These 6 Electric Cars Cost The Least Per Kilowatt-Hour

The "skateboard" of the Jaguar I-Pace showing off its big battery


An alternative way to look at EV value

There are many ways to assess a vehicle’s worth. In the plug-in EV world, you may want to consider how much coin you’re dropping per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of battery capacity. We’ve compiled a half dozen of the best buys available right now in the USA (though some are only available in certain states) using this method, and we’ve got to say, the results were a little surprising.

Now, we’ve used the manufacturers suggested retail price (MSRP), but it’s quite possible that your local dealer may offer some discounts. Also, some vehicles which didn’t make the list have, in the past, been offered up via super affordable leases (we’re looking at you, Fiat 500e), so that’s also something to keep in mind.

Read Also: 10 Electric Cars Available Nationwide

Related – 8 Cheapest Electric Vehicles On Sale In The U.S. Today

With an unprecedented influx of new models coming over the next years this list may change drastically, but we’ll try to keep you updated on what’s current. For now, here are the six best bargains in the plug-in universe, when the price is weighed against the energy capacity of their batteries.

Tesla model S sedan in grey on a mountain road

6. Tesla Model S 100D – $940 per kWh

If you thought this list would be full of relatively affordable cars, our first entry should make it clear that’s not necessarily the case. The size of the battery has a large effect on our results. As the name suggests, this all-electric sedan boasts a 100 kWh pack beneath its floor. So, despite a base price of $94,000, its big battery makes it a relative bargain when measured on a coin-per-kWh basis. Plus, it can still boast the best range of available EVs, with 335 miles of EPA-rated range per charge.


 red Ford Focus electric hatchback

5. Ford Focus Electric – $869 per kWh

After getting a boost to its battery for 2017, this electrified version of the Ford Focus sports a 33.5 kWh pack. Combined with a relatively low $29,120 price tag, before incentives, this hatch has a high kWh-to-MSRP ratio. While it may have been seen by some as a “compliance car,” that is to say, built in direct response to edicts from the California Air Resource Board (CARB) requiring automakers selling product in that state to produce EVs or buy EV credits,  it is actually now available in a few locations outside of the “CARB states.”


white Volkswagen e-Golf hatchback on bridge

4. Volkswagen e-Golf – $852 per kWh

This battery-powered Golf variant is similar to the Ford Focus Electric above in the sense that it was originally designed to be motivated by internal combustion — the two are, in fact, often compared with each other. Its German engineers, though, found a way to sandwich a decent sized 35.8 kWh battery, and with its pre-incentive price of  $30,495, it’s enough to give it the edge in this battle. If you can find it, that is. According to the Volkswagen e-Golf website, the model is “only available at participating dealers in select states.” We should note that it is also offered for sale in Europe where it has seen relatively strong sales.


white nissan leaf hatchback

3. Nissan LEAF  – $750 per kWh

After getting a new 40 kWh pack in its dramatic update for 2018, the original affordable EV retains its rank high in the great value arena. Using our coin-per-kilowatt metric, its relatively low $29,900 cost before incentives guarantees the LEAF to be a great deal by any measure. We can only imagine that the 60 kWh version on its way for the 2019 model year will cement its position on this list.


copper-orange Chevrolet Bolt EV hatchback

2. Chevy Bolt – $610 per kWh

This electric hatchback ticks lots of buyer’s boxes, especially range, thanks to a 60 kWh pack deep within its chassis that returns a 238 mile-per-charge rating from the EPA.  With a $36,620 price tag, you can add a very positive ratio of energy-storage-to-price to the list of reasons to take one for a test drive. Available throughout the US (and Canada), the Bolt underlines GM’s commitment to electrification and will likely share its platform with new models from the automaker in the relatively near future.


blue Tesla Model 3 front

  1. Tesla Model 3 Long Range – $547 per kWh

Though the California electric vehicle maker doesn’t specifically state battery size in the name of its entry vehicle like it does for its upscale models — it prefers to denote the two planned versions by either “Standard Battery” or “Long Range” — the Model 3 sports a relatively massive 80.5 kWh battery pack. Combined with a price of $44,000 for the Long Range, rear-wheel-drive configuration that is currently being delivered to reservation holders, it should hold a vise-like grip on its number one spot on this list for some time.

Currently, the Long Range Model 3 will cost you $49,000, due to the mandatory Premium Upgrades package. However, the math still puts the Tesla sedan ahead of the Bolt on our list, at ~$609 per kWh.


There are several different ways to view value. You could deem lowest total price as the best value. You could examine standard equipment lists to determine bang for your buck. But in the EV world, batteries are a big deal, so we think this dollar-per-kWh assessment is most fitting.

Check out our Compare EVs page for more info on all electric cars sold in the U.S.

And if you’re interested in how well each model sells, you’ll find that data here.

Category: Chevrolet, Ford, Lists, Nissan, Tesla, VW

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57 responses to "These 6 Electric Cars Cost The Least Per Kilowatt-Hour"
  1. John Ray says:

    Pretty sure the Model 3s being delivered currently require the $5000 PUP which raises the price to $49,000. Don’t forget destination as well. Also, Tesla doesn’t discount while Chevy, Nissan, etc. do.

    1. AlanSqB says:

      ^^^This. The $44k Model 3 does not exist and cannot be purchased. Until that happens, the calculations need to account for the current $49k price point.

      1. Steven Loveday says:

        Thank you. I updated the article. The Model 3 still beats the Bolt by $1 per kWh. Very close!

        1. Michael Will says:

          Sweet. Now next step in this is to calculate miles of electric only range per $$$, because just having a large battery does not mean it gets you very far. Model S 100D probably only gets you 3 miles per kWh while the Model 3 can give you 4-5, like the Hyundai Ioniq Electric.

          1. Vexar says:

            The Hyundai Ioniq is the best for efficiency. I look forward to Hyundai becoming a bigger player in the US market.

            1. theflew says:

              It’s efficient but also slower with a lot less HP than the model 3 or Bolt.

          2. Steven Loveday says:

            We’re already on that one, Will. Thanks for the suggestion. Look for it soon!

        2. AlanSqB says:

          By $1 per kWh and a whole lot prettier so I agree the M3 still wins. Thanks for the update!

      2. speculawyer says:

        “The $44k Model 3 does not exist and cannot be purchased.”

        THis is true and annoying. In the current Model 3 build page, if you delay is asks you if you want dual motors, the $35K base, or just delaying to a certain time. No option to say “I want the big battery but not the $5K option package”. 🙁

    2. windbourne says:

      THink that there is a good reason why GM, Ford, Nissan, BMW, etc offer discounts for their EVs, while Tesla does not, and yet, is WAY outselling them?

      I do

      1. JayTee says:

        Because they offer discounts on all of their vehicles and still turn a profit?

      2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        “THink that there is a good reason why GM, Ford, Nissan, BMW, etc offer discounts for their EVs, while Tesla does not, and yet, is WAY outselling them?”

        There are several reasons, not the least of which is that both auto makers play games with the MSRP and dealerships play games with prices and financing. If you think the MSRP is the actual full retail price of the car, then just Google “dealer holdback”.

        Tesla doesn’t jerk its customers around with such games. The list price is what you pay for a car you order, period. If you don’t want to pay list, then look at the available CPO (used) Tesla cars, and the “invoice” (demo and service loaner) units; but then you have to pick from what’s available, not necessarily the options you want.

  2. Spoonman. says:

    Slightly harder to make, but an interesting list of PHEVs would be ($ premium over closest non-plug-in stablemate/kWh).

    1. mx says:

      Every EV can win:
      BMW i3 : Most EFFICIENT Hybrid, Highest Miles per kWh, and a smallest gas engine backup, also Smart Sexy.

      Chevy Volt: Sexiest Plugin Hybrid!

      Prius Prime Advanced: Highest Priced – Least Benefit EV!

  3. Taylor S Marks says:

    Price per EPA mile is a better comparison. A bigger battery isn’t in and of itself desirable – it means recharging it to full takes longer and is more costly.

    What people want is to maximize their range between recharges.

    1. KenZ says:

      True, but there’s one thing a big battery does get you: likely more miles gained per hour of charge, certainly at higher SOCs. Bigger battery = more energy overall for the same current per Wh as the battery sees it.

      Yes, it matters if you’re maxed out on charger rate anyway (meaning: my argument falls flat for Level 2), but for fast charging, it really does make a difference.

    2. TheWay says:

      It’s a grey area because in that sense the tinniest EVs would get an advantage. Which doesn’t help you much if you are trying to carry more people or more cargo. So this kind of thing would need to be divided by class.

  4. Get Real says:

    The bottom line is the upscale Model 3 is actually CHEAPER per KWH then the utilitarian Bolt which I drive.

    That is called disruption and puts more pressure on the mostly laggard, legacy OEMs to up their game.

    Your move GM, Ford, FCA, Germans, Japanese, Koreans.

    1. TJKR says:

      Big auto is to dumb to understand. It’s not about the car, its really about the battery. I for one would like to see any of those companies go out of business, they deserve it.

      1. Lamata says:

        I Agree!

      2. windbourne says:

        None of those companies will go out of business because ‘they are too big to fail’.
        IOW, some nation will bail them out.
        Even now, the German and Chinese gov are massively subsidizing their EVs to take on Tesla and others.

        HOPEFULLY, when GM and Ford come crawling, again, for a bail-out, we either tell them no, OR, better yet, we break them apart. Seriously, I would love to break GM into say 4-6 car makers, and Ford into something similar. At that point, competition takes hold and if some fail, not a big deal.

      3. pjwood1 says:

        Seriously, not too dumb. Just over-confident in their marketing departments.

    2. AlanSqB says:

      The math only works if we take an imaginary version of the Model 3 as the example. All of those other cars exist and can be purchased. A $44k Tesla Model 3 does not and can not.

      1. Get Real says:

        You might be missing the point Allen.

        The Model 3 SR is on the way and just by being on the way it is putting a lot of pressure on the laggard, legacy OEMs to at least contemplate stopping their painfully slow walking the inevitable transition to full electrification.

        1. AlanSqB says:

          I’m a Tesla fan and former Model 3 reservation holder so no missing the point here.

          There has been absolutely no evidence of any non-pup trim levels being tested or being readied for production. The $35/44k Model 3 will go the way of the S40 due to “lack of demand.” That was not a problem for me as I was planning on buying the PUP LR anyway, but I know it’s upsetting lots of people.

          It’s still a “toy for rich people” and I’m not sure Tesla will ever be able to move away from that niche. Honestly they should just continue to embrace it IMHO as it has made the brand solid gold.

          1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

            “The $35/44k Model 3 will go the way of the S40 due to ‘lack of demand.'”

            We’ve come to expect this sort of FUD from serial Tesla bashers, but it’s rather bizarre to see it from a Tesla reservation holder.

            You can see just from all the comments posted to InsideEVs that there is a lot of demand for the SR (Short Range) Tesla Model 3.

    3. Seven Electrics says:

      If you count usable capacity, the Bolt is cheaper. Furthermore, it always sells for less than MSRP.

    4. Prsnep says:

      This is also a really silly metric that favors cars with the largest batteries. In this scale, the long range Model 3 will be ahead of the short range one. The 60 kw Leaf will be ahead of the 40 kw one. Guaranteed! If range alone was so important, all of us would drive or aspire to drive ICE vehicles.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        It’s very far from a “silly” metric. EV buyers in general have shown a marked preference for longer EV ranges, which means larger battery packs.

        People seem to have forgotten that the reason the Tesla Model S40 was cancelled because only ~2% of pre-orders were for the 40 kWh version, the smallest of three different battery pack sizes.

        Tesla has learned from that experience, and with the Model 3 is offering only 2 pack sizes, both considerably larger than 40 kWh even for a smaller car.

        People who keep expressing the fear that Tesla will cancel the SR TM3 clearly do not understand the real meaning of the lesson that Tesla learned.

    5. JayTee says:

      “Your move GM, Ford, FCA, Germans, Japanese, Koreans.”

      I’m sure they’re sweating bullets over Tesla’s 100k units / yr.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        I’m sure they truly are sweating bullets over Tesla’s growth rate, has been between 33% and 60% per year for the past four years.

        1. Lamata says:

          I think If anyone can, Nissan will answer the Call for longer Range , say 300 Plus miles per Charge at a Reasonable Price… Lets keep our Fingers Crossed for that !

  5. Get Real says:

    Also should mention that of course only Tesla has 2 cars in the top 6.

    1. Domenick Yoney says:

      The Model X 100D was in 7th position at $960.

  6. Nautilus says:

    I got a Bolt in Norway, and im pretty sure now that Bolt doesn’t really have a 60kWh battery, its 57kWh rated, it says so on the box. Just like I really dont trust any of these automakes, pretending to have something they dont have. I’ll trust Tesla M3 rated at 80,5kWh when I see the first movie where someone disassembles the battery and check the volts, at full capacity.

    1. Lamata says:

      Too many smoke & mirrors when it comes Battery capacity here with the Model 3…When I buy wanna Know whats What! Or I walk !

      1. William says:

        Take a walk through the Sparks, Nevada Tesla Gigafactory Tour. Please be sure to let your tour guide know your stated steadfast position on battery capacity knowledge for the Model 3.

        The “smoke and mirrors” may be a bit distracting along the way, but you may be able to get the Model 3 answers you are looking for.

    2. MTN Ranger says:

      The 57 kWh number printed on the battery pack does not make sense since many people are getting close to 60 kWh per full charge. Estimates that the gross size of the pack is 63-64 kWh.

    3. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      “…im pretty sure now that Bolt doesn’t really have a 60kWh battery, its 57kWh rated, it says so on the box.”

      Whether or not that’s actually important is rather debatable. Quite possibly it’s just the difference between usable battery capacity and full (nameplate) battery capacity, which is a difference found in every production plug-in EV.

  7. Seven Electrics says:

    Are you counting total capacity, or usable? The M3 is 80 kWh total but only 74 kWh usable. The Bolt is 60 kWh usable. If you count usable, the Bolt should be #1 by a fair margin.

    1. Steve L. says:

      Exactly. Bolt total capacity is closer to 67-70KWh. Usable is 60KWh. If you calculate 288 cells x 65Ah x 3.75v=70KWh. So if calculating with the total capacity, the Bolt is still the cheapest at around 523$ for 70KWh.

  8. Tim J says:

    The Bolt is a 57 kWh

    1. Steve L. says:

      The label on the Bolt`s battery is 57KWh, but that complies with the DOT regulation which is 95% of the battery. So 95% of 60KWh is exactly 57. Lots of Bolt owners have already been able to use 60Kwh from their battery pack.

      1. Bill Howland says:

        IEV writers take note of STEVE L’s gem of wisdom. NOW YOU REALLY KNOW, hehe.

  9. speculawyer says:

    How about a range per dollar?

    That allows more efficient vehicles to shine a bit.

    1. Steven Loveday says:

      That post is also in the works already. Keep an eye out for it in the near future!

      1. William says:

        Let’s hope there is an addendum that notes an above average range penalty for inefficient onboard EV heating systems.

        In colder climates, the additional range loss from poorly implemented heaters, can be quite significant.

      2. Scott says:

        Great article! Is the “compare EV” graphic going to be updated soon?

        1. Steven Loveday says:

          Thanks. Domenick wrote this one. He does a great job! The Compare EVs is actually fully updated as of this week, but we’re waiting on the graphics and redesign to post it as brand new. Otherwise, we’d post it this week and then have to do it over again for the launch of the new look. We’re really excited. It now includes the Outlander and some other new models, as well as updated stats, etc.

    2. JayTee says:

      How about a range per dollar?

      That allows more efficient vehicles to shine a bit.

      And by “more efficient” you mean”smaller”.


  10. ModernMarvelFan says:

    Using Full Retail Price of the Tesla to compare against the MSRP which is merely a suggested price is a bit unfair. We all know that there are tons of discounts on MSRP and none on the FRP of Tesla.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      MSRP is not the “full” retail price, it’s an inflated price which the auto maker fully expects to be negotiated lower. If you doubt this is true, just Google “dealer holdback”.

      Contrariwise, Tesla doesn’t play those games with prices.

  11. Nate says:

    I look forward to the day when the EV market is diverse enough that $49k and $94k models are way too overpriced to make a list where InsideEvs “compiled a half dozen of the best buys available right now in the USA”.

  12. Tom says:

    You can get the federal rebate on the Bolt but if you order a Tesla model 3 now you likely won’t be able to get the rebate when the deal closes on the car. So Bolt is cheaper at $485/kWh.

  13. JR says:

    I really think times now is becoming interesting in the high end EV market.
    Finally somebody step up to Tesla level EV
    This I-pace really looks nice and 90 kWh looks like a good deal.
    Entry Jaguar I-Page, Price 20.000 dollars less than entry Tesla model X D75 here in DK.
    Battery on the I-pace is 20% larger!
    Jaguar has long experience with aluminium cars and drive experience, and the interior look amassing.
    Of course Tesla killer APP is there supercharger network, but gab is closing!

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Tesla sold ~1875 Model 3’s in January and ~2485 TM3’s in February, and that number is going to keep growing significantly as the year progresses.

      The gap is expanding!

  14. Bill Howland says:

    For some reason unknown to me, IEVs continues the fiction that the Model 3 is lower cost per KWH than the Bolt ev.

    For that to be true, there must have been a BOLT ev somewhere sold without ANY discount whatsoever.

    You would first have to find an unlucky customer who paid 100% of the MSRP, a truly rare bird as far as that car is concerned.

    Also, since you guys are oh so eager to apply the D.O.E. 95% capacity rating to the BOLT ev, how about doing that with the other cars?

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