Here’s a frequently asked question about electric vehicles (EVs): “Isn’t filling up an EV more expensive than filling up a gas car?” The EV is then measured against the gas-powered car. This makes sense; gas-powered cars are what a majority of Americans have driven for about a century. But measuring how one “fills up” a gas car versus an EV are really two different prospects.
Filling Up Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) Cars
To compare the price of a tank of gasoline to the cost of electricity for a battery pack, there are many things to consider. It is not an apples to apples comparison. Let’s start with the ICE car. Prices for gas vary throughout the country.
As of this writing (early 2023) the price of gas in the United States ranges from an average high in Hawaii of $4.95 per gallon to an average low in Texas of $3.03 per gallon. This is only for gasoline (not diesel) and considers all types of gas. The size of your gas tank also matters. Do you have a pickup truck with a 30 gallon tank? A smaller sedan with a 15 gallon tank? Because of these considerations it is helpful to look at national averages.
The national average for a gallon of gas in the United States is $3.50. The bestselling pickup truck in the US (for the 2020 year) was the Ford F-150. Its 23 gallon tank costs $80.50 to fill up. The best-selling sedan (for 2021), was the Toyota Camry. It has a 15.8 gallon tank, which costs $55.30 fill up. Keep in mind, these numbers are using national averages, as well as the best sellers, not the most efficient gas cars you can buy. So, your results will vary.
Filling Up Electric Vehicles
For an EV, the size of the “tank,” (the battery pack) is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). The size of the battery pack varies between cars. Something like a Nissan Leaf holds a 40kWh battery; a Lucid Air has a 113kWh pack. Electricity prices around the country vary as well. Hawaii again tops the list at 30 cents per kWh and Idaho charges 8.17 cents per kWh. That is a lot of numbers, so lets again use averages. The national average price for electricity is 11.1 cents per kWh.
Now, lets take a look at the bestselling EV in the US. The Tesla Model Y was the top seller in 2022. A Model Y comes with a 75kWh battery pack. So, what does this mean in terms of “filling up” the Model Y? One of the huge advantages to owning an EV is that you can plug in your car when you get home. Depending on your home charger, your car will essentially be fully charged when you wake up.
This also means that you don’t have to plan an extra trip to the gas station once a week. To fill up a Tesla Model Y, using average electricity prices, would cost $8.25 to charge from 0-100%. However most EV manufacturers recommend only charging to between 80-90% daily. So the cost would likely be more like $7.43. For your specific circumstances, the results will vary.*
So Which is Cheaper to Fill Up: EVs or ICE Cars?
The short answer is that EVs are cheaper to fill up. The price of electricity is both cheaper and more stable than gasoline. You can also go farther with an EV, for the same amount of money, as you can with a gas car.
Let’s look at it another way. The range of a Tesla Model Y is about 300 miles depending on which trim you get. We can put this next to the above cost to fill up the Toyota Camry ($55.30). Based on the national average for electricity prices, with $55.30 you could fully charge a Tesla Model Y 6.7 times (under ideal conditions).^ For a Camry, a single tank of gas will allow the driver to go 610 miles. In other words, for the same price as a single tank of gas in a Camry you could drive a Model Y about 2,000 miles.
** This would likely take several months, but we can see how much cheaper it really is to fill up an EV than an ICE car.
What About Charging Away from Home?
There are obviously scenarios in which you will not be able to charge your EV at home. If you’re on a road trip you might charge at a DC Fast Charger (DCFC). In that situation, your price savings won’t be as large. For example, charging at an Electrify America station in many states can cost 31 cents per kWh with their “Pass + Member” plan. Additionally, when you’re on a road trip, it often doesn’t make sense to charge past 80% because of the dynamics of charging.
Tesla vehicles can use an Electrify America station with the right adaptor. Since the charge ports are different, let’s use the best-selling non-Tesla in the US for 2022: the Ford Mustang Mach E. A standard range Mach E has a battery that is about 70kWh. So, if you were to charge the car from 0-80% on a road trip, it would cost $17.36. This gives the driver about 200 miles of range. Lets use the same logic and formulas as above. When on a road trip, for the cost of a single tank of gas for a Toyota Camry, you could drive the Mach E about 635 miles. This means that, from a dollars and cents standpoint, the cost to take a Camry vs a Mach E on a road trip can be pretty close.
It is important to remember that all of these factors will change with your circumstances. To be certain, comparing an EV to a pickup truck would have yielded much more favorable results for the EV. Conversely, comparing an EV pickup truck like the Rivian R1T (on a road trip) to a gas car that is very efficient, like a Toyota Prius hybrid (also on a road trip) and the scales may tip in the favor of the ICE car.
Your results will vary, but most people, most of the time will charge from home. From a cost savings aspect, this is where EVs are the clear winners.
*This can be calculated for your specific circumstance. Take the size of your battery pack (in kWh) and multiply that by .11 nationally (or .30 for Hawaii, or .0817 for Idaho, etc.).
^Calculated by taking $55.30 (to refuel the Camry) and dividing it by $8.25 (to refuel the Model Y)
** Range of a Model Y (300 miles) x 6.7 (how many charges it would take to equal $55.30) = 2,010 miles