Is it cheaper to refuel your EV battery or gas tank? We did the math in all 50 states.

Share with:


Is it cheaper to refuel your EV battery or gas tank? We did the math in all 50 states.

Michael J. Coren photo

Advice by Michael J. CorenClimate Advice Columnist

Graphics by Naema Ahmed

Aug. 8 at 6:30 a.m.


Gasoline cars are cheaper to refuel than electric vehicles.

I’ve heard this claim pop up everywhere from Massachusetts to Fox News over the past two years. My neighbor even refuses to plug in his hybrid Toyota RAV4 Prime over what he calls ruinous electricity rates.

What gives?

The basic argument is that electricity prices are so high it has erased the advantage of recharging over refilling. This cuts to the heart of why many people buy EVs, according to the Pew Research Center: 70 percent of potential EV buyers report “saving money on gas” as among their top reasons.

So how much does it really cost to refuel an EV?

The answer is less straightforward than it seems. Just calculating the cost of gasoline vs. electricity is misleading. Prices vary by charger (and state). Everyone charges differently. Road taxes, rebates and battery efficiency all affect the final calculation.

Story continues below advertisement


So I asked researchers at the nonpartisan Energy Innovation, a policy think tank aimed at decarbonizing the energy sector, to help me nail down the true cost of refueling in all 50 states by drawing on data sets from federal agencies, AAA and others. You can dive into their helpful tool here.

I used the data to embark on two hypothetical road trips across America, delivering a verdict on whether it costs more to refill or recharge during the summer of 2023.

The results surprised me (and they might really surprise my neighbor).

The cost of a fill-up

If you’re like 4 in 10 Americans, you’re considering buying an electric vehicle. And if you’re like me, you’re sweating the cost.

The average EV sells for $4,600 more than the median gasoline car, but by most calculations, I’ll save money over the long run. It costs less to refuel and maintain the vehicle — hundreds of dollars less per year, by some estimates. That’s before government incentives, and any consideration of never visiting a gas station again.

Yet nailing down a precise number is tricky. The average price of a gallon of gasoline is easy to calculate. Since 2010, the price, in inflation-adjusted terms, is virtually unchanged, according to data from the Federal Reserve.

The same applies to a kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity. But the cost of recharging, by contrast, is far more opaque.

Electricity rates not only vary by state, but by the time of day and even the outlet. EV owners may plug in at home or work and then pay a premium to fast-charge on the road.

That makes comparing the cost of a “fill-up” for a gasoline Ford F-150, America’s best-selling vehicle since the 1980s, and its electric counterpart’s 98-kWh battery challenging. It requires assumptions about geography,

Share with:

Verified by MonsterInsights