Daily Energy Repost Urban Environmentalist

Charge That Baby Up

Keeping your EV powered 

Our future approaches to cars and our lingo in speaking of them must change with the times. Many of us have lived for decades relying on MPG (miles per gallon) ratings to decide what level of fuel efficiency we need in a car. The rise of the EV (Electric Vehicle) is forcing a change. The new MPG is Kilowatt-Hours Per 100 Miles or ‘kWh/100.’

What does it cost?

The cost of filling your EV is not only dependent on where you live, but possibly it’s controlled by what time of day or month you charge up. The average cost of USA electricity is 13.3 cents per kWh, but it can go as high as 28.9 cents and as low as 9.3 cents. Also, electric power companies usually offer various pricing plans, with standard service and time-of-use pricing being two popular options. 

Time-of-use pricing means what it says, and electricity cost more in some time slots and less in others. If you plug your car in when you get home from work, when power is in high demand, you pay more for a refill than charging it at midnight when prices drop.

Even under the standard model, prices near the end of the month may be different than at the beginning if the pricing is tiered on total monthly usage.

Your EV’s total fuel efficiency is also dependent on the car weight, battery type, and the type of driving done. Depending on the car, the efficiency range varies from 15 to 45 kWh/100 miles, with a Tesla Model 3 coming at 26 kWh/100. Using the national average cost for electricity, this translates into about $3.50 for 100 miles of travel in the Tesla. For a 75 kWh Tesla Model 3 battery, it cost about $10 for a full recharge. Of course, we are talking about charging from home at your residential rates. If you plug into a public rapid charge station, then your costs rise to over $20.

Still, the general consensus is, EVs are cheaper to operate than traditional gasoline-powered cars. The EPA estimates the annual cost of fueling a Honda Accord sedan ($1,000) at about twice the price of operating a Tesla Model 3 ($500).

I’m in a hurry

We are accustomed to popping into the local service station on our way home from the market to refill our cars. If there are no lines, we are in and out in under five minutes. However, charging your EV is not as straight forward. Continuing with the Tesla Model 3 example, charging can take from 20 minutes to 20 hours, depending on the charger type. But even 20 minutes is still four times longer than your usual refill time, and rapid charging means you pay extra fuel costs for the privilege.

Another problem is availability. Compared to traditional gas pumping service stations, rapid EV chargers are few and far between. Owners of EVs also suffer another indignity when the available charging station is incompatible with their vehicle.  

All of us are in a hurry, and the next tier of acceptance for EVs will require the combination of a new generation of higher capacity, faster-charging batteries, and the ample availability of charging stations. When I need to refuel, I don’t care if the station is Chevron, Exxon, Shell, EVgo, or Costco—I just want the energy to get where I’m going. 

More plugs

This dilemma poses a chicken-and-egg riddle. Without easy access to chargers, buyers are unlikely to go electric, but automakers won’t ramp up production without buyers. About 28,000 charging stations are currently scattered around the USA, but they mainly concentrate in urban areas. Collectively these stations have 90,000 charging plugs. The Biden administration has announced an initiative to increase the number of plugs available by 500,000 over the next decade. 

This increase could support the addition of 25 million EVs to the national car fleet. But there will be political hurdles to overcome with congress and significant issues around standardization. Of the existing charging stations available to the public today, a fifth of them are exclusive to Tesla. Also, only one in ten is rapid enough to be useful on a road trip.

Big infrastructure advances require bold visions and lots of hard work, but any path to the future first requires a vision. The Republican-led Congress and the exiting Trump Administration seemed to lack any real vision for the future and appeared to be content getting rid of what we have instead of building something new. Hopefully, the Biden administration can implement a bolder vision for America’s future.


Tesla Model 3 charging guide (Source: Zap Map) – https://www.zap-map.com/charge-points/tesla-model-3-charging-guide/

Energy consumption of full electric vehicles (Source: Electric Vehicle Database) – https://ev-database.org/imp/cheatsheet/energy-consumption-electric-car

The True Cost of Powering an Electric Car (Source: Edmunds) – https://www.edmunds.com/fuel-economy/the-true-cost-of-powering-an-electric-car.html

Chargers Are the Final Roadblock to America’s Electric Car Future (By Kyle Stock; Bloomberg) – https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-06-01/electric-car-chargers-will-determine-america-s-green-future

EPA Fuel Economy Website – https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.shtml

WHAT IT COSTS TO CHARGE AN ELECTRIC VEHICLE (By Jim Gorzelany; MyEV.com) – https://www.myev.com/research/ev-101/what-it-costs-to-charge-an-electric-vehicle

Feature Image: EV Car Charging (Modified by ArcheanWeb) – Original Credit: By Oregon Department of Transportation – EV charger at Mt. Hood Skibowl, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35841536

William House
William is an earth scientist and writer with an interest in providing the science "backstory" for breaking environmental, earth science, and climate change news.