Most drivers know how much it costs to fill the tank with gasoline. It’s hard to miss the glowing numbers at the corner station. But how much does it cost to recharge an electric car? And how much money do EVs save drivers compared to gasoline-powered cars? To help answer these questions, our new report, “Going From Pump to Plug,” looks at the price of recharging an EV at home in the fifty largest cities in the US, as well at public charging stations.
Charging an EV at home can be much cheaper than gasoline
After comparing the findings for large cities across the US, the answer is clear: for every electricity provider we looked at, charging an EV is cheaper than refueling the average new gasoline vehicle.
Compared to using the average new gasoline car, driving on electricity would save on average almost $800 per year in fuel costs.
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However, where you live and what electric rate plan you choose can change your savings. For almost all EV drivers, choosing a time-of-use (TOU) electric rate plan is needed to see the largest savings.
A TOU plan gives cheaper electric rates during off-peak periods (often late at night), with higher rates for using electricity during high-demand times. Because most EVs are parked at home overnight, TOU rates are a good fit for most EV drivers.
In some cities, especially in California, TOU rates are essential for saving money on fuel costs. For example, in my home in Oakland, CA, recharging using the standard electricity plan is equal to buying gasoline at $3.34/gallon, while using the TOU plan only costs the equivalent of $1.03/gallon.
Public EV charging costs are variable
Costs to charge at public charging stations varies considerably. Some stations are free, while others can cost over twice as much as home charging. However, the impact of public charger costs is often muted by the high preponderance of home charging. For example, a San Francisco driver that uses higher-cost DC fast charging for 20 percent of charging would only see their average fuel costs increase from $0.78/gallon equivalent to $1.35/gallon.
Savings on maintenance, too
Drivers of battery electric vehicles also can have significantly lower maintenance costs. These EVs have no engine, so no oil changes, spark plugs, or engine air filter to change. Instead, the electric motors and batteries require little to no attention. This means less time and money spent on routine car maintenance. Comparing the Chevy Bolt EV to the Chevy Sonic gasoline car, the Bolt owner will spend over $1,500 less on scheduled maintenance over the first 150,000 miles.
Policies needed to ensure all can access these EV benefits
Electric vehicles can save drivers on fuel and maintenance costs, at the same time they help reduce global warming emissions and air pollution. However, good policies are needed to make sure that all can access the benefits of EVs.
- Buyers need to be able to afford EVs. Currently, EVs cost more to manufacture compared to similar-sized gasoline cars. These manufacturing costs are coming down as EV production volumes increase and technology advances, but federal, state, and local purchase incentives are vital to accelerate the transition from gasoline to electricity.
- Policies are needed to ensure that everyone can recharge an EV at a price lower than gasoline cost. Regulators and electricity providers should ensure that EV customers can access lower-cost electricity rate plans, which are key to making EVs a reliable and affordable alternative to gasoline vehicles. Solutions are needed for those who cannot charge at home and those that must drive long distances. Therefore, access is essential to reliable and affordable public charging, especially fast-charging stations. Also, public policies that improve charging options at apartments and multi-unit dwellings will broaden the base of drivers who can choose an EV.
- Public policies should require manufacturers to produce higher volumes of EVs and encourage a greater diversity of electric-drive models and sizes. There are many more models of EVs available now as compared to just a few years ago, but there is still a lack of some types of vehicles with electric such as pickup trucks. Also, not all manufacturers offer EVs nationwide, making it more difficult for buyers to find and test drive an EV.
Policies like these can help ensure that everyone has access to EVs and can make personal transportation choices that both save them money and reduce their carbon footprint.