Update (February 28, 2022): With more EVs on the road in 2022 than in 2017, along with big changes in the cost of energy, we’ve updated this guide for 2022 with new vehicles and updated power and fuel rates.
Just about every article or news piece about an electric car that we do – and there is a lot of EV news lately – gets a comment thread filled with people debating the price of charging an EV. “Hydro rates are so high,” “maybe when electricity is cheaper,” “who can afford to drive one when I can use cheaper gas,” and best of all “filling a tank with fuel is half the price of plugging in a car.”
What we realized is buyers don’t seem to know just how much it costs to charge an EV. I realized I didn’t know how much it would cost to charge an EV either. But I wanted to find out. We all know exactly how much it costs to put gas in the tank – look at the lines if there is a one-cent price jump expected overnight – but electricity is more stable and more predictable. So how much does it cost to “fill up” an electric car?
The Price of Power
The first step is finding the cost of electricity. In most provinces, it’s easy. Most provinces have a set rate and tax. In New Brunswick, for example, power costs $0.1076/kWh and then gets a 15 percent tax. In provinces with a flat service fee, we have ignored that cost. Since you have to pay that anyway, EV or not, we didn’t count it. One province, however, is a little more tricky.
Ontario has not just three time-of-day rates (and a new but little-used tiered system), but a patchwork of electric providers. Each has a different fee to get the power to your door, with some having multiple rates depending on where you live. That makes it difficult to calculate for every person in the province, but we can get an idea of the range for the province using a best case and a worst case. For the worst case, we used rural delivery fees and peak time rates. For the best case, we used nighttime rates with an urban delivery fee rate.
In provinces that use a different rate for your first bundle of kWh, we’ve used that lower rate. Our reasoning is that it’s impossible to say which kilowatts went where and that the differences aren’t significant to our calculations.
EV Charge Cost
The next step is finding out how much electricity a car takes to charge up. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), the same agency that handles fuel economy ratings, does consumption ratings for electric cars. Part of their estimates is a kWh/100 km rating for all electric cars. We’ll use their city/highway combined rating as the amount of electricity used to drive 100 km.
For our calculations, we’re using two electric vehicles. The 2022 Hyundai Kona Electric and the 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E Long Range AWD. An average BEV compact, and a more premium longer-range electric SUV. For gasoline equivalents, we have chosen the 2022 Honda Civic sedan to put next to the Kona EV. It’s the best-selling car in Canada, offering a similar cabin and footprint. To pair up with the Mach-E, we picked one of the most popular midsize crossovers in Canada. The Hyundai Santa Fe (2.5T) is a popular SUV that offers good fuel economy as well as similar overall length, width, and height.
Fuelling up our Calculators
The Honda Civic is rated to get 6.9 L/100 km in combined driving (with either of its available engines). The average price of regular gasoline in Canada at the time of writing is $1.585/L. Multiplying the two numbers together gives the cost of driving 100 km – roughly $10.94 – assuming the Civic achieves its official mileage figure (rare for any gas car, but let’s assume so throughout for comparison purposes). British Columbians and Newfoundlanders, your gas is significantly more expensive than the rest of the country, so your costs would be $12.28 and $11.94 per 100 km, respectively (Alberta is the cheapest at $10.01).
A Hyundai Kona EV uses 17.4 kWh to drive 100 km. This is where the math gets trickier.
In Quebec, that’s 6.159 ¢/kWh plus eight per cent tax and it will run the meter to a total of $1.23 – almost a 90 per cent savings versus the cost of gas, in theory. But Quebec does have the cheapest rates in the country so let’s look at the worst case in rural Ontario. The highest main grid electric cost in the country is in rural areas of Ontario at peak time. Power then and there costs 20.67 ¢/kWh plus tax. Again, that’s on top of the large fixed charges, but since you aren’t unplugging your fridge anytime soon we won’t count those. So in rural Ontario, the most expensive part of the country for electricity, 100 km in a Kona EV will cost $4.06. That’s about a third of the cost to fill a gas car.
But wait, charge that car at night or any time on off-peak weekends, as most EV owners do, and the Ontario worst-case cost drops to just $2.33. If you aren’t in a rural area, the cost is just $2.03.
So in the best case, the Kona EV costs less than 11 per cent as much to fill as a Civic, worst case is around 38 per cent. Averaging costs across the nation, charging an electric vehicle is about 78 per cent less expensive than fuelling up a similar gasoline vehicle.
What About Bigger Vehicles?
What about the SUVs? A Hyundai Santa Fe with the 2.5L turbo-four engine makes 277 hp and uses an estimated 9.9 L/100 km. That works out to $15.69 to drive 100 km on average ($17.62 in BC, $17.13 in NL, and $14.36 in AB). The Ford Mustang Mach-E uses 23.1 kWh/100 km, which works out to $1.64 in Quebec, $5.40 in worst case Ontario, and a national average of $3.24. Here the situation is much the same, with the cost of charging the Mach-E 79 per cent less expensive than fuelling the Santa Fe on average.
So now we know how much electric cars should cost to charge. Most EV’s come within a few cents of the cost of the two we’ve used as well because they’re all shockingly (zing!) efficient and group similarly based on their physical size and weight. They have some other tricks up their cords as well.
What About Paid Chargers?
For a start, there are thousands of chargers spread around the country. It takes some effort to find somewhere rural enough that there isn’t one nearby. Many of those chargers are Level 2 plugs that cost nothing to use. So with some planning, patience and luck, you could reduce the yearly fuelling bill to zero. Zip, zilch, nada. Many others charge by the hour, often $1 or $2 per hour. $2 per hour and an approximate rate of 30 km per hour puts the cost at around $5 for 100 km of driving.
Charging at pay-to-use Level 3 charging varies wildly. You’re charged based on time, but how much charge your vehicle can accept in that time changes based on the temperature, your current charge level, and several other factors. Because of this variability, and because several studies have shown 80 percent or more charging is done at home, we’re not going in depth on L3 charging. But, a 50-kW fast charger will add around 100 km of range in about 20 minutes, at a cost of approximately $4.50. A 350-kW charger, the fastest currently offered, can add 100 km in as little as four minutes, at a price of less than $3.
Hybrids and PHEVs Compared
How do plug-in hybrids compare? For these calculations, we’ve used a model that is offered in gas, hybrid, and PHEV drivelines: the Toyota RAV4. It’s also Canada’s best-selling crossover, making it an even better example. The gas-powered AWD RAV4 can travel 100 km on 8.4 L of regular gas, according to NRCan. The hybrid and PHEV RAV4 Prime both use 6.0 L of regular gas to travel 100 km. But the Prime has an advantage: it can travel for the first 68 km of that trip on electric power instead, using gasoline for only the final 32 km. Measured that way, it uses 15.2 kWh of electricity and just 1.9 L of fuel.
With those figures, and the Canadian gas price average, a gas RAV4 will cost $13.31 in fuel to drive 100 km. The RAV4 Hybrid should cost $9.51, and the RAV4 Prime PHEV just $5.17.
So a 100-km trip in that plug-in hybrid would still cost more than a fully electric car, but a look at our chart shows the overall fuelling costs are definitely less than their conventional gas versions. Since most drivers only occasionally travel more than 40 km per day, the potential cost savings is even greater.
What’s the Payback?
That’s how much it costs to charge that electric car. It’s not a surprise that the EV will cost less to drive 100 km than a gas car, but it is a surprise how quickly it adds up. The savings in a single year comparing our two compacts (and the average Canadian’s 20,000 km per year distance travelled) is a worst case of $1,374 per year and a best case of $1,941. For our SUVs, the potential savings is as much as $2,811.
Add that to current federal EV incentives of up to $5,000, combined with provincial incentives as high as $8,000, and an EV can pay for itself in just a few years. Our compact car examples could reach parity in just three and a half years for buyers living in Quebec.
The best part of an EV? You’ll never have to stand beside a pump at -30°C ever again. You can even program the car to warm up while it’s still on the charger. That’s something to think about the next time you’re shopping for a new car.
Kona Electric^{1} | Mustang Mach-E^{2} | RAV4 Prime^{3} | |
---|---|---|---|
AB | $3.03 | $4.03 | $5.43 |
BC | $1.72 | $2.28 | $4.91 |
MB | $1.82 | $2.41 | $4.43 |
NB | $2.28 | $3.02 | $4.98 |
NL | $2.51 | $3.33 | $5.50 |
NS | $2.96 | $3.93 | $5.58 |
ON (average) | $3.05 | $4.05 | $5.67 |
Toronto off-peak | $2.03 | $2.70 | $4.78 |
Toronto on-peak | $3.76 | $4.99 | $6.29 |
Rural off-peak | $2.33 | $3.10 | $5.05 |
Rural on-peak | $4.06 | $5.40 | $6.56 |
PEI | $2.99 | $3.96 | $5.64 |
QC | $1.23 | $1.64 | $4.28 |
SK | $2.85 | $3.78 | $5.30 |
National average | $2.44 | $3.24 | $5.17 |
Gas comparison | $10.94^{4} | $15.69^{5} | $9.51^{6} |
Derived from NRCan data retrieved on 2022-02-25 ^{1} 2022 Hyundai Kona Electric: 17.4 kWh/100 km combined ^{2} 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E: 23.1 kWh/100 km combined ^{3} 2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime (PHEV): 22.3 kWh/100 km combined, 68 km range; 6.0 L/100 km combined. Calculation assumes 68 km of pure electric operation per 100 km travelled. ^{4} 2022 Honda Civic Sedan: 6.9 L/100 km combined ^{5} 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe: 9.9 L/100 km combined ^{6} 2022 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid: 6.0 L/100 km combined |
Kona Electric^{1} | Mustang Mach-E^{2} | RAV4 Prime^{3} | |
---|---|---|---|
QC | $246 | $327 | $856 |
BC | $343 | $456 | $983 |
MB | $363 | $482 | $885 |
NB | $455 | $605 | $996 |
NL | $501 | $665 | $1,101 |
SK | $569 | $756 | $1,060 |
NS | $592 | $787 | $1,115 |
PEI | $597 | $793 | $1,127 |
AB | $607 | $805 | $1,085 |
ON (average) | $609 | $809 | $1,134 |
Toronto off-peak | $406 | $539 | $957 |
Rural off-peak | $467 | $620 | $1,010 |
Toronto on-peak | $752 | $998 | $1,258 |
Rural on-peak | $813 | $1,079 | $1,311 |
National average | $488 | $648 | $1,034 |
Gas Comparison | $2,187^{4} | $3,138^{5} | $1,902^{6} |
Derived from NRCan data retrieved on 2022-02-25 ^{1} 2022 Hyundai Kona Electric: 17.4 kWh/100 km combined ^{2} 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E: 23.1 kWh/100 km combined ^{3} 2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime (PHEV): 22.3 kWh/100 km combined, 68 km range; 6.0 L/100 km combined. Calculation assumes 68 km of pure electric operation per 100 km travelled. ^{4} 2022 Honda Civic Sedan: 6.9 L/100 km combined ^{5} 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe: 9.9 L/100 km combined ^{6} 2022 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid: 6.0 L/100 km combined |