How Much Electricity Does an Electric Car Use?

People who are thinking about buying an electric car for the first time ever have a lot of questions, which is understandable. One of the most common questions people have is how much electricity an electric car uses. 

Saving money at the gas pump is a top motivator for going with a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV). However, if the electricity consumption of a PEV is significant your monthly bill from the utility provider could be noticeably higher. You can calculate an estimate by using your kilowatt-hour rate and determining roughly how much electricity an electric car will use. Here’s how.

Calculating Electric Car Electricity Use

Gas-powered vehicles have the familiar miles per gallon (MPG) measurement. The MPG tells us how far a vehicle will go on a single gallon of gas (or diesel). 

Measuring fuel efficiency is a little different for electric vehicles. With PEVs, the distance is measured in kWhs per 100 miles. So, in order to calculate how much electricity a PEV will use on a daily/weekly/monthly basis and the cost you’ll need to know:

The rate you pay per kilowatt-hour

The EVs kWhs per 100 miles rating

Now, let’s break it down with an example. Let’s assume that you pay $0.12 per kilowatt-hour. Your electric car requires 30 kWhs to go 100 miles on a fully charged battery. That would mean it costs $3.60 to charge a depleted battery, which works out to be $0.036 per mile or roughly 1/3 kilowatt-hour per mile (3.3 miles per kWh).  

But that’s not the end of the calculation. Now that you know the miles per kilowatt-hour you can determine how much electricity will be used in a month. That depends on how much you drive. 

Let’s assume you’re an average driver that drives 13,500 miles a year. That would work out to be approximately 1,125 miles a month. Going that many miles would require 341 kWhs for an EV that gets 3.3 miles per kWh. 

In this example, the electric car uses 341 kWhs a month for a total cost of $41 in electricity. 

Of course, this is a very straightforward example. In the real world, there are a lot of variables that can affect the electricity usage and rate that is paid.

3 Easy Ways to Reduce Electric Vehicle Electricity Use

How many miles per kilowatt-hour an EV gets is out of the owner’s control, but there are still ways to reduce high usage at home without cutting back on the miles you drive. Below are three simple ways to do just that. 

Charge at Public Stations

The easiest way to dramatically reduce electricity consumption at home is by charging up for free when you’re out and about. Right now there are 31,287 electric charging stations across the U.S. and Canada. Before heading out make sure to check and see if you’ll be stopping in an area that has one.

Charge at Night If You Have a Time-of-Use Electric Plan

People that have a time-of-use plan need to be very mindful of when they charge at home. With this type of electricity plan the kWh rate changes throughout the day depending on demand. Generally, rates are lowest between midnight and 6am. Charging during these hours won’t impact how much electricity is used, but it will make a difference on your monthly bill. 

Use a Smart AC Level 2 Charging Station at Home

If you’re going to invest in an at-home charging station, AC level 2 charging equipment may be the best option. Level 2 equipment comes with smart features like a charging timer and data collection. These features make it easier to charge up when it’s cheaper and get a better idea of how far you’re driving on a given day.

The Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) is a great resource for anyone who’s considering an electric car. The center has information on calculating EV electricity use, a charging station locator tool and much more.

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