How much does it cost to charge an electric car at a public charging station?


As the total cost of owning an electric car declines, many are wondering how much you’ll spend at the charging station. Is it comparable to a gas tank? The answer depends on several factors, including where and how you get paid.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car at a public charging station?

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A complex cost landscape

There are multiple charging methods for electric vehicles (EVs). Which one you use will determine how quickly the battery will fill up again and how much money it will cost you. For most electric vehicle owners, the average cost of charging will include a mix of public stations and the cost per kilowatt-hour paid for power from the local power grid when plugged in at home.

There are three public electric vehicle charging levels available at the time of this writing. Level 1 is basically a wall outlet like you would use to charge your cell phone and it can take days to recharge a completely depleted battery. DC fast charging (DCFC) stations, on the other hand, can get about an 80 percent charge in about half an hour, but are more expensive to use.

As for how much you’ll pay, it varies. Rates at EV charging stations range from free to a certain price per kilowatt-hour (kWh), depending on what you use. The major manufacturers of charging equipment in the US, as well as automakers like Tesla and Ford, have their own apps that drivers can use to pay. The apps have subscription plans available and some offer discounts. So how much you pay to charge your EV also depends on the type of car you drive and whether you have a subscription to, say, Electrify America.

For owners of electric vehicles that plug in at home, the question is how much the cost of the energy they use to charge will affect their utility bill. Charging infrastructure may also need to be installed, which can be a significant additional expense. Factors like how efficiently your vehicle uses electricity, battery capacity in kilowatt-hours, and how far you drive per day also affect the cost of charging an electric car at home.

There is not necessarily a “best” way to get paid that saves the most money. The vehicle, the battery, and the driving habits of the person behind the wheel are the ones that will most determine the cost of recharging an electric car.

Public charging stations will vary

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Some public charging is available for free. Free stations can be anything from a Level 1 wall plug to a Level 2 freestanding charging station. Most apps that help you find one tell you the level of charge available and the rate per kWh. Free charging stations are usually located near businesses, for example, in the parking lot of a restaurant or shopping center. The idea is that people can connect and recover at least some energy while they are inside.

Level 2 public electric vehicle charging stations are pay-as-you-go for infrequent use, or you can purchase a subscription through the provider’s app for a discounted kWh rate. If you know you’ll be using one type of charging station more than others, a dedicated app could come in handy. But for most people, using any nearby station that is compatible with your vehicle is the best option. The pay-as-you-go charge is generally billed at what the local electricity provider charges per kWh. So if you used a level 2 charging station in Texas, where the average cost of electricity is 12.8 cents per kWh as of March 2022, you would pay $3.25 for 25kWh of power. For context, that’s about half the battery capacity of a base model Tesla Model 3.

Level 3 charging stations are the most expensive at the time of writing and charge drivers a premium for their relative speed. In California, for example, DCFC’s average rate per kWh is $0.40. At that price, it would cost $10 to charge for that same 25kWh of juice. Tesla Supercharger stations and other varieties of DCFC charging are available for use in conjunction with Level 3 stations at most public charging port groups. However, not all electric vehicles are designed to accept the higher amounts of electricity these stations use, so keep that in mind before you plug in: you’ll still be paying the higher rate without the benefit of faster charging.

Most public charging stations in the US are run by a small group of companies, although that number is growing. Those companies, including EVgo, ChargePoint, Electrify America, and others, often offer reduced rates at their stations if drivers use their apps and pay a subscription fee. EVgo charges customers a per-minute rate based on the plan they sign up for and where in the US they charge. Other companies, like EVCS, offer a monthly flat rate for unlimited charging (with small print warnings, of course) at their stations.

According to Treehugger, people in the US pay an average of three to six times more to charge at a public charging station than it would cost to charge at home. People who live in, for example, an apartment complex or other form of housing without charging infrastructure should be aware of the rates at nearby public charging stations and opt for free ones where possible.

Home Charging Costs Less (In the Long Run)

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Home charging is the cheapest option for electric vehicle owners, at least at the time of writing. If you have time to use a Level 1 charger, or already have a 240-volt outlet that you can access with your electric vehicle’s included adapter cord, there’s no need to install any equipment. You can get a tier 1-2 charge at your garage and only pay the per kWh rate to your utility provider. That rate varies by state, so do the math before you bet on home charging.

If you don’t have a 240-volt outlet, you’ll need to install a wall plug or dedicated Level 2 EV charging station to get Level 2 charging at home. Installing one can be expensive – around $1200 on average. However, if you know you’ll be in your EV for the long haul, the initial cost pays for itself over time in savings on gas and public charging.

There are multiple federal and state government incentives to help offset the cost of installing home charging equipment. The amount and qualifications change by state, so check to see if you qualify for one in your area.

Other Factors: Battery Capacity, Efficiency, and Driving Habits

Like a gas tank, the larger the battery, the more it costs to “fill” it. Smaller battery packs cost less but get less mileage per charge than larger capacity options.
For a real-world example, let’s look at Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 EV. The base model has a 58 kWh battery. So a driver in Texas, where we’ve set the rate per kWh to be 12.8 cents, would have to pay about $7.54 to charge it empty at home. At a paid Tier 2 public charging station like this one in Houston, they would pay $12.18 to charge a depleted battery at the maximum rate of $0.21/kWh. At this DCFC station near a Walmart owned by Electrify America, our hypothetical driver would pay $0.32 per minute at the maximum rate of 350kW of power, which adds up to $9.60 per half hour of charging time.
However, the battery will most likely not die every time someone goes to a public charging station to recharge. The rate paid will depend on the amount of energy that is actually consumed or, in the case of per-minute rates, the charging time. Some stations charge a session fee of a few dollars in addition to the fee per kWh. If you’re paying a subscription fee through a provider like the EVgo app, that’s another cost.
The efficiency of the battery pack and the demands that daily driving places on it will also determine your mileage per charge. Sporty models like the Porsche Taycan are designed to put a lot of power into the engine for more speed, so you use more energy per drive and ultimately get less range. That means more charging sessions and more money paid per month.
Unlike gasoline cars, many long highway trips drain an electric vehicle’s battery faster than driving around town. If you regularly travel long distances, that’s something else to consider. Heavy use of infotainment and climate control systems will also affect battery life. The more you use the battery, the faster it will drain and the more often you have to pay to charge it.

How much does it cost to charge at a fast charging station?

Prices range depending on the station.
  1. 12.07 cents per minute for 25 kW charging (+5% GST)
  2. 21.13 cents per minute for 50 kW charging (+5% GST)
  3. 27.17 cents per minute for 100 kW charging (+5% GST)
Each session at our stations is billed per second. After your charging session, you will receive an email receipt with a breakdown of your charge, including the time you charged (in minutes and seconds) and the cost of the session before and after the 5% GST is applied.
Freight rates are approved by B.C. Public Utilities Commission and are based on the maximum kW output of the charging station, not the actual kW output received or requested by the vehicle.

Parking fees may apply

Please note that rates at fast charging stations do not include parking fees. Be sure to check the signage or PlugShare to see if a specific station requires paid parking. Currently, the following sites have a parking fee that is collected by the host of the site:
  • Vancouver – Homer Street (collected by City of Vancouver)
  • Vancouver – Kerrisdale (collected by City of Vancouver) 
For other charging networks in B.C., check PlugShare to find locations, charging costs and parking fees before you go.

How long can I charge at a fast charging station?

Station Tag Check the signage at the station for the parking tag. In general, we recommend the following time limits depending on the power level of the charger, especially when another vehicle is waiting:
  • 25kW: one hour
  • 50kW: 40 minutes
  • 100kW: 30 minutes
  • Higher power levels: less than 30 minutes

How long will my charge take?

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Factors that influence charge time

Charging time will depend on the battery’s state of charge (how full it is), the size of the battery, and environmental factors such as outside air temperature. Every make and model is different, and you’ll know your car after you’ve used a fast charging station a few times.

Charging over 80%

Even with a fast charger, most vehicles will charge slower by 80%. This “trickle charge” is related to the vehicle, not the charger. To continue charging past 80%, we recommend switching to a Level 2 charger which provides a lower charging cost per minute and will free up the fast charger for others.

Costs Are Unique to the Driver

So is it cheaper to charge an EV than to fill up a tank with gas? As of this writing, yes. Even in markets where electricity is more expensive, it costs less to recharge an EV than to fill up a tank of gas.
In short, how much it costs to charge an electric car depends on multiple factors, from the capacity of the battery to the charging methods available to you. When shopping for an EV, think about things like how many miles you drive, the EV battery capacity you want, and whether you can charge it at home.
Electricity prices in your area will affect the cost, whether it’s best to charge at home or at public stations. If you have to use the public ones, think about your access to the free stations and how reliably you’ll be able to use them.
All of these factors will determine the average cost of charging your EV. In the end, the cost to you will depend on the unique math of your driving habits and needs.