What EVs are the Cheapest to Run?

Sebastian Blanco | Sep 27, 2022

Electric vehicles (EVs) provide many benefits, not the least of which is that they cost less to operate than a similar gas-powered vehicle. This article explains how to calculate an EV’s running costs and includes a list of the 10 most efficient EVs in terms of running costs.

Why EVs Cost Less

There is an inherent efficiency benefit to driving an electric vehicle that gas engines cannot match. This is because EVs convert around 80 percent of the electrical energy they receive from the grid to move their wheels. The most efficient conventional gasoline vehicles can only turn, at best, around 40 percent of the energy stored in gasoline into motion. Electric energy is also less expensive than that contained in gasoline. The cost of electricity also rarely fluctuates the way gas prices do, so drivers can better estimate their annual operating costs if they own an EV.

Other Costs to Consider

Our Top 10 list is only concerned with the money you will pay to power and drive these EVs, not other costs like the upfront purchase price, taxes, or insurance. Depending on your current vehicle, insurance rates could be higher in a new EV. Maintenance costs are also likely to be lower in an EV than in a gas car because there are fewer moving parts that can break, and EVs never require oil changes.

How We Calculated our Numbers

Conventional liquid-fueled vehicles use a miles-per-gallon (mpg) rating to compare efficiency levels. With mpg ratings, a higher number means you’ll pay less for each mile you drive. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates EVs by the amount of energy—measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh)—it takes to go 100 miles. Lower kWh numbers mean the vehicle is more efficient.

For our list, we included not only an EV’s efficiency rating but also the estimated cost to drive it 100 miles. For these calculations, we used the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s most recent data, which shows that the average residential cost for one kWh of electricity in 2022 is 14.50 cents. We then consulted the EPA’s efficiency rating for EVs to find the most efficient options for the 2022 and 2023 model years. We used the most efficient version when a model had various efficiency ratings for different trim levels. You can see the EIA’s list here. It includes state-by-state information if you want to calculate your own estimates.

So, without further ado, here is our list of the top 10 cheapest EVs to operate.

10. Hyundai Ioniq 5 (30 kWh/100 miles)

2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 Limited AWD Digital Teal Metallic Front Quarter View

Photo: Beverly Braga

Hyundai’s first dedicated EV model keeps earning accolades from the automotive press. The engineering behind the car makes it efficient enough to make an appearance on our list of the 10 EVs that cost the least to operate. The Ioniq 5 is the first of Hyundai’s next generation of cars, trucks, and SUVs that combine electric efficiency and notice-me looks. It is available in four well-equipped trim levels.

The estimated cost to go 100 miles in the Hyundai Ioniq 5 is $4.45.

9. Chevrolet Bolt EUV (29.4 kWh/100 miles)

2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV Premier Bright Blue Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The Chevy Bolt EUV is a slightly taller version of the Bolt EV and is almost as efficient to operate. Both models use the same size battery and electric motor, but the added weight of the Bolt EUV makes it a bit less efficient. Pricing for the Bolt EUV also starts at $2,000 more than the Bolt EV, adding to the difference in running costs between the two models.

The estimated cost to go 100 miles in the Chevrolet Bolt EUV is $4.39.

8. Kia EV6 (29 kWh/100 miles)

2022 Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD Matte Gray Front Quarter View

Photo: Jack R. Nerad

Kia’s EV6 is more efficient than its corporate sibling, the Hyundai Ioniq 5, but not by much. The EV6 matches the Ioniq 5’s emphasis on technology with dual panoramic screens and an available Augmented Reality head-up display for the driver. The new EV6 GT offers 576 horsepower and a claimed zero-to-60-mph time of 3.4 seconds.

The estimated cost to go 100 miles in the Kia EV6 is $4.35.

7. Toyota bZ4X (28.3 kWh/100 miles)

2022 Toyota bZ4X Red Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Despite hiccups with the early units that Toyota had to recall because of fears the wheels might fall off, the Toyota bZ4X joined the ranks of the most efficient EVs when it arrived in mid-2022. The bZ4X is Toyota’s first EV model in its new Beyond Zero lineup, which will see seven all-electric models introduced globally by 2025.

The estimated cost to go 100 miles in the Toyota bZ4x is $4.28.

6. Tesla Model S (28.2 kWh/100 miles)

2022 Tesla Model S Red Front Quarter View Motion

The Model S put Tesla on the map a decade ago. Not much has changed on the exterior, even as Tesla has continued updating the battery and software under the sheet metal. The interior features a 17-inch touchscreen and a 22-speaker audio system, while the powertrain in the Plaid trim produces over 1,000 hp.

The estimated cost to go 100 miles in the Tesla Model S is $4.27.

5. Chevrolet Bolt EV (28.1 kWh/100 miles)

2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV Front Quarter View Action

The Chevy Bolt EV hatchback is efficiently bridging the gap between GM’s first mass-market plug-in hybrid model, the Chevy Volt, and the Ultium-based electric vehicles on the way. Chevrolet highlights the affordability of the Bolt EV, which starts under $26,000, and anyone looking to go electric to save money on every mile would do well to at least consider the Bolt EV.

The estimated cost to go 100 miles in the Chevrolet Bolt EV is $4.26.

4. Hyundai Kona Electric (28 kWh/100 miles)

2022 Hyundai Kona Electric Front Quarter View Action

As evidenced by the gas-powered Kona and Kona N versions, Hyundai did not design the Kona Electric as an all-electric vehicle. Hyundai still gave the electric version its own character with a unique fascia and 258 miles of range. The Kona Electric costs more than the Bolt EV but should give shoppers of affordable EVs something else worth test driving. The downside is that Kia only sells the Kona Electric in 11 states.

The estimated cost to go 100 miles in the Hyundai Kona Electric is $4.25.

3. Tesla Model Y (26 kWh/100 miles)

2022 Tesla Model Y White Front Quarter View

Tesla’s best-selling model is also one of the most efficient EVs in the United States. It also doesn’t skimp on technology, as highlighted by a 15-inch touchscreen and all-glass roof on the elegant but small SUV. Different trims focus on quick acceleration or more extended range.

The estimated cost to go 100 miles in the Model Y is $4.05.

2. Lucid Air (25.7 kWh/100 miles)

Lucid Air Electric Car Front View

The Lucid Air offers the longest range of any EV the EPA has ever tested. Some of that range comes from the car’s incredible efficiency of just 25.7 kWh per 100 miles. With a starting price over $87,000, cost-per-mile might not be top of mind for Air buyers, but at least they aren’t throwing money away by driving an inefficient EV.

The estimated cost to go 100 miles in the Lucid Air is $4.02.

1. Tesla Model 3 (25.5 kWh/100 miles)

2022 Tesla Model 3 Red Front Quarter View

The most efficient electric vehicle in the U.S. is the Tesla Model 3. While it is not the cheapest EV you can buy, it is the least expensive to operate on a per-mile basis if we’re only counting energy costs. Buyers can order the Model 3 with all the tech features a car born in Silicon Valley should have. The Model 3 offers dual-motor all-wheel drive and Tesla Vision for its driver-assistance features, like collision detection and parking assistance.

The estimated cost to go 100 miles in the Tesla Model 3 is $4.00.

This article was researched and published in September 2022. The information was accurate and valid at that time. Since then, the market may have changed, so be sure to check the EPA’s official kWh/100 miles ratings when performing EV research.

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