The cost of charging an EV is almost always hundreds of dollars less a year than operating an equivalent gas-powered vehicle, according to a new report from Consumer Reports, the nonprofit advocacy organization.
But that can vary considerably depending on where you live.
“In most places in the country, it is cheaper to charge your EV than fill up your gas vehicle, and that certainly has been the case for the past decade or so,” said energy economist Beia Spiller, director of the transportation program at Resources for the Future. “But that depends on two things: the cost of electricity in your electric service territory, and the cost of gasoline where you live.”
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EV charging sticker shock in New England
On the West Coast where gas prices are high but electricity costs tend to be lower, an EV will nearly always be more affordable to run than a car or a hybrid, Consumer Reports found.
In New England where gas prices are lower but electricity prices trend higher, a hybrid car may be the more affordable bet fuel-wise.
EV owners there have complained it’s getting more expensive to charge electric vehicles than to fill the gas tank.
Matt Cain, who lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, ran a price comparison when his electricity bill went up in January. “We have a Prius Prime that we normally drive around town, and we drive most of it on electricity. It’s now 50% more expensive than fueling it with gas,” he told CBS MoneyWatch.
Gas prices are more volatile than electricity rates
Volatility in fuel prices and electricity rates is a consideration as more of the car-buying public considers electric vehicles which can already cost significantly more than a conventional car.
Spiller says car buyers should bear in mind that gas prices can fluctuate dramatically while electricity prices are more stable. EVs help car owners hedge against fluctuations, she said.
“Car buyers have been held hostage for decades now by wild fluctuations in gasoline prices that are completely outside of our ability to change,” Spiller said. “With EVs, we remove this issue completely and provide much more independence and security in terms of how we are getting our energy to power our cars.”
Before deciding to buy an EV, Consumer Reports recommends checking if your utility company offers “off peak” charging or if there is free charging in your neighborhood or at your office. Some car manufacturers also offer free access to public chargers for a few years after you buy a vehicle.
Will an EV save you money? It’s complicated
Will an electric vehicle save you money? That’s a more complicated question.
According to Consumer Reports, most new EVs are luxury cars that on average cost more than $61,000, $12,000 more than the industry average.
You also have to calculate how much an EV will cost to own, including tax breaks and electricity rates which will depend not just on where you live, but also what model you choose and whether you buy or lease.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: EV vs. gas prices: Cheaper to charge or fill the tank? It depends.