An electric vehicle charging up
Unsplash | CHUTTERSNAP

How Does The Cost Of Charging An Electric Car Really Stack Up Vs. Gas?

Most of us are still driving gas-powered vehicles, but electric vehicles are having a bit of a moment. From weird and wonderful designs to more affordable fare, it seems inevitable that electric vehicles will eventually make up a majority of cars on the road.

But what's the actual cost of an electric vehicle? Sure, you'll never need to roll into a gas station — but that doesn't mean that they're necessarily cheaper to keep fueled.

Gas prices are incredibly high right now.

Person filling a red car at a gas station
Unsplash | Wassim Chouak

Americans are paying close to $4.70 a gallon these days, and despite occasional drops, it seems that high gas prices are here to stay. The cost has led people to drive less and, in many cases, consider ditching gas and going electric.

What are the primary differences in terms of functionality?

A Tesla car
Unsplash | Dmitry Novikov

Electric cars look and drive like conventional cars, and they're even "filled up" in a similar way: by popping off a panel on the side and inserting a probe. Needless to say, though, the difference is that you need to feed electricity into the car rather than gasoline.

Can we analyze the different prices?

A parking lot full of cars
Unsplash | Ivana Cajina

Sure we can. When it comes to gas, it's a simple matter of figuring out how much gas is going for, and how much it costs to fill your tank. This is going to vary, of course, but knowing how much (roughly) it costs for a full tank of gas in your vehicle is generally pretty straightforward.

The cost of electricity is a little more complicated.

An electric vehicle charging up
Unsplash | CHUTTERSNAP

This article from autotrader.ca is an excellent resource. It deals with Canadian prices (that means gasoline will be in litres), but gas and electricity prices are relatively comparable between Canada and the United States, so let's dig in.

Electric cars have a consumption rating.

Graph comparing cost of electic vehicle versus fuel injection consumption
autotrader.ca | autotrader.ca

This comes in the form of kilowatts per 100 kilometers (about 62 miles), or kWh/100 km. For smaller cars, it costs an average of $2.44 to drive 100 kilometers. Compare that with a gas vehicle like a fuel-efficient Honda Civic, and there's really no comparison. The gas-powered Civic costs $10.94 to cover the same distance.

Bigger cars show similar results.

Graph comparing cost to charge electric SUVs versus fuelling traditional SUVs
autotrader.ca | autotrader.ca

Here we can see that bigger cars like SUVs cost a little more to charge. The average cost per 100 kilometers is $3.24, compared with $2.44 for smaller cars. Still, that $3.24 is way cheaper than the $15.69 it costs to fuel a Hyundai Santa Fe for 100 kilometers.

The answer seems simple, but it really isn't.

Chart comparing cost of charging electric vehicles at a station versus filling up gas
autotrader.ca | autotrader.ca

It might be cheaper to charge at home (or even cheaper to charge at someone else's home!), but ultimately, most EV drivers will need to charge up at a paid station eventually. Here we can see that the cost of charging at a paid station is still generally cheaper than the cost of gas, but paying to use the station does bump things up a bit.

What's the final verdict?

Interior of a Tesla
Unsplash | David von Diemar

Any way you slice it, it's cheaper in the long run to charge an electric vehicle than it is to gas up a fuel injection vehicle. The initial cost is almost always going to be more for electric, and these vehicles are arguably more expensive to service, but it's hard to deny those savings versus filling up at the pumps.

h/t: autotrader.ca