Electric vehicles (EVs) are available with the same features and accessories as gas-powered cars but use electric motors with rechargeable batteries freeing your drive from fossil fuels. They are a critical step toward reducing carbon emissions and are particularly popular in the Seattle area because EV owners benefit from City Light’s clean, affordable electricity.
Why Drive an EV?
They are cheaper to drive and operate. There are more options than ever to buy new, used, or lease an EV at an affordable price. Less maintenance and our low-cost electricity help you save, and you can take advantage of Washington State incentives and discounts. But don’t just take our word for it:
They are convenient to fuel. Many owners can charge their cars overnight at home, just like a cell phone. If your company has charging stations, you can also charge your car while you work. And, there are numerous public charging stations with chargers throughout the region, including several owned and planned by City Light.
They are better for our health. Since electric cars don’t produce tailpipe emissions, the air we breathe is less toxic, contributing to better air quality and health for our communities.
They are better for the environment. Rest easy knowing you are charging on our carbon-free hydroelectricity, delivered with a net-zero impact. EVs are oil-free, produce 85% fewer carbon emissions, and can be powered by renewable energy like City Light’s hydroelectric dams or solar panels.
What to Know Before You Buy an EV
Know how much range you need. If your daily commute is 80 miles or less, most models will get you there on one charge. If you are going further, consider a model with ranges of 200 miles per charge. Explore the Electric Power Research Institute Consumer Guide to Electric Vehicles for more information.
Plan for access to charging. If you have source of power where you park at home or work, you’re all set. EVs typically come with a Level 1 charger that can plug in directly to a standard 120-volt outlet to charge your car. For faster charging, you can install a home charger using the same type of 240-volt outlet that powers your laundry dryer or electric oven (called Level 2 charging).
If you live in a condo or apartment, find out if the building has or can install Level 1 or Level 2 chargers.
For more information about installing chargers for single and multifamily homes in Seattle, visit the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections EV charging tips resource.
City Light Public Charging Stations
We’re installing fast public charging stations across our service area and curbside Level 2 chargers in the City of Seattle. allowing you to get a full charge for most vehicles through City Light’s clean electricity.
Check out our public charging FAQs:
Still have questions? Contact an Energy Advisor today.
How Much Does It Cost to Charge an Electric Car?
Kurt Woock started writing for NerdWallet in 2021. Prior to joining NerdWallet, Kurt was a writer and educator for Colorado PERA, a retirement system for public employees. Before that he was a legislative editor for the Colorado General Assembly. Kurt has a B.A. in music from Valparaiso University and an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He lives in Detroit.
Chris Hutchison helped build NerdWallet’s content operation and has worked across banking, investing and taxes. He now leads a team exploring new markets. Before joining NerdWallet, he was an editor and programmer at ESPN and a copy editor at the San Jose Mercury News.
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The cost to charge an electric vehicle varies by quite a bit. How much? Adding 100 miles of range to an EV can cost between 2.50 and 35.
That wide range is due to factors including:
What you drive. Just like gas cars, some EVs are more efficient than others, which means they’ll need more or less power to travel the same distance.
What company you charge with. Public charging stations have different pricing structures. Some offer lower for a monthly fee.
When you charge. Energy fluctuate. Those estimates of 2.50 to 35 use state-level averages from November 2022. And if your utility company uses dynamic pricing, your rates are determined by the time of day you charge.
How to think about charging costs after a lifetime of using gas
If you drive a gas-powered car, you’re familiar with how many miles per gallon a car gets and the cost of a gallon of gas. The concepts behind EVs are similar, but the terms are different.
Size of the battery = size of the gas tank
The power stored in a battery is measured in kilowatt-hours, or kWh. The power needed to travel a given distance varies by vehicle, similar to how the gas mileage for a small hatchback is usually better than in a heavy pickup truck.
The total charge stored in a vehicle’s battery depends on the car. The Tesla Model S battery has a capacity of 95 kWh, while the Nissan Leaf’s is a much smaller 39 kWh. Going from empty to 100% will cost more on a higher-capacity battery, but you’ll also fill up less frequently.
Energy efficiency and energy costs
The measurement that really matters to your wallet is an electric vehicle’s efficiency, not its battery capacity or its maximum range. Comparing how much different vehicles cost to travel the same distance is a better indication of expected fueling costs than the size of a tank or the cost to charge any one battery to full.
A Tesla Model 3 traveling 100 miles will use 25kWh, and a larger Rivian will require about 50 kWh. A small SUV with a gas engine, like a Ford Escape or Toyota RAV4, will use roughly 3.7 gallons of gas to travel those 100 miles, while a gas-engine pickup truck like a Ford F150 or Toyota Tundra uses about 5 gallons of gas to do so.
Here’s what adding 100 miles of range to each vehicle type looks like in dollars: About 4 for the small EV and 8 for a larger EV (each using a home charger), 12 for a small SUV and 17 for a truck.
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MPG and MPGe
Comparing kWh with miles per gallon can seem clunky. One alternative is to look at an electric vehicle’s MPGe, or miles per gallon equivalent.
MPGe, which is tracked by the Environmental Protection Agency, represents electricity consumption as if it were gas. According to the formula, using 33.7 kWh of power is equivalent to using 1 gallon of gas. So, as an example, an electric vehicle that travels 100 miles on 33.7 kWh would have a 100 MPGe rating.
The rating isn’t perfect — in reality, different EVs use electricity at different levels of efficiency — but the estimate is still useful, allowing a person to compare an EV’s MPGe directly with a gas-powered car’s MPG. This makes shopping for EVs alongside gas vehicles and hybrids more intuitive.
Ratings in the 70s, 80s and 90s are typical. The 10 most efficient EVs, according to the agency, all had an average MPGe of at least 115, and the top spot has a rating of 140.
Examples of various charging scenarios
Comparing the cost of adding about 100 miles — regardless of the battery’s total storage capacity, or even its fuel source — allows you to evaluate the cost of different scenarios.
To a gas-powered small SUV
To a gas-powered pickup truck
Charging at home
If you’re charging at home, the cost to charge an EV depends on your electricity rates.
Rates vary based on where you live. For example, people in Utah and Washington paid less than 12 cents per kWh in 2021, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, while those in Rhode Island and Alaska paid twice that. Even within one area, fluctuate throughout the year.
If you’re one of the more than 10 million households that use dynamic charging — which means you pay less or more for electricity during certain hours of the day — the price you pay depends on when you charge. Keep your bill lower by charging only during off-peak times. Many home chargers let you create rules about when your EV charges, much like you program a Smart thermostat.
At-home charging might require upfront hardware costs
Charging at home can be as simple as plugging a car into a standard wall outlet. This method, called Level 1 charging, transfers charge slowly — about five miles of range per hour of charging, according to the U.S. Energy Department— but it works without installing extra equipment.
Adding a Level 2 charger to your home allows you to add about 25 miles of range per hour. Equipment and installation can vary depending on location — from 2,000 to 7,000 according to the Energy Department — although local incentives can bring that figure down.
These costs don’t show up on your electric bill when you charge. But if you’re thinking about buying an electric vehicle for the first time and plan to charge at home, don’t let this expense surprise you.
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EV owners in the U.S. can charge their cars at home or at one of more than 130,000 ports on about 50,000 public charging stations across the country. Some people might have access to additional, semi-public charging stations, such as at their workplace.
Some public charging stations are free to use — a business might install a charger and offer free charges to customers, for example — but paying to charge an EV is the norm.
Expect to be more expensive than home charging, especially if you’re using DC fast charging, but still cheaper than using gas in most circumstances. You can add hundreds of miles of range in 15 or 20 minutes in some cases — helpful if you’re in a hurry or on a road trip. But this is where you see that can be three times what you’re paying in your garage. Like charging at home, rates might vary depending on what time of day you charge.
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Is it Cheaper to Charge an Electric Car at Home?
There are many benefits to charging your car at home, including convenience and cost savings. With home charging, you’ll never have to go to the gas station again. You can “fill up” your car while you’re doing other things at home, like cooking dinner or watching TV. And since electricity is typically cheaper at night, you can charge your car while you sleep and wake up to a “full tank” in the morning. Home charging is also more efficient than public charging, so you’ll get more miles per kWh. And since electric cars have fewer moving parts than gas cars, they require less maintenance. Home charging is also better for the environment because it reduces emissions. Unlike gas cars, electric cars don’t produce air pollution. So, if you’re concerned about the environment, an EV and home charging are the way to go. By upgrading your home to accommodate EV charging, you can take advantage of many benefits. A home charger can be installed in just a few hours, and it’s much cheaper than installing a public charger. Home charging is also more convenient because you can charge your car whenever you want, without having to find a public charger or wait in line. In addition to saving you money in the now, home chargers can increase the market value of your home, especially if you live in an area with high demand for electric vehicles.
There are more than 150,000 gas stations in the United States, compared to about 43,000 charging stations across the country. Although this may seem like a large discrepancy at first glance, it’s important to note that this number is growing steadily. There are nearly twice as many charging stations as there used to be. So, it isn’t as difficult to find a charging station for your electric vehicle as you might think. However, the price tag for charging your electric car at a public charging station will run you anywhere between 0.30. 0.66 per kilowatt hour (kWh). Compared to home charging, where the average price is 0.10. 0.21 per kWh depending on your state, it’s easy to see why many people choose to charge their cars at home whenever possible. We spoke with Stuart Gardner of Generation180 to learn more about the benefits of charging a car at home vs at a station.
Typically, yes, it is cheaper to charge your electric vehicle at home, Gardner said, and if you happen to power your home by solar your savings are even more dramatic. However, many public charging stations are offered for free depending on the site host. Additionally, some electric vehicle manufacturers offer special deals (i.e., three years of free public charging on select infrastructure networks). In any case, recharging an electric vehicle is usually cheaper than refueling your old gas guzzler.
The Three Levels of EV Charging
Electricity flows in one direction and is measured in volts. The amount of electricity, or power, is measured in watts. One watt is equal to one volt multiplied by one ampere (amp). An amp is a unit of measure for the rate at which electrons flow through a conductor. This flow of electrons is what we call an electrical current. The standard household outlet in the United States is 120 volts, which means it can deliver up to 15 amps of current. This is why most electric car home chargers are Level 1, or 120-volt, chargers. While it is the slowest way to recharge your electric vehicle, it is also one of the most accessible as no special equipment is required. Depending on your daily driving, L1 works well for many electric vehicle owners, Gardner said.
A Level 2 charger uses 240 volts and can deliver up to 30 or 40 amps, depending on the model. This means it can charge an electric car much faster than a Level 1 charger. For a faster charge, you can install a Level 2 charger, which will require its own circuit such as a 240-volt, 30-amp circuit. Level 2 (L2 or AC charging) uses the same power source as your clothes dryer (~220 volts). L2 can typically charge an electric vehicle in eight hours and is the most common charging option for homeowners. However, L2 does typically requires a dedicated charger and an electrician to install.
A level 3 charger is a DC fast charger that can charge an electric car in minutes rather than hours. These are usually found at public charging stations and not typically used for home charging, but if you want one for your home, an electrician can install it. Although the price will be considerably higher compared to a level 1 or level 2 charger, all three levels of EV charging can be installed in your home. Level 3 (L3 or DC fast charging) is the fastest way to charge your electric vehicle (about 80% charge in 30 minutes), but these chargers are often the most expensive and only found in commercial areas due to the high power required.
Most people choose to charge their EVs at home with a level 1 or level 2 charger because it is more convenient and less expensive than using a public charging station. This is because public stations are often located in parking garages or other commercial areas, which can be difficult to access or far from home. In addition, public charging stations may have fees associated with their use, while home chargers do not. The type of charger you choose will depend on your needs and budget. If you plan to charge your EV frequently, a Level 2 charger may be a good choice. However, if you only charge your EV occasionally, a Level 1 charger may be sufficient. When considering which type of charger to purchase, it is important to consult with an electrician to ensure that the charger you select is compatible with your home’s electrical system.
The Cost of Charging at Home
Like gas vehicles, energy costs per mile will vary for vehicles and a comparison chart of how much each costs to fill can be found here. The cost of home charging will depend on your electricity rates. In California, for example, the average price per kilowatt-hour (kWh) was 0.19 in 2022 with varying in each state. Of course, the cost of charging will also depend on how much you drive. If you only use your car for short trips, you may not need to charge as often. And if you have solar panels, you may be able to charge your car for free during the daytime. While this is not possible for everyone and kWh vary, a kWh price of 0.15 an hour would cost around 56 a month to keep your EV vehicle charged, and having a home charging system cuts down on this cost even more as well as adding convenience by just having an at home EV charger.
A commonly quoted statistic is approximately 80% of EV owners charge at home, Gardner says. Increasingly, however, multi-unit dwellings (often abbreviated to MUD) like apartment buildings offer electric vehicle charging infrastructure as an amenity. Not only does this help attract and retain residents while building a clean energy-conscious community, but it also makes electric vehicles an option for more people. Given every car owner does not live in a single-family home, have off-street parking, or a garage, the availability of charging at multi-unit dwellings is vital to making electric vehicles more accessible and speeding up adoption.
A Level 1 charger can recover 4-5 miles of range per hour, while a Level 2 can recover 25-30 miles of range per hour. The cost of installation for an electric car charger varies depending on several factors, such as the age of your home, your electrical panel capacity, and the type of installation. For a Level 1 charger, the cost of the station ranges from 300 to 600, while parts and labor can cost anywhere from 1,000 to 1,700. For a Level 2 charger, the cost of the station increases slightly to between 500 and 700, and parts and labor can cost between 1,200 and 2,000. Keep in mind that some states require homeowners to get a permit when installing charging stations. Overall, installing an electric car charger at home is a relatively affordable investment that can save drivers time and money in the long run. For example, if you have a Nissan Leaf, it would take 16 hours to charge using a Level 1 charger. With a Level 2 charger, you can fully charge most electric vehicles in four hours. This can be a lifesaver if you’re running low on battery and need to get somewhere fast.
When installing a charging station in your home, it is important to comply with all local, state, and national codes and regulations. This may include permits from the local building and permitting authorities. In general, EV charging infrastructure is considered a continuous load by the National Electrical Code (NEC). Your electrical contractor should understand and use the appropriate NEC for a safe and code-compliant installation. NEC Article 625 contains most of the information applicable to charging equipment. If possible, consult vehicle manufacturer guidance for information about the required charging equipment and learn the specifications before purchasing equipment or electrical services. If you are looking to have a home charging station installed, be sure to find a qualified and reputable contractor who can help you with the process from start to finish. This will ensure that your installation is done correctly and in compliance with all applicable codes and regulations. Depending on the complexity of the installation, the cost of having a home charging station installed can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. However, the peace of mind that comes with knowing your home charging station is installed safely and correctly is priceless.
Comparing the Pros and Cons of Home EV charging stations
When you are considering installing a home EV charging system, users must first consider the pros and cons of doing this. Below are some of the key pros that should be considered, such as:
- Can save time – If you have a long commute, charging your vehicle at home can save you time.
- Convenient– Home chargers are a more convenient option than public chargers, as you don’t have to worry about finding an available charger or waiting in line.
- affordable – Home chargers are typically more affordable than public chargers, as electricity is typically less expensive or can be used during off-peak hours.
- Can increase your home’s value – If you plan on selling your home in the future, having a home EV charger can increase its value.
While there are multiple pros to having a home charging station (mainly in your wallet) there are some cons you will want to consider before investing in your home system.
- Require permits and inspections – In some cases, you may need to get a permit or have an inspection done before you can install a home charger.
- Takes up space – Home chargers can take up space in your garage or driveway that can be used for other purposes.
- Limited to one vehicle – If you have multiple vehicles, you’ll need to install multiple chargers, and depending on the size of your home, this might not be possible.
Gardner also mentioned the benefits and cons they think a new EV owner should expect.
First of all, I would say congratulations on your new EV! The pros of charging at home are always waking up in the morning with a “full tank,” never having to go to the gas station again, and saving money on your “fuel” costs. In fact, the current nationwide average cost of an “e-gallon” is 1.16 (versus the nationwide average cost of a gallon of gas).
While there are some drawbacks to installing a home charging station, the pros typically outweigh the cons. If you’re considering installing a home charger, be sure to consult with a qualified electrician to ensure that your home can accommodate the charger and that the installation is done correctly. If you are thinking of getting an electric vehicle (EV), one of the first things you need to do is install a home EV charging station. While many public chargers are available, having a home charger is much more convenient. It can also save you time and money in the long run while you never need to worry about finding a public charger again.
For more helpful tips and information on saving money and energy, check out our website. A special thank you to Generation180 for their help with this article. If you’re ready to make your next car electric, Generation180 has a “Going Electric Pledge. If you have questions about electric vehicles, reach out to Generation180 and connect with their network of enthusiastic EV Ambassadors.
Concerned about energy for your business? The energy experts at Integrity Energy are here to help! Request a quote today or visit our residential site PriceToCompare.com to get an energy quote for your home.
Save (Even ) Money: How to Find Free Electric Car Charging Stations
Electric vehicle charging is not free, but some stations and programs let you top up at no cost. Here’s how to save some cash when powering up your EV.
2021 Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition (Photo: Ford)
With US gas topping 5 per gallon, the option to charge up for free is a satisfying perk of owning an electric vehicle. And drivers are taking note; electric vehicle sales in the US rose 60% in 2022 (Opens in a new window). in part due to an exciting range of new models.
EV charging is not free; topping up at home means increased electricity costs, and many charging stations impose a fee for juicing up on the go. But there are a number of free charging programs if you know where to look.
Filter for Free Stations on PlugShare
Across the country, private companies (Opens in a new window). nonprofit programs (Opens in a new window). and local governments (Opens in a new window) are offering free EV charging options. The easiest way to find them is on the PlugShare (Opens in a new window) app, which includes a filter for free chargers. Much of the app’s content is crowdsourced by real drivers, who “check in” at each station and upload the latest information about it, including if it’s still free, how many minutes of charging you get, and at what level/speed.
Under Map Filters, toggle off Show Locations That Require Payment. Then, when you click on a station on the map, you’ll see something like “no fee” written in the description. Note: The Electrify America app, another popular option, doesn’t have a filter for free stations.
Charge at Your Workplace
Workplace charging is an appealing way for EV owners to maintain a full charge without making a separate trip to power up. It’s like someone taking your car to the gas station as you work.
Some companies have started offering free charging as an affordable perk; during testing for our Best Mobile Networks 2022 story, we charged at a gratis ChargePoint location at Meta’s headquarters in Menlo Park. For deep-ed firms, the cost is minimal. Offering workplace charging to employees can be as little as 1.50 per day with Level 2 charging and as little as 0.60 a day with Level 1 charging—which is less than a cup of coffee, Plug In America (Opens in a new window) explains.
Check the options in your employer’s parking lot, but don’t assume you can use another company’s chargers as they may require validation. If your workplace does not have free chargers, make the case to add them. The Department of Energy has a guide (Opens in a new window) for implementing workplace charging, and some states (Opens in a new window) offer reimbursement for installing level 2 chargers.
Take Advantage of Free Charging Promotions
Many new EVs come with some amount of free charging, often at stations in the Electrify America network (Opens in a new window). They are essentially charging credits that you can cash in. If you haven’t yet, check out your car’s free charging options and start charging before the offer expires. Edmunds has a full list (Opens in a new window) of all EV models that come with free charging. A few examples:
- Volkswagen ID.4 (Opens in a new window) : Comes with 30 minutes of free level 3/DC fast charging, and 60 minutes of level 2 charging at Electrify America stations.
- Ford F150 Lightning (Opens in a new window) : Comes with 250kWh of power at level 3/DC fast charging at Electrify America stations.
- Chevy Bolt (Opens in a new window) : Free home installation of a level 2 charger with your purchase of a 2022 model. While this isn’t free charging, it’ll save you as much as 1,000, as well as time waiting on a level 1, snail’s pace charge. Time is money!
For Teslas, early adopters snagged free Supercharging for life, which means speedy level 3 charging at the company’s network of Supercharger stations. That offer ended in 2017 for new Tesla buyers, though the company says (Opens in a new window) its fees are four times less than buying gas. It also runs promotions, such as free Supercharging around the holidays.