NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Pricing Electric Cars

February 4, 2013

The cost of electricity varies far more than the cost of gasoline. In order to truly figure out the cost of electric cars, discussion should focus not on gasoline savings but on the cost of electricity, says Carroll Lachnit, features editor at

  • Electricity rates vary from state to state, ranging from an average of 8 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in Washington to 36 cent per kWh in Hawaii.
  • Different rates means that an all-electric 2011 Nissan Leaf would cost only $28.29 to drive 1,000 miles in Washington state but more than $97 to drive that same distance in Hawaii.
  • The cost of fueling an electric vehicle (EV) can be calculated by multiplying the vehicle's kWh/100 miles figure by the electricity rate to get the cost per 100 miles.
  • If an EV requires 42 kWh to travel 100 miles and the cost of electricity is 10 cents/kWh, then it would cost $4.20 to travel 100 miles.

The cost of electricity is based on how much the utility company charges adjusted for when and how much is used. Without special plans to accommodate EV owners, the cost of charging at home could easily raise rates above the national average when added on top of existing electric usage to run a home.

  • The Southern California Edison utility has created two specialized options for EV users aimed at reducing prices.
  • The first offering provides a "super off-peak" rate of 10 cents per kWh for charging EVs from midnight to 6 a.m., when many EV owners will be in bed resting for their morning commute. In exchange, charging during the day will cost 55 cents per kWh.
  • The second offering charges for the time-of-use. Customers pay to have a separate meter installed that monitors EV charging alone and assesses fees based on demand for electricity at the time of use with a discounted base rate of 11 cents per kWh for off-peak usage.

Ultimately, it is the onus of the consumer to research what rates are available in his or her area before purchasing an electric vehicle.

Source: Carroll Lachnit, "The True Cost of Powering an Electric Car,", January 21, 2013.


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