How much does it cost to charge an electric vehicle?

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By Steven Shackell

Culturally and industrially, the world is rapidly transitioning towards more sustainable transportation solutions that are reliant on widespread infrastructure transformation. The landscape of EV charging, which was non-existent at the turn of the last century, is rapidly growing and evolving to meet the demand of the EV revolution. The article outlines the landscape of EV charging, including the various charging methods, adapters, security, and the cost to charge an electric vehicle.


Common EV charging adapters

Different markets around the world utilize varying charging network connectors, so buying an EV requires consideration of available compatible charging infrastructure. Common EV chargers are designed to fit the respective regional and local electricity infrastructure.


CCS2 vs NACS

North America and Europe have dramatically different electricity infrastructures. North America utilizes 120V, single-phase power for residential purposes, delivering a maximum of 1.8kW. Meanwhile, Europe abundantly utilizes 240V, 3-phase power which means 10.8kW is available in nearly all EU countries.

Resultingly, public chargers in North America typically max out at 7kW when dedicated, non-residential electricity infrastructure is available. In contrast, the EU always has 10.8 kW chargers available and has 22kW charging stations available in certain markets.

As such, there are very different adapter standards in North America than in the EU. North America utilizes the North American Charging Standard (NACS), which was originally introduced in 2012 by Tesla and was opened for use by other manufacturers in November 2022. While the NACS connector can support 240V charging, it does not support 3-phase power.

In the European market, the Combined Charging System Combo 2 (CCS2) is compatible with all cars and charging stations. In most countries, it’s the most powerful fast-charging connector available. Of course, the more power available at a charging station, the higher the convenience and the higher the cost. As we will see below, Level 2 public chargers are often cheaper than DC Fast Chargers, but charging at home is the most cost-effective way to charge most EVs, even though they support the lowest charging speeds.


Other common charging connector standards

In other EV markets, such as Japan and China, different connector standards are used. Japan utilizes the j1772 (Type 1)—commonly referred to as the ‘J plug’—for AC charging, and the CHAdeMO for DC charging. In China, the largest single EV market in the world, the GB/T connector is used for both AC and DC charging.

For a more in-depth look at EV charging connectors and the various EV charging safety standards, be sure to read Electric vehicle safety standards and regulations.


Different EV charging methods and associated costs

Home charging

There are two ways to charge an EV at home: Level 1 and Level 2 charging. Level 1 charging utilizes a standard 120V household outlet, which typically provides 3-5 miles of range per hour of charging. Level 2 charging requires a dedicated 240V charger, which can provide roughly 10-30 miles of range per hour.

The cost of electricity at home can vary across the United States but is generally half the cost of public charging rates. On average, the residential cost of EV charging per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in the United States is $0.23 (€0.29 in the EU), meaning the cost to charge an electric vehicle is an average of $18.63 and €23.49 at home, respective of location (based on a standard Tesla Model Y). Depending on the voltage of the charger, it could take 12 hours (220V) to 50 hours (110V) to achieve a full charge from fully dead.


Public charging stations

Level 2 charging can often be found at parking garages, shopping centers, and workplaces. Common Level 2 public charging stations offer faster charging than at-home charging stations but are not able to charge as fast as public DC Fast Chargers. For comparison’s sake, there are 22 ChargePoint DC fast chargers in the Denver metro area, while there are over 1,000 standard ChargePoint Level 2 chargers.

At the time of writing this article, the cost of EV charging via a Level 2 public charger in Denver is $0.14 per kWh plus a flat rate of $2 and $0.50 per hour after the first four hours. It is worth noting, however, that many municipality-based chargers are offered completely free of charge on a first-come basis.

DC Fast chargers, however, are significantly more expensive but can charge most EVs from completely dead to 80% charged in less than 30 minutes. A 200kW DC fast charger at the same Denver location costs $0.45kWh, estimating a total cost of $27 in just 15 minutes. DC Fast Chargers are commonly used along major roadways for long-distance travel.

Tesla offers a free trip planner tool that identifies DC fast chargers along a desired route, how long charging will take at each station, and the total journey time. To drive from Denver to Seattle— a journey of 1,324 miles (2,130 km)—takes an estimated 25 hours and 9 minutes in a Tesla Model Y, which includes just over 5 hours of total charging time.


How much does it cost to drive 300 miles in an EV versus a traditional car?

To figure out EV charging cost vs. gas powered transportation, let's compare a Tesla Model Y to a Kia Telluride, both of which cost around $40,000 and are midsize SUVs, traveling with equal city and highway mileage.

In early 2024, the average gasoline price in Cincinnati, Ohio, is $3.187. A Kia Telluride will average 23 miles per gallon of gasoline (MPG). Therefore buying 300 miles worth of gasoline would cost $41.57.

If we were to charge a Tesla Model Y at a public Level 2 Flo charging station it would cost $0.35 per kWh. A Telsa Model Y has a range of 300 miles and a battery capacity of 81kWh, therefore a full charge would cost $28.35. Alternatively, if the vehicle was charged at a residence in Cincinnati, where the average residential electricity rate is $0.13 per kWh, it would cost $10.53.

In this region-specific example, the cost of traveling 300 miles in an average EV could result in cost savings ranging from $13.22 to $31.04, depending on the charging method. Considering Americans drive an average of 14,263 miles per year, switching to an EV could save a Cincinnati resident $1,475 in gasoline costs per year.


How to pay for EV charging using public chargers

There are a variety of different public charging station companies around the world that offer different pricing and charging speed structures. As such, there are many ways these companies charge for a “fill up.” For example, Tesla vehicles can utilize the Tesla Charging Network without needing to pay on location, as it can be automatically billed to the owner’s charging account.

Many charging networks accept credit or debit cards directly at the station, and some networks offer mobile apps that provide touchless payment and charging configuration services. Some EV networks issue RFID cards to users, which can be tapped at the charging station to initiate and pay for charging sessions, eliminating the need for on-site credit card processing systems.


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Image: Mobile app showcasing multiple EV charging stations in a map view

Interestingly, most charging stations offer additional analytics about the charger, such as what vehicle last used the charger and when it was last used. Given the smart-connectivity nature of EV chargers, specific precautions, such as those outlined in ISO 15118, must be taken to ensure the charger safety and information security of the purchaser. To do so, specialized security hardware such as NXP’s Plug and Trust Secure Element SE050 or Infineon’s SLI 9670 Trusted Platform Module (TPM) can be used to cryptographically verify device authenticity without compromising private user data.


EV charging considerations

EVs are now a leading choice for cost-sensitive and environmentally conscious consumers worldwide, driving significant shifts in infrastructure to support sustainable transportation solutions. While the versatility of home charging solutions offers the most cost-effective solution for EV owners, public charging stations provide speed and convenience at a higher cost. Additionally, the cost to charge an EV compared to the cost of gasoline demonstrates the economical favorability of EVs, especially in regions with high gas prices or low electricity costs.

Additionally, there are several intricacies of public chargers, such as the charging connectors available, the cost per kWh, and the payment methods available. Regardless, there are many smart technologies integrated into public chargers to ensure safe charging and secure information exchange between the vehicle and the charging infrastructure. We can expect the EV charging landscape to dynamically adjust to address current and future consumer demands.


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