How Much Does it Cost to Charge an Electric Car?

Interesting | May 7th, 2014 by 18
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While Electric cars are currently more expensive than their conventionally-powered counterparts, the total cost of ownership over time can certainly be less, and in some cases much less.

The story first appeared on bmwi3blogspot

There are many reasons for considering making an electric car the next car you buy or lease. Besides the many environmental benefits, the promise of energy security, the silky-smooth driving experience with instant torque available without delay and low maintenance, one of the best characteristics of electric vehicles is how little they cost to operate.

I’ve covered this topic here before, but this is something that really needs to be driven home. While Electric cars are currently more expensive than their conventionally-powered counterparts, the total cost of ownership over time can certainly be less, and in some cases much less.

How Much Does it Cost to Charge an Electric Car?

Just as with gasoline cars some EV’s are more efficient than others, but the average EV needs about 30 kWh’s of electricity to power the vehicle for 100 miles. For example, the EPA rating for the Nissan LEAF is exactly 30 kWh’s per 100 miles. A Tesla Model S 60 is rated at a combined 35 kWh’s per 100 miles and uses a little more energy since it’s heavier and more powerful than a LEAF, while the Chevy Spark EV has a combined consumption rating of 28 kWh’s per 100 miles. The BMW i3’s EPA consumption ratings haven’t been announced yet, but since the i3 is likely to be wear the “most efficient EV” crown, I expect it to be rated somewhere around 26kWh’s per 100 miles. The consumption for all electric vehicles can be viewed at the US Department of Energy’s website: www.fueleconomy.gov

How Much Does it Cost to Charge an Electric Car?

According to Researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, the sales-weighted average fuel economy of all new vehicles sold in the United States in 2013 was 24.8 mpg. The average cost for a gallon of regular gasoline in the US over the past three years was $3.53/gallon. By using 15,000 miles as the average amount of miles a person will drive in a year, the annual cost of gasoline for the average car will be $2,135 per year, using the average cost of gasoline from 2011 through 2013.

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Electricity rates vary much more than gasoline across the country, but the cost is much more stable. Unlike with gasoline, there aren’t huge spikes in electricity rates if a refinery has a problem, and neither does the price skyrocket when there is political instability in one of the large oil producing countries as we have seen lately, since all of the electricity we use in America is domestically produced. The average cost of electricity in the US is 12 cents per kWh. Therefore the average person driving an average EV 15,000 miles per year pay about $540.00 per year to charge it. As mentioned, the cost of electricity can vary greatly depending on where you live, but in order to equal the price of the average gasoline car’s fuel costs, the price of electricity would have to be four times the national average, and cost 48 cents per kWh. Nowhere in the US does electricity cost even close to that much. So the average American would save roughly $1,600 per year in fuel alone, and that’s if gasoline prices remain around $3.53 per gallon. Gasoline prices do frequently spike up and down, but in the long run they always goes up. Electricity costs do eventually increase also, but not nearly at the pace of gasoline. Plus with fewer moving parts, EV’s cost much less to maintain. If you combine the fuel savings with the reduced maintenance costs, it’s clear to see an EV will cost you much less in the long run, even if the vehicle costs a little more up front.

Another great thing about electric cars is that you can easily reduce your electric bill by $40 to $50 per month just by being more efficient, and therefore completely eliminate your transportation fuel cost! You really can’t use less gasoline unless you drive less or buy a more efficient car, but you can reduce your electricity usage at home and still drive as much as you always have. Simple measures like a programmable thermostat and the use of compact florescent or LED light bulbs can make a big difference. In fact, five 100 watt light bulbs left on continuously for a year use nearly the same amount of energy as it takes to power an electric car 15,000 miles! Here’s how: five 100 watt light bulbs use 500 watts per hour. In 24 hours they use 12,000 watts or 12kWh. In 365 days they use 4,380kWh’s. A typical EV that uses 30 kWh’s for every 100 miles will use 4,500 kWh’s to drive 15,000 miles. Simply by turning unnecessary lighting off at your home, you can drastically reduce or completely eliminate your annual transportation fuel cost. Try doing that with a gasser!

  • WeaponZero
  • JO

    Tom, Thanks for the interesting article. I have a few quibbles, though. First, the UMTRI average fuel economy (24.8mpg) includes “light-duty vehicles (cars, SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks)”. Since EVs can’t functionally replace pickup trucks and vans in most cases, those vehicles should be excluded from the average when making cost comparisons. So I would expect the average MPG of similarl-function gas vehicles to be higher, reducing the “savings” of an EV. Second, while EVs have fewer parts, there is an extensive infrastructure around the maintenance/repair of gas vehicles. I would likely have to take an EV to the dealer, whereas I can now stop at my local auto parts store and get a friend down the road to help fix any problems with my gas vehicle. My gut tells me maintenance wouldn’t be cheaper in the long run. Finally, replacing lightbulbs, programming a thermostat, etc. should not be part of the calculated savings. Those are activities outside of the vehicles themselves do not depend on what we drive. That’s like factoring in home-brewed Folgers instead of drive-thru Starbucks as EV savings… It doesn’t make sense.

    • 2349

      I disagree JO. There are less things that can break down on an EV than a gas car. Also, have looked under the hood of a new gas car these days? They are not like ’57 Chevys anymore. There aren’t many things the average person can fix by himself. EVs don’t have these things. No oil changes, no tune ups, no transmission issues, no belts breaking, no brake jobs, no fluids.

  • Gamps

    If you are going to factor turning of light bulbs in the savings then the cost of replacing the batteries should be included in your calculations!

  • Rlbinkley

    My Tesla Model S 85 is 100% solar powered. ROI for solar is already met; so I am driving for free. Then there are the Tesla Superchargers that are free (included in the price of my car). It is easy being green.

    • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

      Good stuff. The future looks good for those that enjoy sustainability

    • xyz123xyz

      It seems like the high price you paid for the model S will be recouped by you in no time , maybe you will not spend a penny anymore on fuel in your life

    • Magnus Thunderson

      I am also in the process to put my power company to a standby position and now get my Power from the solar system biggest suppler of power which is SOL

  • Rp

    In San Diego, where I live, you will probably pay a marginal rate of $.39 / kWh, far above the cited $.14, to recharge (assuming the rest of your household needs put you into the tier-3 range at the margin). But, the sun shines a lot here so if you can install a solar system your marginal cost might be as low as $.045, which is what the utility will pay you for any excess you produce and do not use in a year. I would not consider an EV unless you have solar.

    The macro constraint that articles like this always ignore is a falacy of composition: Yes, one household in your neighborhood going EV will achieve the calculated payoff, but if all households choose to do it the system will fail. The distribution infrastucture for electric energy cannot deliver anywhere near the output that we get from burning gasoline. And, it is not scalable. At some point, if EVs were to gain noticable market share, electricity costs would have to rise enough to erase the economic benefit and forestall further EV growth.

    So, if you can install solar and recharge whenever the sun shines an EV could be a great long-term bet for you.

    • beardedman

      Impact of your neighborhood going EV is far less than the impact of a neighborhood getting central air in the ’50s, ’60s and the power companies had no trouble keeping up there. They’ve already weighed in saying this will not be a problem. Night time charging capacity is relatively untapped and it is scalable.

  • xyz123xyz

    I really look forward to electric car revolution in the world , what makes things better is the fact that most countries are going all out to produce electricity through clean energy sources like sunlight or wind or wave….a zero carbon emission world

  • Jeez wiz

    You forgot to mention that the average price of an electric vehicle is 20k more than the same compact with a gas engine. So, you are paying 40k+ for a Corrola. That is $400+ per month on your note, so instead of paying big oil, you are paying big auto. Either way, you are not saving anything, but enjoy thinking you are. Using simple math that greenies like to leave out will indeed prove this article to be mid-leading. $400 per month is intentionally left out of this article, also you WILL need a $5000+ battery in 5 years.

    • beardedman

      WRONG. My fully loaded, leather, nav, Bose, 2014 Volt costs me $300/mo. Buy a Corolla-level model and they are in the $200-250 range. The idea they are $20K higher is terribly out of date.

    • Magnus Thunderson

      $5000+ battery in 5 years.most likely 2,500 or less as 5 year ago those battery would of be 15.000

    • Magnus Thunderson

      the Leaf is 27k before rebates with can bring it under 20k so what compact car are you referring to that is 7k or less

  • StartThinking

    To all the “Greenies” with too much money in hand… ever factored the production of a lithium cell into your oh so clean bill of health for electrical cars? Ever thought about what is going to happen with 2500 pds of unusable lithium polymer debris once the car´s battery is at EOL? Oh yes, you´ll probably think about burying it in a desert much as you bury your head in the sand waving your oh so green conscience….
    What the car industry is telling you is just blatant lies and coupled with the lack of understanding where electricity comes from and at what cost. If your oh so green car is using 30kWh per 100 (distance units) then how much electrical energy do you have to push into the battery to get 30kWh out of it? Who if you´re not in a blessed and sunny solar spot of the world is making this energy and in what fashion… is it made a la Chernobyl & Fukushima or is someone just burning fossil fuel that you henceforth claim not to use anymore?
    Electric cars are only for hypocrites that don´t give a pidgeons dropping about what is becoming of the environment but would nevertheless be applauded for having wasted the money on something they have been told it was environmentally friendly instead of putting it to use where it is in fact needed but where it might be a less than ideal world and roads possibly not only dirty.

    • beardedman

      I won’t address the poopstorm of vitriol you unleashed except to say that traction batteries are 100% or nearly 100% recyclable as well as having excellent second-life application in stationary applications. Good chance the rest of your, er, “information” is off too. You would do well to switch the channel from Fox News to something else.

    • Magnus Thunderson

      Smart Thinking is what you need to do as you not done your home work
      1 electric cars powered by the dirtiest coal plants still has 1/2 the carbon foot print of a gas powered car
      2 all car battery’s are reused in at fixed spots and recycled at end of life and while recycling of the battery is in the infancy so unprofitable currently there activity making it more efficient

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