How Much Does It Cost to Charge an Electric Car?

Learn your different EV charging options and how to calculate costs.

Close up of a charging electric car.
Charging an EV is easy. Calculating its cost takes a little practice. Scharfsinn86/ Getty Images.

Electric vehicle (EV) charging may seem mysterious, but it's much more sustainable and often less expensive than fueling a gas-powered vehicle. In some cases, it can even be free.

Which brand of EV is the most efficient to charge? Find out more about calculating the cost to charge electric cars.

Measuring the Cost Per Charge

To determine how much an EV owner pays per charge, you'll need to determine the kilowatt-hour costs, instead of mpg.

What Is a Kilowatt-Hour?

A watt is a unit of power, whereas a watt-hour is a measure of how much power is used. If you leave a 100-watt light bulb on for 10 hours, you have used 1000 watt-hours, or 1 kilowatt-hour, abbreviated as kWh.

How Much Do You Pay for Electricity?

Most likely, you pay for electricity based on how many kWh you use each month. The national average is around $0.13/kWh.

If you charge an electric vehicle at home, calculating the cost of a single charge is easy. If an EV owner charges the battery with 25 kWh and pays $.10/kWh for electricity, the owner will pay $2.50 to charge the battery. 

How Much Electricity Does an EV Use?

To calculate the real-world cost of charging an electric vehicle, you need to know how efficient the vehicle is in using electricity. This is measured by how many kWh an EV consumes driving 100 miles.

For example, if an EV has an efficiency rating of 25 kWh/100 miles, it can drive 4 miles on a single kWh. With a 50 kWh battery, that same EV has a maximum range of 200 miles. 

In a gas-powered car, MPG ratings are higher for highway driving than for city driving, since gas cars waste more gasoline idling in stop-and-go city traffic than they do on highways. For electric vehicles, it's just the opposite: EVs use very little energy idling but are constantly using power on highways, so city driving is more efficient than highway driving. 

Efficiency Rating of Popular Electric Vehicles
Model (2021 model, unless noted)  kWh/100 miles
Audi e-tron 43
Ford Mustang Mach-E 33-36
Nissan Leaf 30-32
Kia Niro EV (2020) 30
Chevrolet Bolt EV 29
Hyundai Kona Electric 28
Tesla Model Y 27-30
Tesla Model 3 25
Source: Edmunds, “Best Electric Vehicles for 2021,” February 25, 2021.

Different Costs for Different Ways to Charge

Approximately 50%-80% of EV charging is done at home, making it easier to calculate your monthly charging costs.

But the actual cost for charging an electric vehicle depends on where (and when) the charging is done. Here are charging methods ranked from least to most expensive:

  • Free. It is almost impossible to get gasoline for free, but many businesses try to attract customers by offering free electric vehicle charging. The charging rate is often slow, called Level 1 charging, which provides the same 120-volts that come from an ordinary home outlet.
  • Off-peak at home. Some utilities charge less for off-peak electricity when demand is low. Fortunately, most charging is done at home overnight, when rates are low.
  • On-peak at home. Even on-peak or flat-rate electricity charges are cheaper than prices paid at public charging stations. 
  • Level 2 public charging stations. Level 2 charging provides 240 volts and can charge your EV much faster. Infrequent public charging is pay-as-you-go; for regular use, public charging services offer monthly subscriptions at lower rates.
  • High-speed public charging. This is usually done where charging time rather than cost matters most. High-speed charging stations can deliver anywhere from 50KW to 250KW (even higher in rare cases). Not every electric vehicle can accept the full power that high-speed chargers can offer, so EV owners may be over-paying.

Cost of Charging vs. Price of Gas

Most EV charging is done at home and public fast charging is limited to about six times per year, a 2020 study by Consumer Reports concluded that fueling an electric vehicle costs 60% less than fueling a comparable gas-powered car.

However, this discount may very depend on where you charge. Like gasoline costs, electricity costs vary from state to state.

In late March 2021, the lowest price for an eGallon in the United States could be found in Oklahoma, at $0.81, while in Hawaii (the most expensive state), an eGallon cost $2.65. But in every state, EV charging was always far cheaper than gasoline.

What Is an eGallon?

An eGallon is the amount of electricity an EV would need to travel the same distance as a similar gas-powered car.

Over the average lifetime of a vehicle (11.6 years), a California EV owner would save $11,271.72 at current gas and electricity prices, while an EV owner in Mississippi would save $8,632.49.

When calculating the total cost of owning a car, fuel-cost savings alone make a $40,000 electric vehicle roughly comparable in price to a $30,000 gas-powered car.

Equipment Costs for Charging at Home

While most home charging uses a standard 120-volt outlet, there can be equipment costs for speedy charging. A Level 2 charging station (or EVSE, for electric vehicle supply equipment) can cost from $400 to $6,500 before installation.

Fortunately, there are federal tax rebates available, as well as state and utility company incentives in many areas.

Money-Saving Charging Tips

  • EV charging slows down dramatically for the last 20% of the battery capacity, so if you're paying by the minute at a public charging station, stop charging when your battery reaches 80% full.
  • Use EV phone apps to choose your charging start and stop times when electricity rates are lowest in your area.
  • Preheat your car on winter mornings while it is still plugged in, rather than heating it from the battery while you are driving.
Frequently Asked Questions
  • How much does it cost to charge an electric car at a charging station?

    The average cost to charge an electric car at a public charging station is $0.30 to $0.60 per kWh, which is three to six times as much as the average American would pay to charge at home. Depending on the size and make of your car, it could cost you anywhere from $10 to $50 for a full charge.

  • Is it cheaper to charge an electric car at home?

    Although a Level 2 charging system can cost anywhere between $400 to $6,500, plus the cost of installation, the cheaper rates for home charging versus public charging pay off over time.

  • What is the cheapest time to charge an electric car?

    The cheapest time to charge your car at home is overnight, when energy rates are generally the cheapest. Electric providers often increase prices at peak times—about 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily—so it's best to charge outside those hours.

  • Are electric vehicles cheaper than gas-powered vehicles?

    If you compare the cost of fuel to the cost of electricity, the answer varies: Sometimes public charging stations do cost more than fuel. Ultimately, electric vehicles wind up being vastly cheaper than gas-powered cars in the long run.

View Article Sources
  1. "Table 5.6.A. Average Price of Electricity to Ultimate Customers by End-Use Sector, by State, July 2021 and 2020 (Cents per Kilowatthour)." U.S. Energy Information Administration.

  2. Hardman, Scott, et al. "A Review of Consumer Preferences of and Interactions With Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure." Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, vol. 62, 2018, pp. 508-523., doi:10.1016/j.trd.2018.04.002

  3. Harto, Chris. “Electric Vehicle Ownership Costs: Today's Electric Vehicles Offer Big Savings for Consumers.” Consumer Reports, October 2020.

  4. eGallon,” U.S. Department of Energy, 2021.

  5. Average Age of Automobiles and Trucks in Operation in the United States.” U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

  6. Smith, Margaret and Jonathan Castellano. "Costs Associated With Non-Residential Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment." U.S. Department of Energy, 2015, pp. 11-12.

  7. Search Federal and State Laws and Incentives.” U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.