When you’re considering an electric vehicle, cost is most likely one of your top considerations. You’ll want to weigh not only the price of the car itself but also how much it costs to charge an electric car compared to what you would have paid for gas.
The ease of refueling with your own home EV charging station may sound appealing, but it’s understandable if you’re also concerned about what it will mean for your electric bill. The good news is that it will cost you far less than fuel in the long run. To understand exactly how much it costs to charge an electric car, though, you’ll need to consider the price of public charging and home charging, including the costs of installing your own charging station.
How do public EV charging stations establish their rates?
To understand how much it costs to charge an electric car at a public charging station, we must first establish how the cost is calculated. There are regulations in individual states that define how charging stations can structure their rates for electricity. The cost to use a station varies by location, and especially by state, but there are two ways that a public charging station can charge for electricity.
The first way they charge is the same way energy is priced at a home charging station, which is in kilowatts per hour, or kWh. This is the standard metric utility companies use to measure electricity use, and they bill in cents per kWh.
The normal output power (kW) for a 32 amp Level 2 home charger is between 7 and 19 kW and it’s typically much higher at public Level 3 stations. Many EV drivers like a faster charge at home, so they opt for our best-selling home charger, the JuiceBox 40, which has 40 amps and can give you 32 to 35 miles of range per hour. On average, electric vehicles have a capacity of 68 kW, meaning a full charge on a Level 2 charging system would take between 4 and 10 hours.
Alternatively, some public charging stations charge for electricity by the minute. In that case, charging systems will have a standardized amount of electricity flowing into the car per minute. Again, this electric flow is regulated by state legislation, and the companies providing the electricity can then charge as they see fit. Usually, charging stations round up to the nearest 30 seconds.
Cost to charge an electric car at a public charging station
Overall, charging your car at a public EV charging station is more expensive than charging at home. Public charging systems that charge based on kWh average anywhere between $0.30 and $0.60 per kWh compared to $0.16 per kWh at home. The exact amount depends on local electricity cost and regulations, as well as the type of charger. Level 2 chargers generally cost between $0.20 and $0.25 per kWh, while Level 3 chargers, which are more common in public, range from $0.40 to $0.60 per kWh.
However you look at it, public charging comes with a markup of at least 100% compared to charging your electric car at home. As a result, most EV drivers charge at home if they can because it’s cheaper and more convenient, and you can often avoid the detour of refueling.
Are there free public charging stations?
Today, the majority of public charging stations require some form of payment, whether EV drivers are expected to be a member of a particular network and pay a nominal monthly fee for this service or pay directly at the charging station.
Some locations offer EV charging as an amenity to attract new customers. For instance, some shopping malls, supermarkets and restaurants have a limited number of free chargers, and you can even find them at some hotels and universities. Nonetheless, these stations represent a small fraction of the total number of public charging stations. Free charging is undoubtedly one of the best ways to cut charging costs if you are one of the fortunate EV drivers with convenient access.
Cost to charge your car at a home charging station
Home charging stations are still the most viable and cost-effective option for electric vehicle owners. The best way to reduce charging costs for an electric vehicle is to charge your car at home.
Home charging station costs come down to the cost of equipment, installation, and your home electricity rate. Buying and installing a high-quality home charging system is approximately equal to a year of typical maintenance for a gas-powered vehicle. Additionally, the minimum tax credit provided by the IRS for purchasing a new electric car is almost double the amount of buying and installing a new home charging system.
Level 1 vs. Level 2 home charging station costs
A Level 1 charger will usually come free with your EV purchase, so it can serve as a helpful starter system. Level 1 chargers use standard 120-volt connections, so they can be plugged directly into your home's standard wall socket and begin charging almost immediately. These chargers are also more portable than Level 2 chargers. However, Level 1 chargers don’t connect to Wi-Fi, so you can’t optimize charging schedules or times to save money.
Level 2 home charging stations use a 240-volt connection to power your electric vehicle quickly and efficiently. Unlike Level 1 chargers, Level 2 EV chargers cannot be plugged directly into a standard outlet because they must be hardwired or plugged into a larger outlet. This means there are equipment and EV installation costs associated with using a Level 2 charger. Again, it’s worth noting that these costs are often offset by the tax credits you can get from the IRS when buying a new electric vehicle.
The overall average cost for a high-quality Level 2 charging system ranges between $600 and $2,000 depending on your house’s electrical system. This includes parts, labor, and installation. While this cost may seem a bit daunting, it’s a one-time expense that will save you money and pay off in the long run.
Cost to charge your electric car by state
Once you’ve installed an EV charger at home, it all comes down to what you pay for electricity. That varies substantially depending on where you live and the car you have.
The following table shows the average cost of electricity in each state and the associated cost to charge an electric car from empty to full based on the smallest, average, and largest EV battery sizes. For comparison, the U.S. average is listed at the bottom.
EV charging costs by state and vehicle battery size
Average electricity cost (cents/kwh)
Charging cost: smallest EV
Charging cost: average EV
Charging cost: largest EV
Source and methodology: The above data is based on state electricity costs as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration and EV battery capacity ranges as reported by the Electric Vehicle Database Battery capacities for the smallest (16.7 kW), average (68 kW), and largest (123 kW) vehicle are rounded to the nearest whole number and multiplied by the state’s average cost per kWh.
As the table shows, recharging your electric car battery could cost anywhere from $1.65 (smallest EV battery in North Dakota) to $54.43 (largest EV battery in Hawaii). That’s a huge range, and the difference would be quite significant over many charging cycles.
When you’re shopping for an EV, consider the cost of electricity in your area, along with the vehicle’s battery capacity and typical driving range, to help you determine what fits your monthly charging budget.
How do I reduce EV charging costs at home?
First, invest in a high-quality Level 2 smart charging station like our flagship product, the JuiceBox smart charger, which is one of Amazon’s top-selling home EV charging stations and recognized as the best home charger by CNET, Popular Mechanics, and other publications. A high-quality smart charger ensures that your car is getting a full charge while saving you money on your electricity bill by optimizing charging times to capture the best cost per kWh.
More specifically, check the pricing for power in your local area. You may find that your utility charges higher time-of-use (TOU) rates for consuming electricity during peak times, when more customers are demanding electricity (such as after work between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.). If you charge your EV at off-peak hours, your overall energy cost will be lower. By avoiding the most expensive times to charge your EV, you can save around 30% on energy costs while still getting the charge you need.
Additionally, drivers are typically plugged in at home significantly longer than the time needed to fully charge their EV, so it’s important to have a charger that can automatically optimize charging times. Our Enel X Way App conveniently optimizes charging at the cheapest times of day while still ensuring you have a full charge when you need it. Furthermore, with JuiceNet Green, EV drivers don’t have to worry about when they plug in to charge, because the EVSE software also optimizes the cleanest and most affordable charge available.
Another good way to cut down the cost of charging an electric car is to enroll in any energy-saving programs your city may offer to electric vehicle owners. To promote cleaner energy initiatives, some cities are offering lower power rates to households that own electric vehicles.
The bottom line on EV charging costs
When it comes to optimizing the cost to charge your electric vehicle, charging at home is your best bet. The cost of a top-tier charging system is nothing in comparison to the higher prices of charging at a public station—and certainly better than the fuel prices associated with a non-electric vehicle. Charging your electric vehicle at home (or at work for free) is the prudent financial choice, and the smarter your system, the less you pay long term.
For all the good that your electric car is doing, don't let it cost you more than it should to stay charged. Invest in a high-quality home charging system that will save you money while you save the planet.