Is it Cheaper to Charge an Electric Car at Home?

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The typical American spends anywhere between $2,000 and $4,000 on fuel per year. So anything promising low emissions and zero dependence on fuel sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Electric vehicles sound like a dream, yet there are some factors to consider before purchasing one. Granted you’re not paying for fuel, but electricity is neither cheap nor free. Depending on how much you travel, how often and how far, the calculations will vary. We asked Generation180 a non-profit working to inspire and equip people to take action on clean energy, to help clear up the confusion around charging electric cars at home.

Recharging Your Electric Car at Public Charging Stations

Although recharging an electric car does cost less than keeping a traditional car refueled, there are considerations to take regarding whether or not you’re going to recharge your electric car at home or at charging stations.

There are over 150,000 gas stations in the United States, compared to about 43,000 charging stations across the country. But it is nearly more than double the charging stations than there used to be. So, it isn’t as difficult to find a charging station for your electric vehicle. Which can help you minimize your “range anxiety” somewhat when it comes to traveling. However, the price tag for charging your electric car at a public charging station will run you anywhere between $.30 - $.66 per kilowatt hour (kWh).

We spoke with Stuart Gardner of Generation180 to learn more about the benefits of charging a car at home vs at a station.

"Typically, yes, it is cheaper to charge your electric vehicle at home," Gardner said, "and if you happen to power your home by solar your savings are even more dramatic. However, many public charging stations are offered for free depending on the site host. Additionally, some electric vehicle manufacturers offer special deals (i.e., three years of free public charging on select infrastructure networks). In any case, recharging an electric vehicle is usually cheaper than refueling your old gas guzzler."

Charging Your Electric Car at Home

For charging your electric car at home, you have to consider what your residential electric rate is (the average rate in most states, excluding California, is roughly about $.14 per kWh).

Many EV-owners charge from home in fact.

"A commonly quoted statistic is approximately 80% of EV owners charge at home, Gardner says. "Increasingly, however, multi-unit dwellings (often abbreviated to MUD) like apartment buildings offer electric vehicle charging infrastructure as an amenity. Not only does this help attract and retain residents while building a clean energy-conscious community, but it also makes electric vehicles an option for more people. Given every car owner does not live in a single-family home, have off-street parking, or a garage, the availability of charging at multi-unit dwellings is vital to making electric vehicles more accessible and speeding up adoption."

There are different levels when it comes to charging your electric car. Charging with a Level 1 (a regular 110 outlet - think small kitchen appliance) is the cheapest route, yet it takes about an hour to get a charge that would only take you about 4 miles.

"While it is the slowest way to recharge your electric vehicle, it is also one of the most accessible as no special equipment is required. Depending on your daily driving, L1 works well for many electric vehicle owners," Gardner said.

A Level 2 charger is a 240 volt outlet that is over double the amount to install (because you’d need an electrician) but allows for about 25 more miles per hour being charged. Charging times are an estimate because electric cars don’t really charge at a sustained rate.

"Level 2 (L2 or AC charging) uses the same power source as your clothes dryer (~220 volts).L2 can typically charge an electric vehicle in eight hours and is the most common charging option for homeowners. However, L2 does typically requires a dedicated charger and an electrician to install."

A Level 3 charger, also called a DC Fast Charger, is the fastest, “about 80% charge in 30 minutes” according to Gardner. You can quickly charge your electric car in less than an hour that will give you a driving range of about 100 miles. You will find these Level 3 chargers only at public charging stations which will cost you more money than a Level 1 or Level 2.

To free yourself from any other disadvantages of electric cars, installing a Level 2 charging station in your garage is probably the best way to go. It’s an investment worth making. There is also the solar option, if you have the means to install solar panels in your home - it’s a win-win situation. Home charging is the best option for anyone considering an electric car. And with electricity costs typically lower at night, most people do just that while asleep to be ready for the next day.

The Good, The Bad, and The Electric

Anyone thinking about buying an electric car has to weigh the pros and cons, just like with any other purchase. Recharging your electric car is definitely less than refueling your car, no matter how fuel efficient a gas powered vehicle may be. It is estimated to be almost half per month to charge your electric car versus fueling up at the gas station. Even though you can’t travel as far, that will change soon enough with developing electric car technology. Electric cars are energy efficient, they reduce emissions, and require low maintenance. They can be the future, if we allow it.

Gardner also mentioned the benefits and cons they think a new EV owner should expect.

"First of all, I would say congratulations on your new EV! The pros of charging at home are always waking up in the morning with a “full tank,” never having to go to the gas station again, and saving money on your “fuel” costs. In fact, the current nationwide average cost of an “e-gallon” is $1.16 (versus the nationwide average cost of a gallon of gas).

New EV owners find charging at home is not much different than what they may already be doing every evening anyhow, like plugging in your cell phone or laptop. Based on your daily driving habits, you may find Level 1 charging (the standard power outlet/wall socket) is perfectly adequate for running your daily errands. Many EV owners do opt for the more powerful and faster Level 2 charging option, however. While there is the benefit of increased convenience, one does have to consider the added cost of the charger and installation."

For more helpful tips and information on saving money and energy, check out our website. A special thank you to Generation180 for their help with this article. If you’re ready to make your next car electric, Generation180 has a “Going Electric Pledge." If you have questions about electric vehicles, reach out to Generation180 and connect with their network of enthusiastic EV Ambassadors.