March 21, 2022

How much does it cost to drive an electric car?

In July 2021, I bought an electric car ("EV"), a Chevy Bolt. I bought it in the wake[1] of the Pacific Northwest heat wave - intellectually I know that we must stop using fossil fuels as fast and as completely as possible; but after the heat wave I had to switch myself. I could not continue to drive a gas car, not on road trips to outdoor places I love, knowing I was making the next heat wave that much more likely or that much more damaging.


Electric cars are, first, cars; mostly, they drive and operate like gas ("ICE") cars. However there is a learning curve, especially if you’re road-tripping in one - learning when to charge and how much to charge at each stop; and how to manage energy and drive efficiently when needed or when to sprint. They promise a lot lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions [2][3], lower operating costs, lower maintenance costs, and never having to go to a gas station again; on the other hand they bring long charging times and have limited charging stations.

Climate is why I'm driving an electric car above all things; however I’d like to share a bit about how much it costs to drive electric by looking a whole month, February 2022 - let's see if the promise of lower operating costs bears out here.

I don’t have a daily commute - I work from home and have access to "L1" charging (a regular 120 volt outlet, $0.13 per kWh) at my apartment. However I drove a lot in February -- my girlfriend and I took two road trips, Seattle, WA to Champoeg State Park in Oregon for a camping/snowshoeing/birthday trip; and Seattle, WA to Gibsons, BC to visit family. All told, we drove 1,156 miles, totalling $53.80, averaging 4.6 cents per mile ($34.40 in DC Fast Charging costs and $19.40 in additional electric bills from apartment charging).

A gas car that averages 36 miles per gallon would’ve taken 32 gallons of gas to drive the same distance. At February’s average per-gallon price of $4.05 in Seattle, it would have cost $130, or roughly 11 cents per mile; at today’s gas price, it would have cost just over $150, or 13 cents per mile.

DateOdoCharge % (kWh)WhereHow?Cost
2/4 11791 67% -> 69% (1.3 kWh) Seattle, WA L1 (120v outlet) $0.16
2/4 11899 42% -> 60% (11.7 kWh) Seattle, WA L1 (120v outlet) $1.52
2/5 11915 52% -> 93% (26.6 kWh) Seattle, WA L1 (120v) $3.48
2/11 12113 15% -> 23% (5.2 kWh) Wilsonville, OR DC Fast Charger, Wilsonville Public Library $6.21
2/11 12125 20% -> 42% (14.3 kWh) Champoeg, OR Champoeg State Park RV site, L1 (120v) $0
2/12 12137 39% -> 74% (22.75 kWh) Wilsonville, OR DC Fast Charger, Wilsonville Public Library $5
2/12 12251 24% -> 62% (24.7 kWh) Portland, OR East Portland $5
2/12 12348 15% -> 62% (30.5 kWh) Centralia, WA Centralia Civil Aviation $10.94
2/13 12441 15% -> 40% (16.2 kWh) Seattle, WA L1 (120v outlet) $2.10
2/13 12497 19% -> 33% (9.1 kWh) Tacoma, WA L2, Tacoma Zoo $0
2/13 12545 13% -> 49% (23.4 kWh) Seattle, WA L1 (120v outlet) $3.04
2/14 12554 44% -> 92% (31 kWh) Seattle, WA L1 (120v outlet) $4.03
2/18 20457 km (we _were_ in Canada!) 23% -> 88% (42.2 kWh) Gibsons, BC L1 (120v outlet) -
2/21 12801 44% -> 70% (16.9 kWh) Bellingham, WA DC Fast Charger, Bellingham Whole Foods $7.25
2/22 12883 27% -> 87% (39 kWh) Seattle, WA L1 (120v outlet) $5.07
Total $53.80

Looking at a full month of electric car charging has been instructive - home (even 120v) charging is very cheap per-mile; DC Fast Charging costs are variable. Even the most expensive fast charging sessions (half the battery!) was under $11 though. Electric cars currently have higher initial prices than gas ones and there is not a robust used market available; but once those initial costs are overcome, driving costs are lower.

I will write about road-tripping in the summer and winter with a Bolt soon; until then, hope this snapshot of charging costs is helpful!

[1]: I mean wake in the full sense of the word.



Posted by vsrinivas at March 21, 2022 04:22 AM