As gas prices rise and environmental concerns become more pressing, electric vehicles are gaining in popularity. In 2016, 0.61% of new cars financed were electric, according to Experian. In 2020, that number jumped to 2.25%, still a small percentage of cars overall, but a 268% increase in just five years. If you’re thinking about purchasing an electric vehicle, bear in mind that you will most likely be charging it at home. Depending on where you live and how much you drive, that can add about $30 to $60 per month to your electric bill.

Key Takeaways

  • Electric car owners do the vast majority of their charging at home, rather than at public charging stations.
  • Charging an electric car will typically add $30 to $60 a month to your utility bill.
  • Electric cars are generally cheaper to fuel and maintain than conventional cars, although they may cost more to buy.
  • Some utility companies offer discounts for electric car owners.

What You’ll Pay to Charge an Electric Car

In the United States today, electric car owners do 80% of their charging at home, adding to their electricity costs.

To estimate what your costs will be, look at your current electric bill. It should show how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) you currently use and how much you pay per kWh. A kWh is equivalent to the amount of energy it takes to run a 1,000-watt appliance for 60 minutes. 

The national average price of electricity is 13 cents per kWh, and most electric vehicles can travel four miles per kWh.

So if you typically drive your car 1,000 miles a month, then you’ll need at least 250 kWh to charge it properly. At 13 cents per kWh, that will cost you $32.50 a month. 

If you live in a state with higher electricity costs, such as California, then your electric bill will, of course, be higher. In California, as of this writing, the average cost of a kWh is 21.93 cents. So if you drove 1,000 miles per month, then you would pay $54.83. 

Other Costs for Charging at Home

When you buy an electric car, you can typically charge it at home with level one electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), using your existing electrical outlets and a dedicated branch circuit. However, a level one EVSE can be slow, making it difficult to charge your car quickly.

For that reason, many homeowners opt for more advanced, level two charging stations. With a level two EVSE, you can get 10 to 60 miles of increased range per hour of charging time. 

A level two EVSE requires special charging equipment and a separate, more powerful electrical circuit. You also have to pay installation fees. On average, a level two EVSE system costs $500 to $2,000 to set up.

Using Solar Power

Solar panels on your home are another way to provide the energy to charge your car. However, installing solar panels plus the EVSE for charging your car can be expensive. 

The cost of a 10 kWh solar panel system can range from $17,000 to $23,000, after federal solar tax credits.

How Do Costs Compare With Gas-Powered Cars? 

While electric vehicles are usually more expensive to purchase than their gas-powered counterparts, their maintenance and fuel costs tend to be cheaper. According to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, average lifetime fuel cost savings range from $3,000 to $10,500.

You can use the U.S. Department of Energy’s vehicle cost calculator to estimate your fuel costs with an electric vehicle vs. a gas-powered one. 

Potential Discounts for Electric Cars

While electric vehicles can be expensive, you may be eligible for tax credits, special discounts, and incentive programs to make them more affordable. Also, there are programs that can reduce your energy costs. 

For example, the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) in Florida offers customers a $200 rebate when they purchase or lease an electric vehicle. 

In Nevada, NV Energy has special time-of-use rates for electric vehicle owners. If you charge your car during nonpeak hours, such as late at night or early in the morning, then you’ll pay a discounted rate.

The website PlugInAmerica lists available tax credits, rebates, and discount programs in your state.