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Is EV Charging Cheaper Than Gasoline? We Did the Math and Found a Winner

Is EV Charging Cheaper Than Gasoline? We Did the Math and Found a Winner

It’s hard not to notice the proud EV drivers on the road, especially those with vain license plates that read “GAS LOL.” Why so braggy? Maybe because they believe it’s cheaper to charge their electric vehicle than to fill up a gas-powered car.

This story is part of CNET Zeroa series that maps the impact of climate change and examines what is being done about the problem.

That’s understandable. Lowering fuel costs is the number one reason EV-curious people are considering going all-electric. In June 2022, gas prices hit a record high, averaging more than $5 a gallon nationwide, and while they’ve since fallen 26% to around $3.70 in May, the volatility is causing many drivers to look to alternatives, like EVs or hybrids.

The debate over which option is cheaper to use is all over Reddit, TikTok, and other social media platforms. One Reddit user says he now spends $70 more on his electric bill for home charging, compared to $330 a month on gas before. Some Reddit users disagree on the actual savings. For example, one opponent says he thinks public supercharging is expensive and time-consuming, and another says the cost of installing their home electric vehicle charger negates any savings.

So which is best? Experts say, based on averages, EV charging wins on cost.

Gasoline prices are unpredictable and expensive in some areas. While electricity also varies in price, “it’s significantly cheaper” than gasoline, says Anastasia Boutziouvis, solution product manager at ChargePoint, which operates the world’s largest network of EV charging stations in North America and Europe. That means charging an EV is typically significantly cheaper than filling up the tank of a gas-powered car.

We show you how much cheaper charging an electric car can be on average.

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We do the math: Compare charging an electric car with filling a petrol tank

When we look at the cost of fueling or charging an electric car versus a gasoline car, the differences are stark and quite clear. EVs are propelled by electricity and use batteries to store that electricity, which then needs to be recharged.

Cars that run on gas, or cars with an internal combustion engine, run on gasoline. The driver therefore needs gasoline in the vehicle’s fuel tank to drive.

We use averages from government data sources and calculate for you what the costs for charging and refueling are in a month.

These calculations use U.S. driving averages for both EVs and ICE cars in data points like fuel economy, miles driven, cost of electricity and gasoline, energy required for the average EV, and more. You could drive a lot more (or a lot less) and see your fuel costs vary accordingly.

Electric Vehicle Charging Costs vs. Fuel Costs (US Averages)

Average number of kilometers driven per month

1,250 miles

1,250 miles

Average fuel cost per gallon

$3.65 per gallon

Average miles per gallon

25 miles per gallon

Average number of gallons of fuel needed

50 gallons

Average power required for an EV

3 miles per kWh

Average kWh consumption per month

416 kWh

The average electricity cost is (per US household)

16 cents per kWh

Average energy costs per kilometer

5.3 cents

14.6 cents

Monthly comparison

$66.56 charging fee

$182.50 fuel costs

Data sources:

Monthly costs for charging an EV

The cost to fuel or charge an EV depends on a variety of factors, but the cheapest way to do this is to charge your EV at home, during off-peak hours. In other words, charging your EV overnight with a home charger is likely to be the least expensive way to charge, and in some areas it may only cost a dollar or two — a fraction of the price of a gallon of gas.

Boutziouvis says that “what we see globally is that the cost is about half or a third of the cost of a petrol car” when it comes to “filling up the tank”, so to speak.

It can cost, she says, a few dollars on average to charge an EV. Assuming you’re charging your EV at home with your own charger, the price of this really comes down to what you pay for electricity. “It’s completely based on local utility rates, and those vary across the U.S.,” she says.

The total charging cost may also depend on whether you have a fixed or variable electricity rate, or how your chosen energy plan sets rates for usage throughout the day.

The cost of charging electric vehicles at home versus charging public electric vehicles

Another important thing EV owners need to consider is the cost difference between charging at home and charging in public. If you don’t have a charger or the ability to charge your EV at home, you’ll need to charge elsewhere. There are public charging stations in many places, such as store parking lots. Here’s a comprehensive guide to where to charge for free.

Yes, charging at home is generally cheaper, but there may be costs involved if you install an electric car charging station and possibly also want to upgrade your home’s electrical grid.

Costs for charging at home

The cost of charging at home, as mentioned, depends on what you pay for electricity, which varies depending on where you live. Electricity is generally more expensive in Hawaii, New England and California, and cheaper in western and midwestern states such as North Dakota, Utah and Washington. The national average is around 16 cents per kilowatt hour.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some states with deregulated energy markets — better known as energy choice markets — may have additional incentives available for EV drivers. Some states “offer really cool plans where they let you charge your (EV) for free,” Boutziouvis says. Or, she says, certain energy providers offer incentives that are “almost like a cell phone plan, with unlimited charging for $20 a month” or something like that.

read more: You can choose your electricity supplier in these states with liberalized markets

These plans or incentives vary from state to state. In Texas, for example, TXU Energy and Gexa offer energy plans designed to entice EV drivers with free charging periods.

You can also use smartphone apps to schedule your electric car charging during off-peak hours or when electricity rates are lowest (usually at night), helping you save more money.

Public charging costs

As for public charging, Boutziouvis says there are “different ways to set the price,” since most public charging stations are independently owned and thus the price is up to the owner. Tesla is a notable example. The company has its own fleet of charging stations and charges 50 cents per minute in “idle fees” on top of the electricity cost to encourage you to drive away and free up charging stations for other users.

Aside from Tesla chargers, other stations typically charge a flat fee, a usage-based fee or a fee based on the amount of time an EV driver uses the charger, Boutziouvis says. The cost is determined by local electricity rates plus any applicable fees or surcharges that the charger owner implements.

But there are also two “levels” or types of charging you should know about, namely AC and DC, or Level 2 and Level 3 charging (more on that below). DC charging is effectively much faster and likely to be more expensive at a public charging station. “DC charging can cost $10 to $30 per session,” Boutziouvis says, and takes 20 or 30 minutes to charge a battery from 0% to 80%. Conversely, “AC public charging can cost a few bucks,” she says.

“Two to three hours will give you enough range to get back on the road,” said Antuan Goodwin, a 16-year auto and EV expert at CNET. “A true full charge at Level 2 can take anywhere from six to 12 hours, depending on your car and the charging station.” That’s why Goodwin recommends fully charging your EV at home overnight. “That’s usually the cheapest and most convenient option,” he said.

In other words, the faster the charger, the more expensive it gets. But you can also charge for free in some locations.

The cost of level 2 vs level 3 charging

The difference between level 2 (AC) and level 3 (DC) charging mainly has to do with the speed and amount of electricity that flows through a charger to an electric car’s battery.

Level 2 Charging

Level 2 charging “is what you would find in your home,” Boutziouvis says, and typically delivers between 7 and 11 kilowatts to an EV’s battery. That can give the typical EV 30 or 40 miles of range after a few hours of charging. Since charging is slower, it can cost a few dollars to charge your EV at a Level 2 public charging station. Some public EV charging stations are even free.

Level 3 Charging

Level 3 or DC fast charging, on the other hand, delivers between 50 and 350 kilowatts in the same amount of time. Since many, if not most, EV homeowners charge at home and overnight, it’s typically not practical to have a Level 3 charging setup at home, so these chargers are generally found in public locations. But since they’re faster, it can cost between $10 and $30 to charge one, as Boutziouvis notes.

The cost of home charging equipment for electric vehicles

Although charging your electric car at home is the cheapest way to top up the battery, connecting a charger can be relatively expensive.

The cost really depends on whether your home’s electrical setup can handle the addition of a charger — if not, you may need an electrician to replace your electrical panel (the fuse box is likely in your basement). That can be expensive, again depending on where you live and other factors.

Assuming you don’t need an upgrade, Boutziouvis says installing a charger can cost around $700, and the cost can vary depending on how far the charger is physically from your electrical panel. More distance means higher costs, since more materials are needed. If you do need an upgraded electrical system, a new electrical panel can cost a few thousand dollars.

Keep in mind, however, that there are tax credits and incentives available for home charger installation costs. For example, there’s a federal tax credit of 30% of the hardware and installation cost up to $1,000 that was enacted as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. There may also be some rebates and incentives for utilities. For example, Duke Energy offers a one-time credit of over $1,100 per charger in some areas.

A good rule of thumb: If you’re planning to buy a charger, shop with multiple companies, check with your utility for rebates and tax breaks, and explore all applicable tax incentives to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

read more: Best Home Chargers for Electric Vehicles

Look at this: Expert vs. AI: Is Now the Time to Buy an Electric Car?