by Chris Chase
Despite their high profile in the media, electric vehicles make up a small percentage of vehicle sales. For the most part, that’s because many drivers aren’t sure if an EV would suit their lifestyle. But another thing that has hurt take-up is the perception that charging an electric vehicle at home would be more expensive than buying gasoline.
So we decided to run the numbers and see how the cost of home-charging an EV compares to filling the tank of a comparable gas-powered model.
We’ve calculated those costs for every EV you can buy today from a mainstream car maker, based on Natural Resources Canada’s energy and fuel efficiency estimates. You may be familiar with NRCan’s L/100 km ratings for gas vehicles, but for EVs, efficiency is measured in kWh/100 km, using the same kilowatt hours unit that electricity providers use to bill you for household power. NRCan also estimates annual fuel and electricity costs based on driving 20,000 km in a year.
Comparing gas vehicles to EVs
For some vehicles, a direct comparison between electric and gas models is easy because the manufacturer offers the same car with both types of drivetrain. For EVs with no gas equivalent, we did a comparison with a similar vehicle from the same manufacturer. Where that wasn’t possible, we’ve used a popular vehicle of a similar style and performance level from another brand.
About Ontario Hydro’s electricity costs
Ontario Hydro charges for electricity on a per-kWh basis at three time-of-use rates: on-peak (7-11 am and 5-7 pm, Monday to Friday), mid-peak (11 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday) and off-peak (7 pm to 7 am weekdays and all day on weekends). There are also per-kWh fees to cover transmission and regulatory costs.
Using Ottawa as an example (where author Chris Chase lives), those three rates, including fees, are $0.2248/kWh on-peak, $0.1607/kWh for the mid-peak period, and $0.1178/kWh off-peak. Depending on where you live, delivery and regulatory fees may be higher or lower, so the charges that appear on your bill might be different than the figures we’re using.
We’ve calculated EV charging costs using the off-peak rate on the assumption that most drivers will charge their vehicles at night. (Note: As we write this, Ontario Hydro is using the off-peak charge for all time periods to help ease costs for Ontarians whose income has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.)
There are fixed monthly costs on your hydro bill too, but we’re leaving those out because you pay those amounts whether you charge an EV at home or not.
How do you calculate the cost of driving an EV?
Multiply Ontario Hydro’s per-kWh charge ($0.1178, for our purposes) by the vehicle’s kWh/100 km rating (for example, 18 kWh/100 km) to find out what you’ll pay for the energy to travel 100 km: 18 kWh X $0.1178/kWh = $2.12.
For an EV with a promised driving range of 400 km, multiply the kWh/100 km cost by 4 (100 X 4 = 400) to see what it would cost to drive the car till it’s out of juice – the EV equivalent of filling an empty gas tank: $2.12 X 4.0 = $8.48.
Finally, to figure out an annual energy cost, divide 20,000 km/year by the EV’s 400-km range – which equals 50 full charges – and multiply that by the cost to travel 400 km: 20,000 ÷ 400 = 50, and 50 X $8.48 = $424 to charge and drive the vehicle for a year.
To compare annual costs between electricity and gasoline, we’re using the gasoline models’ combined L/100 km estimate and a fuel cost of $1.00/L for mainstream models and $1.20/L for gas vehicles that NRCan says take pricier premium fuel. Those estimated gasoline prices are lower than those NRCan uses to figure out annual costs, but they simplify the math.
The formula to calculate a gas car’s annual driving costs begins by dividing 20,000 km of annual driving by the 100 km distance on which NRCan bases its fuel consumption estimates: 20,000 ÷ 100 = 200. For a car that burns 8.0L of gas every 100 km, the calculation is: 8.0L/100 km X 200 = 1,600, which means an annual fuel cost of $1,600 at $1.00/L. If you’re paying $1.20/L for premium, multiply $1,600 by 1.2, which equals $1,920.
Natural Resources Canada’s energy consumption rating for the Audi E-tron electric crossover is 28.3 kWh/100 km. That means it would cost $3.33 to drive 100 km, or almost $11 to use up the E-tron’s promised 329-km range at the current off-peak electricity rate.
A year of driving the E-tron would cost $668 at off-peak rates, while Audi’s similar Q8 gas-powered SUV would cost $3,048 to drive for a year based on its 12.7 L/100 km combined fuel consumption estimate.
The combined electricity consumption estimate for BMW’s i3 is 18.5 kWh/100 km, which adds up to $2.18 to travel that distance, or $5.36 to go the 246 km BMW says the little hatchback can do on a full charge.
Driving 20,000 km in the BMW i3 would cost $436. BMW doesn’t sell a gas model that compares directly to the i3, so we’ve used its 230i coupe for our cost analysis. Its estimated annual premium gasoline cost would be $2,040.
The Chevrolet Bolt casts a similar shadow to that of the BMW i3 and comes with a comparable price despite appealing to a more mainstream audience. The Bolt is a little more efficient, too, with a 17.8 kWh/100 km estimate, for $2.09, or $8.74 to travel the car’s full 417-km range.
A Chevrolet Bolt driver would spend $419 for a year of driving. There’s no gas equivalent to the Bolt in Chevy showrooms, so we’re using the Malibu mid-size sedan because it offers a similar level of refinement. With its base 1.6L turbo four-cylinder, the Malibu would cost $1,500 for a year of driving.
Hyundai Kona EV
The Kona Electric SUV is the first of Hyundai’s two EVs. It has a combined energy rating of 17.4 kWh/100, so it costs $2.05 to drive 100 km. Stretch that to the car’s 415-km range, and the cost is $8.51.
The Kona EV’s annual driving cost would be $410. Hyundai makes a gas version of the Kona too, and its up-level 1.6L turbo engine with AWD would cost $1,720 to drive for a year.
Hyundai Ioniq EV
Hyundai’s Ioniq Electric offers slightly cheaper electric motoring. It will do 100 km for $1.86 based on its 15.8 kWh consumption estimate, and will cost $5.10 for its full 274-km range at today’s hydro rates.
The Ioniq Electric’s annual energy cost would be $372; the brand’s closest equivalent gas model is the Elantra sedan, whose annual driving charge would be $1,360.
Jaguar has one electric model, a sporty crossover called the I-Pace. Its consumption rating is 27.5 kWh/100 km, so going that far costs $3.23, and the I-Pace’s full 377 km of range costs $12.21.
Driving an I-Pace for one year would cost $647. A Jaguar F-Pace S with a gas V6 of equivalent power to the I-Pace would run to $2,832.
Kia Niro EV
Kia’s Niro EV compact wagon has an energy use rating of 18.6 kWh/100 km, which translates to $2.19, or $8.44 to cover the car’s promised range of 385 km.
You’d pay $438 to drive the Niro EV for a year. Kia’s closest equal is the non-plug-in Niro Hybrid which, despite being quite fuel-efficient, would still more than double your annual driving costs at $960.
Kia Soul EV
Kia’s other electric car is the Soul EV hatchback, which comes with a choice of two battery sizes.
The entry-level Soul EV Premium is rated at 18.0 kWh/100 km, and costs $2.12 to drive that distance, and $5.26 for the car’s 248-km range. Annual charging costs for 20,000 km would be $424.
Upgrade to the Soul EV Limited for its larger battery and its 18.6 kWh/100 rating, and those costs rise to $2.19 for 100 km and $8.39 to fulfil the car’s 383-km promise. This longer-range model would be marginally more expensive to drive for a year, at $438.
By comparison, the gas-powered Soul would cost $1,580 to drive for one year.
Mini Cooper SE
Mini’s only fully electric car is the Cooper SE, a battery version of the company’s well-known subcompact hatchback. Its 19.4 kWh/100 km estimate means a $2.28 cost to go 100 km, and $4.05 to travel the car’s full 177-km battery range. A year of Cooper SE driving would add up to $458.
The gas-powered Mini Cooper S, whose turbo 2.0L engine offers performance similar to that of the electric Cooper SE, would cost $1,896 to drive for a year, taking into account its premium fuel requirement.
Nissan Leaf/Nissan Leaf Plus
Nissan offers two battery sizes in its Leaf electric hatchback. The standard model is rated for 18.9 kWh/100 km and would cost $2.23 to drive 100 km, or $5.34 to use the car’s full 240-km range. Drive this version of the Leaf for a year and you can expect to spend $445 on electricity.
The longer-range Leaf Plus S comes with a best estimate of 19.5 kWh/100 km, for $2.30 over the first 100 km and $8.34 to go the car’s promised 363 km. In up-level SV and SL trims, the Leaf Plus is rated at 20.0 kWh/100 km, adding up to $2.36 for 100 km and $8.22 for the car’s 349-km range. These Leaf variants would cost $459 and $471 for a year of driving, respectively.
Nissan’s closest comparable gas model is the Sentra compact sedan. With the optional automatic transmission, it would cost $1,420 over a year of driving.
Polestar is Volvo’s electrified vehicle division. While Volvo sells a few plug-in hybrids, Polestar is where the Swedish company puts its more advanced EV efforts. The company has not published kWh/100 km ratings for the Polestar 2 yet, but our rough estimate is $12 to use the car’s projected 440-km driving range, and an estimated annual cost of $545.
For this gasoline comparison, we’ll use the brand’s XC60 compact crossover in T6 trim, which is the most powerful non-plug-in version. It would cost $2,388 for a year’s worth of premium gasoline.
Porsche launched its first-ever all-electric car earlier this year, the Taycan Turbo. This high-performance sedan’s energy consumption rating is 30.2 kWh/100 km, so it costs $3.56 to cover that distance, and $11.50 to use the car’s 323-km driving range. The Taycan’s annual driving cost would be $712.
There is no direct comparison to be made in Porsche’s lineup, but the Panamera is similar in concept. The Panamera Turbo would cost you $2,688 in premium fuel every year.
Tesla Model 3, Model S, Model X and Model Y
Tesla is a young company compared to most listed here, but boasts a high profile thanks to its focus on high-performance electric vehicles.
Its entry-level car is the compact Model 3, which comes with a wide range of battery and power options. The most efficient version is rated at 14.9 kWh/100 km, which works out to $1.75, or $7.06 for the car’s 402-km range. At the other end of the line is a version rated at 18.6 kWh/100, for $2.19, or $10.54 to cover a promised 481 km. The Model 3’s annual driving costs range from $351 to $438 depending on trim.
Tesla makes no gas-powered models, so we’ll compare its vehicles with more conventional upscale vehicles. The BMW M340i offers similar performance and space to the Model 3, and would cost $2,400 to fuel with premium gasoline for a year.
Next up is the Model S mid-size car. In its most efficient form, a rating of 18.0 kWh/100 km means a cost of $2.12 for that distance, and $13.33 for the car’s generous 629-km range. The least-efficient version comes with an estimate of 21.6 kWh/100 km and a 525-km range promise, for costs of $2.54 and $13.36. Driving a Model S for a year would cost between $423 to $508 depending on trim.
We’ve chosen the mid-size Mercedes-AMG E 53 for our comparison here. Its mild hybrid (but non-plug-in) powertrain would cost $2,376 to drive for a year on premium gas.
Tesla also sells two crossover models. The smaller of the pair is the Model Y, whose rating of 17.3 kWh/100 km translates to $2.04 for 100 km, and $10.37 for a promised 509 km of range. A year of driving would cost $407.
BMW’s X4 M40i compares well here and would cost $2,424 for a year’s worth of premium gasoline.
Finally, the Tesla Model X is the brand’s larger crossover SUV. The most efficient version is a Long-Range trim rated at 20.0 kWh/100 km and a driving range of 565 km, for $2.36 and $13.31. Those costs would rise to $3.13 and $13.72 for the Model X Performance trim, rated at 26.6 kWh/100 km and promising 438 km of range. Annual driving costs would be $471 and $626, respectively.
Here, we’ll run our comparison against the speedy BMW X6 M50i, whose estimated annual driving cost would be $3,072 for premium gasoline.
Our final EV is the Volkswagen e-Golf, a battery-powered version of the popular compact hatchback. It’s rated at 18.6 kWh/100 km and will go 198 km on a charge, according to its maker, for driving costs of $2.19 and $4.34 respectively, and an annual cost of $438. The conventional gas-powered Golf would cost $1,480.