How Much Does It Cost to Charge an EV on a Road Trip?

With many EVs now boasting ranges of more than 200 miles per charge, it’s easier than ever before to go on a road trip.1 The only complication is that for all but the shortest road trips you’ll have to charge your vehicle. Calculating the cost of that can be tricky. 

There are multiple types of charger, multiple charging networks (some of which are proprietary), and the costs of electricity vary a lot from state to state.

In general, it will cost between $10 and $30 to charge your EV while on the road, depending on what level charger you are using.2 That makes the cost of an EV road trip comparable with that of the same journey in a regular (i.e., gas-powered) car. 

How to Charge an EV on a Road Trip

Most sources agree that the average cost of charging an EV at a commercial charger, from almost empty to almost full, is between $10 and $30.

However, this headline figure can hide a lot of complexity. In other words, there are a number of factors that can affect how much it costs to charge your EV.

The first fact to recognize is that charging your EV on a road trip—that is, at a commercial charger—costs a lot more than charging it at home.

How much more? Well, that’s a difficult question to answer, because fueling costs vary much more for EVs than for ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles. This is caused by multiple factors:

Wide variation in electrical power costs. Commercial charger rates are often double or triple those of residential rates, and even commercial charger rates can vary more than 50% within the same network. In comparison, gas prices vary by about 10% or less.   

Charging speed varies with the type of charger, level of charge in the battery, temperature, and the working status of the charger. This can make the time it takes to charge your battery vary considerably as well.

Pricing at commercial chargers is often not directly comparable because there are different pricing systems. These are typically some combination of per kWh, per unit time, and per session costs.

This produces charging costs that vary considerably when calculated on a per kWh basis—that is, when calculating the amount of charge you are getting for your dollar.

To make things even more complicated, Tesla has a proprietary network of chargers: The company calls them superchargers. 

The cost of using these chargers for your Tesla varies depending on location and various other factors, but it’s been calculated that the average cost is around $0.25 per kWh, so a full recharge to 250 miles of range would run approximately $22 (unless you purchased a Model S or Model X before January 2017, in which case, it’s free).

Saving Money on Your EV Road Trip

Things get even more complicated when we consider the extra time costs associated with finding a commercial charging station.

If you don’t plan your road trip around the location of EV charging stations, you could spend a significant amount of time (and charge, and therefore money) driving out of your way to use one, and even more time waiting for your EV to charge.

These deadhead miles can add to the cost of your trip, and charging times can make you less flexible than you’d like to be.


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