Whether you like it or not, the future is electric cars.
The rise in the number of electric cars can make you question a lot. A lot of doubts and concerns about electric cars or electric vehicles in general. One of the main questions that frequently comes up is about the charging of electric cars.
From the title you are here for the answer to the question “Is electric car charging free?”
The short answer is no, it costs money to charge an electric car.
For a detailed answer let’s dive deep into everything about charging an electric car.
Is Electric Car Charging Free
Charging your electric vehicle such as an electric car is not free and you’d end up paying for it eventually. Owning an electric car will result in you having to charge it every time the batteries run low, same as any battery operated vehicle.
With electric cars you will have to take into consideration the cost of electricity where you live, the duration the car has to be charged for. There is also the off chance that your electric car will have to be charged at a public EV charging booth which is a very expensive affair.
Let’s see how expensive charging your electric car really is.
Charging an Electric Car
Since electric cars need electricity to run, they need to store electricity on them to move freely. They do this by utilizing heavy-capacity batteries. These batteries need to be charged from time to time to power the vehicle. Charging them is fairly simple, using the included charger, you can charge them at home or at a specialized charging station.
- Owning an electric car requires you to have a garage so you can plug the charger in the garage wall socket. If you have a garage, you are almost good to go, you just have to install an electricity connection to your garage if you don’t have any, and you can let the car get charged. The car can be plugged in when it’s parked and needs to be juiced up. The electricity the car uses to charge will be reflected on your electricity bill.
- Electric cars can also be charged at public charging stations. There are specialised charging stations being set up so that owners of electric cars can charge at these stations and pay up for the amount for electricity used during that session. This is a nice feature allowing you to travel much further than on a single charge or if you need an emergency topping. These stations also have better-rated chargers allowing you to charge the cars significantly faster than home charging.
While these charging stations are far and few in-between, the government has pledged and urged for more charging stations in the future. The chance of finding a charging station can be hard now. But the situation can only get better from here and its good thing for existing and potential future electric car owners.
Cost to Charge an Electric Car
Electricity is a commodity like any other, so it doesn’t come for free. So, using an electric car requires you to pay for the electricity you use to charge it. It’s easy to calculate the money you’ll have to put aside for electric charging.
For example, let’s take Hyundai Kona, equipped with a 39 kWh (kilowatt-hour) battery, it can run 280 miles on a full charge. So, the car needs 0.08 units of electricity to travel 1.6 miles of distance (39 units/ 280 km= 0.08 unit for 1.6 miles). So, all that’s left is to find the rate of a unit of electricity in your region and multiply it with 39 for the cost you’ll have to pay.
- New York has a price of 21.0 cents per kWh of electricity, so you’ll have to pay approximately 4-5 dollars to travel 280 miles in an electric car. This is a huge benefit for electric cars over petrol-powered cars. The same distance traveled by an efficient petrol car will require more than $50+ worth of fuel.
- If you consider charging at a specialised electric station, more and more stations are being put up to facilitate the service better. Using a public charging station in New York can cost around $8-9 on average.
Using special types of charging technologies like DC charging allows you to charge way quicker are expensive to set up. If you require them at your home it could cost a fortune. And when you use such better-rated technology at a specialised station, the cost of charging is higher.
- Charging degrades the battery over time and use. It reduces the battery capacity over time and eventually damaging it beyond use.
- When this happens, you will have to replace the battery so that you can continue using the car. This adds further to the cost of charging electric cars because they are directly connected. And replacing these batteries are not cheap, in fact, a big percentage of the cost of an electric car is associated with its battery.
You will have to save up money to buy a battery in the future if you are using an electric car regularly. It is a disadvantage compared to conventional cars.
Even though electricity used to charge and run electric cars is low and making them a cheaper alternative. They might not necessarily be the best values. Electric cars generally are more expensive than their counterparts. They have a higher cost of maintenance if something goes wrong.
The replacing of the battery is almost inevitable when you use them for years and its something to keep in mind when buying one. One can save up the money saved from not using petrol or diesel, and use it when the time comes to replace the battery.
Time required to Charge an Electric Car
Time is money, and juicing up batteries is not like juicing up petrol tanks. Charging batteries need time and in some cases a lot of time. The time required to charge depends on the type of charger. Higher rated chargers can help the batteries to charge fast.
For example, Nissan LEAF (2018) takes 11 hours to charge using a 3.7 kW charger, while it takes only an hour to charge using 43-50 kV rapid charging. There are other rated chargers that fall in the middle of the these. The faster the charging technology the costlier to set up.
Manufacturers set up slower variants at home so that you can charge it overnight for a cheaper cost. The charging technology at homes usually uses 3.7 kV or 7 kV chargers to reduce the cost of setting up. Electric charging stations generally have higher and powerful chargers so that you can have a quick top-up and be on your way back soon.
Another example is Tata Nexon EV powered by a 30.2 kWh lithium-ion battery. It takes about 60 minutes to charge 80% of the battery when using fast charging. But it takes about 8,5 hours to charge using a slower 15 Amp plug point.
Charging times are also influenced by:
- Size of battery, bigger batteries will take longer to charge.
- State of battery, an empty battery will take longer to fill up compared to a half-filled one.
- Charging technology of the vehicle itself, some vehicles have a cap of only 22 kV charging. Others have higher caps allowing them to charge faster.
- Temperature, the colder the surrounding, the more time it takes to charge.
The Future of Electric Car Charging
The present and future are bright for electric cars in terms of charging. Right now, from a cost-based standpoint, electric cars absolutely trump gasoline-based cars. But when you factor in battery degradation and eventual replacement of the battery, it may not seem as lucrative of a deal.
Electricity rates will obviously increase due to inflation. But the time taken to charge will reduce significantly due to better innovations in the technology. This and other advancements can give better mileage in the future. While they are technically not free to charge, they are cheaper compared to the running costs of petrol/diesel cars. The only caveat is the battery replacement of these components which can net a higher total cost in the end.
Better technologies and manufacturing process allows the price to come down. This will make them cheaper more affordable for the public. The future will tell how much affordable these cars get and I am certain it will only get better.
Charging your electric car is not a free affair and will cost you every-time you plan on charging your car. From in-home wall chargers to charging stations you will be required to pay an amount based on the electricity consumed over the hour.
While DC charging is by far the costliest, companies like Volta are trying to bring around free DC charging at public stations making it much more convenient and cheaper than traditional charging booths.
With changes slowly taking place around the States we’re sure to have free electric car charging in the near future and it won’t be such a burden.