Combustion engines run on fuel. Electric vehicles use electricity. A main selling point for EVs is that charging a battery costs less than filling a fuel tank. Tesla even includes estimated gas savings in the vehicle prices on its website

How much does it cost to charge an EV? How much cheaper is it to run an EV than an ICE vehicle? The answer—like the electricity market itself—is complicated and dependent on individual choices.

Electricity is metered in cents per kWh

Cents per kWh is the EV equivalent of miles per gallon. Let's say you own a Chevy Blazer EV with an 85 kWh battery pack. The average electricity cost in an American home is 16.68 cents/kWh. A complete 0-100% charge would cost $14.18 at that rate. A typical full charge from 10-80% would cost $9.926.

As of this writing, the average cost of a gallon of gas in America is $3.59. The average car would travel 24.4 miles on a gallon of gas. If we presume a conservative 3 miles per kWh of consumption by an EV, traveling 24.4 miles would require 8.13 kWh of electricity. Traveling that distance at 16.68 cents per kWh would cost $1.36, a little more than one-third the cost.

Location affects the electricity cost for EV charging

Like with gasoline, electricity costs vary greatly depending on where you live. In March 2024, the average residential electricity price in American states ranged from just 10.44 cents/kWh in North Dakota to Hawaii's 45.25 cents/kWh. Electricity was around twice as expensive in New England States, which averaged 27.60 cents/kWh, as it was in Plains and Mountains regions. 

How you charge an EV affects the cost

You have one option with gasoline: show up at a gas station and fill the car up. With electricity, there is a wide range of choices. Theoretically, you can charge anywhere there's a power outlet. The type of outlet you choose can affect the cost dramatically. The faster the charging, the more it will cost.

A commercial Level 3 fast charger will likely be the most expensive option, with added service charges to the raw electricity. LeafScore estimates an average rate of 25 cents per kWh at a Tesla Supercharger, costing around $20-25 for a full charge.

Charging at home on an installed Level 2 charger would be cheaper (LeafScore estimates about 33 percent). Energy providers may meter the charger separately to offer a lower rate.

Free public chargers are available at certain municipal buildings and buildings, such as hotels and restaurants. However, those chargers are typically too slow to rely on as a primary charging method.

When you charge an EV affects the cost

The price of gasoline typically stays static throughout the day. But when you charge an EV makes a difference. Electricity is markedly more expensive during peak hours (afternoon and early evening); EVs with vehicle-to-home charging can "peak shave" by sending power back to the house to reduce costs. Charging late at night and early in the morning, when electricity demand dips, can reduce the price.

How do you save the most money when charging an EV?

Rates will vary based on several factors, and you can't control the energy market rates where you live. But an EV, in almost any situation, will be cheaper to power than a combustion vehicle running on fuel. Charging at home will be cheaper than charging on the road. And charging at night will be cheaper than charging during peak hours in the daytime.

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