Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.
The cost to charge an electric vehicle varies by quite a bit. How much? Adding 100 miles of range to an EV can cost between $2.50 and $35.
That wide range is due to factors including:
What you drive. Just like gas cars, some EVs are more efficient than others, which means they’ll need more or less power to travel the same distance.
Where you charge. Charging at home is usually cheaper than using a public charger.
Where you live. Electricity rates vary by utility provider.
How fast you charge. Fast public chargers cost more than slower options.
What company you charge with. Public charging stations have different pricing structures. Some offer lower prices for a monthly fee.
When you charge. Energy prices fluctuate. Those estimates of $2.50 to $35 use state-level averages from November 2022. And if your utility company uses dynamic pricing, your rates are determined by the time of day you charge.
How to think about charging costs after a lifetime of using gas
If you drive a gas-powered car, you’re familiar with how many miles per gallon a car gets and the cost of a gallon of gas. The concepts behind EVs are similar, but the terms are different.
Size of the battery = size of the gas tank
The power stored in a battery is measured in kilowatt-hours, or kWh. The power needed to travel a given distance varies by vehicle, similar to how the gas mileage for a small hatchback is usually better than in a heavy pickup truck.
The total charge stored in a vehicle’s battery depends on the car. The Tesla Model S battery has a capacity of 95 kWh, while the Nissan Leaf’s is a much smaller 39 kWh. Going from empty to 100% will cost more on a higher-capacity battery, but you’ll also fill up less frequently.
Energy efficiency and energy costs
The measurement that really matters to your wallet is an electric vehicle's efficiency, not its battery capacity or its maximum range. Comparing how much different vehicles cost to travel the same distance is a better indication of expected fueling costs than the size of a tank or the cost to charge any one battery to full.
A Tesla Model 3 traveling 100 miles will use 25kWh, and a larger Rivian will require about 50 kWh. A small SUV with a gas engine, like a Ford Escape or Toyota RAV4, will use roughly 3.7 gallons of gas to travel those 100 miles, while a gas-engine pickup truck like a Ford F150 or Toyota Tundra uses about 5 gallons of gas to do so.
Here’s what adding 100 miles of range to each vehicle type looks like in dollars: About $4 for the small EV and $8 for a larger EV (each using a home charger), $12 for a small SUV and $17 for a truck.
MPG and MPGe
Comparing kWh with miles per gallon can seem clunky. One alternative is to look at an electric vehicle's MPGe, or miles per gallon equivalent.
MPGe, which is tracked by the Environmental Protection Agency, represents electricity consumption as if it were gas. According to the formula, using 33.7 kWh of power is equivalent to using 1 gallon of gas. So, as an example, an electric vehicle that travels 100 miles on 33.7 kWh would have a 100 MPGe rating.
The rating isn't perfect — in reality, different EVs use electricity at different levels of efficiency — but the estimate is still useful, allowing a person to compare an EV's MPGe directly with a gas-powered car's MPG. This makes shopping for EVs alongside gas vehicles and hybrids more intuitive.
Ratings in the 70s, 80s and 90s are typical. The 10 most efficient EVs, according to the agency, all had an average MPGe of at least 115, and the top spot has a rating of 140.
Examples of various charging scenarios
Comparing the cost of adding about 100 miles — regardless of the battery’s total storage capacity, or even its fuel source — allows you to evaluate the cost of different scenarios.
Adding 100 miles:
With a home charger
At a public fast charger
To a gas-powered small SUV
To a gas-powered pickup truck
Charging at home
If you’re charging at home, the cost to charge an EV depends on your electricity rates.
Rates vary based on where you live. For example, people in Utah and Washington paid less than 12 cents per kWh in 2021, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, while those in Rhode Island and Alaska paid twice that. Even within one area, prices fluctuate throughout the year.
If you’re one of the more than 10 million households that use dynamic charging — which means you pay less or more for electricity during certain hours of the day — the price you pay depends on when you charge. Keep your bill lower by charging only during off-peak times. Many home chargers let you create rules about when your EV charges, much like you program a smart thermostat.
At-home charging might require upfront hardware costs
Charging at home can be as simple as plugging a car into a standard wall outlet. This method, called Level 1 charging, transfers charge slowly — about five miles of range per hour of charging, according to the U.S. Energy Department— but it works without installing extra equipment.
Adding a Level 2 charger to your home allows you to add about 25 miles of range per hour. Equipment and installation can vary depending on location — from $2,000 to $7,000 according to the Energy Department — although local incentives can bring that figure down.
These costs don’t show up on your electric bill when you charge. But if you’re thinking about buying an electric vehicle for the first time and plan to charge at home, don’t let this expense surprise you.
EV owners in the U.S. can charge their cars at home or at one of more than 130,000 ports on about 50,000 public charging stations across the country. Some people might have access to additional, semi-public charging stations, such as at their workplace.
Some public charging stations are free to use — a business might install a charger and offer free charges to customers, for example — but paying to charge an EV is the norm.
Expect prices to be more expensive than home charging, especially if you’re using DC fast charging, but still cheaper than using gas in most circumstances. You can add hundreds of miles of range in 15 or 20 minutes in some cases — helpful if you’re in a hurry or on a road trip. But this is where you see prices that can be three times what you’re paying in your garage. Like charging at home, rates might vary depending on what time of day you charge.