If you're planning on a road trip with your electric vehicles (EV), you'll want to prepare for the cost of charging. Calculating the cost of that can be tricky. There are multiple types of chargers and charging networks, and the costs of electricity vary from state to state.
Many EVs now can range more than 200 miles per charge. For major trips, you'll likely have to charge your vehicle several times.
In general, it will cost between $10 and $30 to charge your EV while on the road, depending on what level of charger you are using. That makes the cost of an EV road trip comparable with that of the same journey in a gas-powered car. There are, however, plenty of factors that can complicate this apparently simple math.
- Charging your EV at a commercial charger on a road trip can cost between $10 and $30 when using a level 3 charger.
- Charging costs can vary a lot depending on a variety of factors such as your location and the kind of chargers you use.
- That can make the cost of a road trip in an EV higher than the cost of using a conventional vehicle.
- In order to limit costs, try using apps such as A Better Route Planner or PlugShare to plan a route that takes in charging stations; use supermarket and hotel chargers when possible.
How Much Does It Cost To Charge an Electric Car?
The average cost of charging an EV at a commercial charger, from almost empty to almost full, is between $10 and $30. Keep in mind that charging your EV on a road trip—that is, at a commercial charger—costs significantly more than charging it at home.
At the same time, fueling costs vary much more for EVs than for ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles. This is due to multiple factors:
- Wide variation in electrical power costs: Commercial charger rates are often double or triple those of residential rates. Even commercial charger rates can vary more than 50% within the same network. In comparison, gas prices vary by about 10% or less.
- Charger and battery varieties: Charging speed varies with the type of charger, level of charge in the battery, temperature, and the working status of the charger. This can make the time it takes to charge your battery vary considerably as well.
- Pricing: Pricing at commercial chargers is often not directly comparable because there are different pricing systems. These typically involve some combination of per kWh, per unit time, and per session costs. This produces charging costs that vary considerably when calculated on a per kWh basis (the amount of charge you get per $1.)
A second factor to consider is the type of charger you use. Not all EV chargers are the same. There are three different tiers:
- Level 1: The slowest type of charger. It can take a full 24 hours to fully charge your car.
- Level 2: Delivers a charge of up to 28 miles per hour. The cost for level 2 ranges from $1 to $5 an hour. The cost per killowatt hour is approximately $0.20 to $0.25. Normally these types of charging stations are found at shopping centers.
- Level 3: Also known as direct current fast chargers (DCFC), level 3 chargers are the fastest. They can charge your battery to nearly full in as little as an hour and will cost between $10 to $30 per charge. The cost per kilowatt hour is approximately $0.40 to $0.60.
Tesla has a proprietary network of chargers that it calls "Superchargers." The cost of using these chargers for your Tesla varies depending on location and other factors, The average cost is around $0.25 per kWh, so a full recharge to 250 miles of range would run approximately $22 (unless you purchased a Model S or Model X between 2012 and 2016, in which case, it’s free).
Formula For the Cost of Charging an Electric Car
The formula to determine cost factors in a vehicle's range (VR), the range per kWh (RPK) which can be estimated at about 3 to 4 miles, and the cost per kWh (CPK).
Charging Cost = (VR/RPK) x CPK
As an example, let's say you drive 1,200 miles per month. Divide that figure by the range of 3 miles per kWh. The result is 400 kWh used in a month. Next, multiply that figure by your cost per kWh. If you use a Level 2 charger on the road that costs $0.25 per kWh, then your cost would be $100 per month. For a road trip, the vehicle range (and thus the cost) would most likely be less.
Saving Money on Your EV Road Trip
You'll want to factor in extra time costs associated with finding a commercial charging station. If you don’t plan your road trip around the location of EV charging stations, you could spend a significant amount of time driving out of your way and even more time waiting for your EV to charge. These extra miles add to the cost of your trip.
The national network of electric vehicle charging stations is set to expand under a $5 billion program established under the new National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula program. The program was established by the Infrastructure Law that passed in Feb. 2022.
You can take steps to help reduce the cost of your EV road trip and make the costs more predictable. First, plan your route so that you can visit chargers when you’ll need them. Plan your time while you wait for your EV to charge. There are plenty of tools available to help you. Teslas come with their own route planner, and you can use apps like A Better Route Planner or PlugShare. Google Maps can also highlight EV charging stations.
There are also a number of other ways you can save money on EV charges while on a road trip:
- Try to find charging stations at or near restaurants or grocery stores to make the most of your charging time.
- Select hotels with charging stations. They're often free and you don't have to go looking for a charging station in a strange city.
- Bring your charging cord, an extension cord, and adaptors if you have them. This will allow you to use a wider range of charging stations.
Finally, don’t try to fully charge your battery at every charging station. Get just enough juice to get you comfortably to your next stop, so you can spend time enjoying your trip.
Can You Take a Big Road Trip in an Electric Car?
You can use an electric vehicle (EV) to take a long road trip. Many EVs now have ranges in excess of 200 miles. With planning, you can travel as easily on a big road trip as you would driving a gas vehicle.
How Long Does It Take To Charge an EV on a Road Trip?
How long it takes to charge an EV on a road trip depends on which kind of charger you use. Some chargers will take 24 hours to charge your EV, others take less than an hour. Tesla Superchargers can charge in about 15 minutes.
How Do I Calculate My EV Road Trip Charging Cost?
It’s possible to estimate this manually, but the range of networks and prices can make it very difficult. Instead, use an app like EEVEE Mobility that can calculate the cost of charging, and show chargers near you.
The Bottom Line
The cost of charging your EV on a road trip can vary, but will generally be between $10 and $30 per charge. That can make the cost of a road trip in an EV higher than the cost in a conventional vehicle. To help reduce costs, consider using apps like A Better Route Planner or PlugShare to plan charging stations along your route. Use supermarket and hotel chargers when possible.
Though the cost of EV road trips might be higher in some cases, the overall cost of ownership of an EV is much lower. A Consumer Reports study found that EV drivers can expect to save substantial amounts on both maintenance and fuel costs. It found that EVs cost half as much to maintain and that the savings when charging at home more than cancel out any charging costs on an occasional road trip.