Electric Vehicle Ownership and Operating Costs

September 6, 2022

Electric Vehicles (EVs) are a fast-growing segment of the U.S. automobile industry. This category includes all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Over 400,000 EVs were sold in 2021, up from barely 10,000 in 2012, representing less than 3% of 2021 new car sales. However, EV new car registrations shot up by 60% in first quarter 2022, accounting for 4.6% of all new vehicle registrations, according to repairerdrivennews.com. Kelley Blue Book cites an impressive 5.6% of new car sales for EVs in second quarter.

The current Administration would like that percentage to rise to 50% by 2030. Whether or not that ambitious goal will be met, it’s clear that the popularity of EVs is on the rise. EV owners cite cost savings of using electricity vs. gasoline and consideration for the favorable impact on the environment of switching from fossil fuel vehicles to EVs as justification for making the switch.

It’s important to point out that many variables must be considered in deciding whether or not to purchase an EV. First of all, can you afford an electric vehicle? Generally, sticker prices for EVs are higher than comparable gas-powered ones. But federal, state, and utility company incentives, in addition to the generally lower annual costs to drive an EV versus gas versions, can result in an impressively short time to recoup those upfront higher costs. So, in the long run, an electric vehicle will most likely save you money.

Kelley Blue Book lists the following top 10 EVs sold in the U.S. in 2021: Tesla Y, Tesla 3, Mustang Mach-E, Chevy Bolt, Volkswagen ID.4, Nissan Leaf, Audi e-tron, Porsche Taycan, Tesla S, and Hyundai Kona Electric.

If affordability of an EV is not an issue, then operating costs related to powering an EV are of prime concern. What are the important factors regarding charging an electric vehicle battery?

Where can you charge your EV:

More than 80% of EV drivers charge their vehicles at home, 14% charge at work, and 5% use commercial chargers, according to USA Today. Most home chargers are not as fast as dedicated public stations, but they make up for that in pure convenience. EVs can be charged overnight and are sufficiently energized by the next morning.

There are three levels available in the U.S. for charging EVs.

Level 1 120-volt chargers are generally included with the purchase of an EV. They can be plugged into any home outlet, provided you have a dedicated circuit to avoid draining power from the rest of your home. This is the slowest option adding between 3 and 5 miles of range per hour of charge, meaning it could take as much as 40 hours to fully charge your vehicle. Level 1 chargers are satisfactory for plug-in hybrid vehicles because they have smaller batteries than all-electric vehicles.

Level 2 240-volt chargers, similar to clothes dryer hookups, are the most prevalent for at-home use. They replenish between 12 and 80 miles of range per hour, depending on the power output of the charger and the vehicle’s maximum charge rate. These charge up to 10 times faster than level 1 chargers. Most EVs will be fully charged overnight (usually in under five hours), even if the battery was nearly empty at the start of the charge. Electricity usage and rates are normally lowest at night, so it’s more economical to do nighttime charges at home. An EV will use about 394 kWh per month. Using the U.S. household average for June 2022 of $.15 per kWh, it would cost about $59 per month to charge an electric car at home. Charging to about 80% of capacity is recommended to prolong battery life. That’s around 260 miles for a Tesla Y’s 300-mile full charge. Luxury  manufacturer Lucid is flaunting a future 500-mile full charge. Level 2 chargers require specific outlets. Something to keep in mind is that a universal home outlet allows you to use it for any electric vehicle. It’s very important that you use a qualified electrician for these installations, which can range in total cost from $800-2,000, according to USA Today.

There is a wide range of home charger options with an equally wide array of costs. Popular Mechanics lists JuiceBox 32 ($700), Grizzl-E Level 2 ($450), and EVoCharge Level 2 ($570) as its top three choices along with pros and cons for each one. NEMA 14-50 is  a commonly recommended 50-amp plug, due to its versatility. The “50” stands for the 50-amp maximum amperage, which is needed for a 40 amp home charging station. NEMA stands for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. NEMA is a standards developing organization made up of business leaders, electrical experts, engineers, scientists, and technicians. It’s accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Visit nema.org  to learn more about EVs and home chargers.

Alvis-Laing Electric is happy to advise you on what EV charger is best for your EV and provide you with installation services.

Level 3 or DC fast chargers are the fastest type of charging available, typically only seen in commercial installations. They can charge a vehicle at a rate of 3 to 20 miles of range per minute, but not all EVs are equipped to use these fast chargers. Timing depends mostly on the battery size and the output of the charging dispenser. DC fast chargers use direct current (DC) with a much higher voltage than levels 1 and 2. That’s why they are not recommended for home use. DC fast charges are expensive compared to levels 1 and 2; they are available at commercial and public charging stations. It’s not recommended that EVs be charged with these fast chargers often, as they can reduce the longevity of batteries. They’re mostly used for long-distance driving to minimize time spent recharging. Normal road trip charges at these fast chargers take around 30 minutes depending on how low the battery is at the time of charge. The median fee to use one of three standard DC chargers in the U.S. is around $.30/kWh—three times the typical home electricity cost. Remember, you’re paying a premium for a quick charge when on the road.

Living proximity to charging locations:

Currently, there are around 150,000 fuel stations across the country for fossil-fuel-burning vehicles. More than 48,000 EV charging stations of all kinds with over 115,000 charging ports are available, but only 6,000 DC fast charging electric stations exist. Similar to gas stations with several pumps, an EV charging station has multiple charging ports. There are over 800 public charging stations in Virginia, according to Dominion Power. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, passed and signed by the president in November 2021, provides $7.5 billion to build an expanded nationwide public EV charging station network.

Do you have a home with a garage or driveway, live in an apartment or condominium, use street parking? If you don’t have a garage or dedicated parking spot, your access to charging could be limited. Charging station infrastructure is expanding significantly each year across the country. President Biden’s goal is to have 500,000 stations nationwide by 2030. Some businesses and hotels have dedicated charging stations for their employees and occupants. Most EVs with built-in navigation offer charging station information, and user groups like Google Maps can also help find commercial chargers. There are almost twenty different charging networks including ChargePoint, Electrify America, Blink, Tesla, and EVgo. Each has its own app to locate chargers and facilitate payment. It’s good to get familiar with availability of charging stations along the route you will be driving. Choose an app that works best for you.

Cost comparisons of EVs vs. gas-powered vehicles:

Charging an EV is usually cheaper than buying gas. Dominion Energy’s website states that “if you drive less than 40 miles a day, it costs about $1 per day to charge your EV at home. Your electric bill will likely go up, but your monthly gasoline expenses should drop considerably more.” Here’s another way to compare costs from Kelley Blue Book: Using the U.S. average price of $.15 per kWh, charging most EVs will cost around $5.00 for 100 miles. To compare this range to gas costs in our region in Virginia, currently at around $3.50/gallon, for a car averaging 30 mpg, that would be $11.55 to drive 100 miles. A savings of $930 over the course of driving 14,200 miles (U.S. annual average) is not too shabby. Look into your local cost/kWh, gas price/gallon, and your average yearly driving miles to get a more accurate savings estimate.

Battery longevity and replacement costs:

The federal government requires manufacturers to warranty EV batteries for at least eight years or 80,000 miles. Several manufacturers offer coverage of 100,000 miles or more. Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk claims his company’s cars will go 300,000-500,000 miles or last 22-37 years on one battery. Most EV manufacturers generally believe their vehicles should last well beyond their warranty periods.

Costs to replace an EV battery range from $0 to $20,000 based on dozens of factors. If a battery is within its manufacturer’s warranty, you should get a replacement battery at no extra cost. Tesla batteries cost from $13,000 to $20,000 for the more expensive models. This is an important factor to consider, and it relates primarily to how many miles you drive per year or expect to drive over the time you’ll own an EV.

Research sources:

Take advantage of the many online resources to investigate purchasing an EV and its operating costs. The following sites were consulted for this blog: The U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC), the U.S. Department of Transportation, nema.org/directory/products, USA Today, JD Power, Popular Mechanics, Dominion Power, Car and Driver, Kelley Blue Book, FastCompany, repairerdrivennews.com, and Forbes.

Tom Moloughney is a senior editor for the electric vehicle news site, InsideEVs, and has been covering the plug-in vehicle industry for Forbes since 2012. Tom also manages the YouTube channel, State of Charge, a site dedicated to electric vehicle charging news and equipment reviews. Tom is widely considered one of the leading experts in electric vehicles and EV charging equipment today. Call or visit us at Alvis-Laing Electric for personal assistance.