The Costs of Powering an Electric Cars

Costs of Powering an Electric Cars

The rapidly dropping cost of electric cars is complemented by the fact EVs are generally cheaper to fuel than gas-powered models, and they also tend to have a less scheduled maintenance.

However, as we learned with our long-term Tesla Model 3, even though EVs don’t require regular oil changes, service costs and normal wear items such as tires (which, in the case of the Model 3 wore out sooner than is typical on gas-powered vehicles) can still add up.

Of course, many factors come into play here with the cost of electricity and gas, as well as the efficiency of a given model, altering just how cost-efficient an electric vehicle is.

For instance, some bigger electric vehicles, such as the GMC Hummer EV, obviously aren’t going to have the energy efficiency of smaller EVs.

Even so, the relative stability of electricity prices ought to bring an additional piece of mind to EV owners. Gas prices have fluctuated wildly since Nissan kicked off sales of the Leaf.

Did anyone else laugh to themselves at Nissan’s note about $1.10 for a gallon of gas? According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average residential cost for a kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity was just under $0.12 in May 2011. In May 2022, it was a smidge less than $0.15.

At that price, fully charging a new Bolt EV’s 66.0-kWh battery pack would cost approximately $9.90. Admittedly, charging inefficiencies are likely to raise this sum a small amount.

Even so, netting 259 miles of EPA-rated driving range for less than two Hamiltons seems like a reasonable sum given it’d take $42 to fill a Trax’s 14.0-gallon tank at $3.00 per gallon.

This figure rises to $56 at $4.00 per gallon. Sure, the Trax goes about 100 miles further on a tank, but the per-mile cost is still about three times the Bolt’s.

That said, EV drivers who rely primarily on pricier pay-per-use public fast chargers may see little or no difference in the amount they spend on charging relative to the cost of filling up a given gas-powered car at a fuel pump.

That’s because the cost of energy from a fast charger is roughly three to four times more expensive than what you pay at home.

How much an EV cost is dependent on numerous factors. Nevertheless, the price of electric cars continues to come closer and closer to parity with their gas kin.

Factor in the potential savings that come with charging at home, and it’s safe to say electric cars no longer carry the significant cost difference over gas-powered cars they once did

Costs of Electric Cars home charging setup

Besides understanding what it will cost to power an EV, it’s also important to know the cost of a key piece of at-home technology: the electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), along with the cost of its installation.

Another potential cost is a residential solar power system, which a growing number of people are considering, either for vehicle charging alone or for powering the car plus the household. Let’s break down what these things cost.

The electric vehicle supply equipment: $200-$1,000+

Plug-in vehicles today typically come with the ability to charge at home on standard household current, 120 volts, which is called Level 1 charging. They also can charge on faster 240-volt circuits, called Level 2 charging.

If the vehicle has a small battery, under 10 kWh, you can often make do with the Level 1 charging system that comes with the vehicle. For plug-in cars with larger batteries, Level 2 is your best bet for overnight charging and quick top-ups.

Most automakers with plug-in vehicles in their lineups have a preferred charger provider, but there are dozens of companies selling EVSEs. A search online will help you find the features, power output, and pricing that best suit your needs. Just search for “EVSE” or “EV home chargers.” Prices for quality Level 2 home systems can range from just under $200 to more than $1,000 before installation.

There are faster Level 3 chargers, but they require a 440-volt DC power supply and are not meant for home use. You’ll find these at Tesla Supercharger locations or other independent charging stations.

Cost of installation: $800-$1,300

Installation costs for EVSEs vary by region, depending on such factors as local labor rates, materials used, and government permit costs and requirements.

The biggest variable is permit costs, said Ken Sapp, SVP of business development for Qmerit, a Southern California company specializing in connecting homeowners with qualified EVSE installers throughout the U.S.

Nationally, Sapp said, average costs range from $800 to $1,300 for a home EVSE installation with a short and uncomplicated 10-foot wiring running from the electrical service box to the charging station.

The costliest region is the Western U.S., where installation can run from $950 to $1,300. It’s the least expensive in the Central U.S. states, at $800 to $1,100. Costs in the Southeast states can range from $850 to $1,150, while costs run from $900 to $1,200 in the Northeast.

The costs of a solar system: $7,000 and up

Unless you’ll be charging electric cars for many years to come, it can be difficult to make an economic case for installing a solar system just to serve your EV.

In the Los Angeles area, a 1-kilowatt solar system produces an average of 4 kWh of power per day. A base Tesla Model 3, which is EPA-rated at 29 kWh/100 miles and is one of the more efficient EVs available, would need at least a 3.1-kW system to get about 50 miles of range per daily charge.

Such a system costs roughly $7,000 and doesn’t include the cost of a storage battery to hold power for overnight charging. That feature could double the cost.

Solar starts to make more sense if you install a system capable of providing electricity for the household as well as the EV. The upfront costs of owning a solar system outright can be steep. But on average, a properly sized whole-house solar system will pay for itself over about seven years and will last for at least 25 years.

Costs are largely dependent on the size of the system, regional labor rates, the quality of the solar panels and power inverter used, and the complexity of the installation.

The national average installed cost of a 10-kW system is $20,498 after applying the 26% federal tax credit, according to EnergySage, a Boston-based service that links homeowners with solar system providers across the country.

Depending on your location and energy needs, a considerably cheaper 6-kW system could be adequate. There are a number of solar system financing and leasing programs, although the latter may come with onerous conditions from the leasing company, so be sure to read the fine print. Some utilities also offer incentives.

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