Electric Cars 2023: In some parts of the US, charging is now more expensive than filling up

Electric Cars 2023: In some parts of the US, charging is now more expensive than filling up

  • Finance
  • February 13, 2023
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Here’s how much electricity prices have risen in parts of New England this winter: For some EV and hybrid car drivers, charging is now more expensive than refueling.

Electricity prices across the region have risen an average of 30% since last summer, while gasoline prices have fallen well below their peak in June 2022. The utility bill skyrocketed in January, noting that its total utility costs had risen by a whopping 50% were.

“We have a Prius Prime that we usually drive around town and we drive most of it on electricity. It’s now 50% more expensive than filling up with gas,” he told CBS MoneyWatch.

Cain said the price increase hasn’t changed his driving habits. But it has prompted his wife, who works at a local community college, to charge the car at work, where it’s cheaper. “It’s not a pain point for me, but it’s something I’ve noticed,” he said.

On Reddit, other EV owners have noticed the rising cost of charging. One Massachusetts resident said his utility, National Grid, has increased local electricity rates to 44 cents per kilowatt-hour — three times the national average.

“We’re pretty much in the same boat [New Hampshire] and it sucks,” said another user. “Going up from an average of $220 a month on electric bills … to now nearly $400 a month, and that’s with off-peak charging, and it’s expected to pick up significantly again in February.” The rate hike prompted the user to look to sign up for solar, with a monthly bill that’s about half their current electric bill, the person added.

Certainly, these drivers are a small minority of EV owners nationwide. But the episode shows how volatility in fuel prices can complicate the equation when choosing between an electric vehicle and a conventional internal combustion engine vehicle. And given the higher sticker prices for electric vehicles — which can cost at least $10,000 more than the equivalent gas-powered car — that could be the deciding factor for some car buyers.

Blame natural gas

New Englanders face uniquely high electric vehicle charging costs as the region currently has the highest electricity prices in the country. At around 28 cents per kilowatt hour this fall, it is twice the national average.

Ironically, it is the region’s reliance on fossil fuels that is driving these costs up. About 45% of New England’s electricity comes from methane gas, compared to about 38% nationwide, while the price of the fuel has tripled since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago. All of the region’s utilities are increasing their electricity tariffs, although specific costs can vary widely even within a small area, WBUR reported this fall.

The rise in electricity prices recently prompted 90 local politicians to write to the Massachusetts Utility Commission asking for relief. At the same time, gas prices in the region have fallen from over $5 a gallon this summer to $3.40 today.

“In a large part of the country, electric vehicles are much cheaper to drive,” said Beia Spiller, director of the transportation program at Resources for the Future (RFF), a clean energy think tank. “It really depends on the location.”

RFF recently analyzed data on car ownership in Massachusetts and found that it will cost about twice as much per mile to drive a gas-powered car than an electric car by at least 2020.

While electricity prices have risen recently due to global events, “historically, gasoline prices have been much more variable,” she noted. “You have no idea if there’s going to be a war anywhere, and all of a sudden you’re paying $5 to $6 a gallon in gas prices.”

Other factors affecting the cost

The trade-off between electricity and gas is based not only on a person’s location (and how much different fuels cost them), but also on the car.

For example, muscle cars and SUVs will almost always be cheaper to run in their electric versions. The same is true for luxury cars, according to a report by the Anderson Economic Group, which estimated the cost of refueling different types of cars.

General Motors President discusses new all-electric Corvette and the future of electric vehicles 09:07

Christopher Hogan, a retired health economist in Northern Virginia, had his own price shock last summer when he and his wife drove their Prius Prime to Ocean City, Maryland. Hodge usually runs the car on gas on long drives, but this time “we found a gas station just for fun and decided to plug it in,” Hogan said.

He was amazed to see that the price – $1.50 per kilowatt hour – was about 12 times what he pays for electricity at home. “It’s like those ATMs with a $15 fee,” he said.

Still, Hogan said the experience didn’t put him off his Prius. “I always thought it was hype — I didn’t care that much,” he said. “But it’s so relaxing. It pushes all my buttons. It’s as practical as petrol cars, good for the environment and fun to drive.”

Hogan also remains a convert. When asked if he would consider buying a conventional car, he said: “Not a chance. I would never buy a non-hybrid car – that’s depreciated technology.”

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