If you’re thinking about buying an electric car, one of the biggest challenges can be wrapping your head around how much you’ll pay to charge it. The calculations are much more complicated than for internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles: instead of filling up at a gas pump and looking at a number, you’ll have to consider your home electrical bill, as well as your charging costs away from home.
The upshot, though, is that charging an electric car is likely to cost you significantly less than fueling an ICE vehicle, even though those savings may be harder to see. Here’s a look at how much it costs to charge an electric vehicle in Canada today.
Charging at Home
When you own an EV, most of your charging happens at home – by some estimates, an average of 80%. It’s like having a gas station in your own driveway!
Owners of plug-in hybrids, which have a traditional gas-powered engine and an electric motor and a battery, can get away with using a household plug for their home charging needs, but if you choose a battery electric vehicle, you’ll find this is impractical. It can take several days to recover a charge to an electric car battery this way.
You’ll therefore need to factor a Level 2 charger into your purchase plans, which runs off a 240-volt outlet and averages $1,500 to $3,000 or more depending on where you live and what upgrades may be required for your home’s electrical system. Some provinces offer an incentive for this.
Once that’s done, you’ll be ready to charge your EV at home. How much this will cost depends entirely on where you live and your province’s electrical rates. Here are a few examples.
In Ontario, electricity is billed in one of two ways: based on time of use, or through tiered rates where the price goes up after you use a set amount of electricity within a billing period.
An EV owner using Ontario’s time of use plan who charges a vehicle between 7pm and 7am – these are off-peak hours, when it’s cheaper to charge and electric car – pays 8.2 cents per kilowatt-hour. According to Natural Resources Canada, a Ford Mustang Mach-E Extended Range AWD requires an average of 23.1 kWh to travel 100 km. To add 400 kilometres to its 446km battery, it would therefore require 92.4 kWh of electricity, which would cost $7.58 before taxes and fees. If that same driver is billed on Ontario’s tiered program and is below their monthly threshold, the cost of electricity is 9.8 cents per kilowatt-hour, which brings the charging cost for the same session to $9.06 and would complete overnight.
In Quebec, the household electricity rate is 6.319 cents per kWh for the first 40 kWh used in a day, averaged over a monthly cycle. A Ford F-150 Lightning Extended Range averages 29.8 kWh/100 km, so adding 400km to its 515km battery would cost $7.53.
The other way you’re likely to charge your EV is via public charging infrastructure. Many EV owners find convenient public chargers using NRCan’s charging locator or apps such as PlugShare.
Unfortunately, Canada does not yet allow electricity delivered at public charging stations to be priced as it is actually delivered. You’ll therefore pay for the amount of time you spend at a public station, which can vary widely.
The same types of Level 2 EV chargers you’ll use at home can often be found in public spaces such as malls or parks. These charge at a similar rate, meaning they’re intended for drivers who will stay for a few hours. Sometimes, these stations offer free charging. In other cases, you may be charged a small fee, often roughly $1.00 per hour (so not far off what you’d pay at home). However, because it’s still relatively slow, this isn’t always convenient.
If you need to juice up faster, look for DC fast charging, also known as Level 3 charging. This is the EV equivalent of stopping at a gas station: you arrive with a nearly depleted battery and plug in to recover your charge relatively quickly, then you move on. Most EV drivers will spend 30 minutes to an hour at a Level 3 fast charger and will be billed for the time their cars are connected.
Not all Level 3 chargers are created equal. The Tesla supercharger network uses a proprietary system that’s exclusive to Tesla vehicles (at least for now) and has outputs of 72 kW, 150 kW, or 250 kW. Most other public Level 3 chargers use universal EV connectors, such as CCS, which is the present-day standard, or CHAdeMO, an older style of connector that is becoming obsolete. Stations with these connectors range in output from 50 kW to as high as 350 kW, though most cars are not yet capable of accepting the highest speeds. The actual speed of delivery can be affected by external factors, most notably ambient temperature, because charging is less efficient when it’s very hot or very cold.
Level 3 EV charging is typically billed by the minute with prices ranging from 15 to 57 cents per minute depending on location, network, and station speed. As an example, a B.C. driver stopped at a Petro-Canada charging station will pay 0.27/minute. If the car’s charge takes 45 minutes to go from 10 to 80 percent, the driver will pay $12.15 plus taxes (some networks may also charge fees). In most EVs, this charge time would add an average of 200 to 300 kilometres of range.
Don't be Caught by Idling Fees
To reduce premature battery wear, Level 3 charging stations slow down their charging rate once the battery reaches 80 percent. The relative cost per kWh therefore goes up the longer you leave your car on the charger. Don’t forget most public stations will charge you an idling fee if you don’t move your vehicle within a few minutes of reaching a full charge. Be sure to monitor your session so that you don’t get hit with extra costs. Most major charging networks offer an app to make it easier to keep an eye on your charging session while you’re away from the vehicle.
There’s no easy formula for determining the cost of charging an EV in Canada. It depends on the car you choose, where you live, and which type of charging you use most often.
For generalized figures, we can once again turn to Natural Resources Canada. According to NRCan’s 2022 Fuel Consumption Guide, the least expensive zero-emission battery electric vehicle to run is a Tesla Model 3 RWD, which costs $474 per year over a 20,000-kilometre average. The most expensive EV to charge is an Audi e-tron S Sportback quattro with 21 or 22-inch wheels, which has an average cost of $972 annually. Charging a Hyundai IONIQ 5 will carry an average price of $639 per year for a long-range AWD, while a Nissan Leaf SV Plus costs $600 annually on average and a Kia EV6 long range AWD would cost $597.
Even with fluctuating charging costs, that’s still a far cry from the low of $1,240 (Mitsubishi Mirage) and high of $5,742 (Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport) NRCan lists for gas cars, while more fuel-efficient hybrids and plug-in hybrids fall somewhere between. Those fuel costs are based on gas prices of $1.00 per litre or $1.10/litre for premium fuel, while today’s averages are significantly higher.
When you crunch your own numbers, you may find that the higher up-front cost for a battery electric vehicle is recovered within a few years through the savings you’ll see by using electricity instead of gas.