratings. These vary by vehicle type (smaller cars will always get better gas mileage than big trucks will) and also by driving situation (you'll get more miles out of a gallon of gas driving at speed on the highway than you will in stop-and-go city traffic).

As an equivalent, different EVs come with different battery sizes. If you have a small car with a smaller battery, it will take less time to charge -- but you'll likely need to charge it more often. And an electric car's energy consumption is measured in kilowatt-hours per 100 miles (kWh/100 miles); you'll find this rating in the owner's manual as well as on the car's EPA fuel economy sticker. Note that EV batteries are less efficient in colder temperatures.

How will you be charging your EV?

Now that you know a bit about how to evaluate the energy consumption for an EV, you'll have to consider how you'll power the vehicle. There are a few different ways to charge one.

Level 1

This is a standard 120-volt home electrical outlet. You likely have at least one of these in your garage, and this will be the easiest way to charge your EV. However, it will also be the slowest way. If you don't drive much and can leave your car plugged in overnight at home, level 1 charging will work for you. Your car should even come with the proper charging cord.

Level 2

Level 2 outlets are like the one your clothes dryer plugs into, drawing 240 or 208 volts. If you don't already have one of these at the ready for your new EV, you'll have to hire an electrician to install EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment, another term for a dedicated EV home charging station) for you. JD Power notes that the cost of such a unit is $550 plus the cost of labor. This type of charging will be faster than level 1, and may therefore be more convenient.

DC fast charging

Direct current (DC) fast chargers aren't suitable for home installation, as they require 480 volts. These are the chargers you find in shopping center parking lots and in highway rest areas. The cost to use one of these if you've taken your EV on a green road trip is usually between $10 and $30, but prices vary.

How to estimate your home charging costs

You've picked out your EV, and you've decided that you'll primarily be charging it at home. So how can you estimate ahead of time how much this will add to your electric bill? You can do a simple calculation to find out. You'll need the cost per kWh for the time of day when you'll be charging (likely overnight). Electricity costs vary widely by location, time of day, and season (with costs generally higher in the summer), so check out your electric bill or contact your utility company for information. Once you have that rate, you can get an estimate of your charging costs by multiplying it by the number of hours it will take to charge your battery to full (this will depend on your battery).

For example: If you live in California, where the average cost of electricity is $0.18 per kWh, and you purchase an EV with a 40-kWh battery, you'd be looking at about $7.20 to fully charge your vehicle at home.

Electric vehicles are better for Mother Earth, and while they may require a larger outlay of money to initially purchase, you'll likely find the cost to keep one powered up is less than what you've been paying for gas. But run the numbers for your electricity rates and EVs you are considering buying, and get a solid estimate before taking the plunge on a new greener vehicle.

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