What Is the Cheapest EV Charging Network?

As the proliferation of electric vehicles continues around the country, charging network providers are also hard at work expanding to meet the demand for electricity. Electric charging network fees vary from provider to provider; some are even free to use. So if you’re curious about which charging network offers the cheapest rates to recharge your EV, you’ve come to the right place.

Volta Charging

First, let’s get this out of the way. There are ways to charge your EV for free. This might sound crazy, but trust me, it’s true. There are EV chargers that are completely free to use, like Volta. Volta uses an ad-based concept to provide free charging to its customers. Beware, though, Volta is no longer offering widespread free level 3 fast charging, according to their website.

Payments are needed to manage the higher charging demand from the rapidly increasing number of EVs hitting the road.

This is disappointing, considering that Volta’s business model was super revolutionary. Understandably, they’re starting to charge for their DC Fast Charger; providing this service free of charge must have been a huge financial burden for the company. Their L2 charging is still free, and if you check out Volta’s app, you can easily verify which locations offer free charging.

Download: Volta Charging for Android | iOS

The price for their fast charging service is around 33 cents to 38 cents per kWh for many locations. This price structure actually edges out the non-subscription prices many of the other EV charging stations offer. It should be noted that many L3 charging stations in California that pop up on the app still display as free of charge. This is good to see, and hopefully, they can find a way to keep them free.

Electrify America

Image Credit: Electrify America

Electrify America also offers complimentary charging when you purchase certain new electric vehicles, like the Porsche Taycan. If you don’t own a Porsche Taycan or any other qualifying EV, you will be paying for the charging service. Electrify America also offers a subscription service for frequent visitors who want to save money while charging. This is great for people who constantly use the service, especially customers with jobs that force them to be on the road.

The price you’ll pay for using the service depends on your region. Many charging locations, like the ones in Florida, offer rates based on a per kWh basis. The Florida fast charging rate, along with many other states, is $0.43 per kWh, and the kWh rate is identical for L2 chargers.

Electrify America does not charge a session fee, but they will charge you an idle fee of $0.40 per minute after your 10-minute grace period expires. This fee is probably meant to incentivize people to charge and quickly vacate the charger so someone else can use it. Electrify America’s subscription service charges you $4 a month and will reduce the cost of charging. Using the Florida charging stations as an example, the regular fee is $0.43 per kWh, but with the subscription, you’ll be charged $0.31 per kWh.

This is a significant price difference, so you’ll have to analyze if you use the service enough to offset the subscription cost. Electrify America also offers per-minute charging in some locations. However, this type of charging model seems to confuse customers, and many people have been clamoring for universal per kWh charging schemes. The reason is that you’ll be charged for the energy your vehicle receives by using a per kWh charging scheme. That’s it.

Regardless, the locations that offer charging on a per-minute basis will charge you depending on the charging speed bracket your vehicle falls into. For example, in Louisiana, if your vehicle falls into the 90kW bracket, you’ll be paying $0.16 per minute without the subscription. This is reduced to $0.12 per minute using the $4-a-month subscription. The 350kW bracket will balloon the price you pay across the board. You’ll pay $0.32 per minute without the subscription and $0.24 if you subscribe. It’s important to note that prices will vary depending on your region.

Tesla Supercharger Network

every tesla model charging at a supercharger in front of hill landscape
Image Credit: Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

How does the most famous EV charging network stack up?

Tesla offers charging rates based on kWh of energy consumption or by the minute, depending on what the Supercharger location offers. If you’re charging by the minute, the rates are divided into different tiers based on the charging speed. This is very similar to Electrify America’s structure, but Tesla’s approach is even more complicated.

Tesla offers four tiers of charging prices based on speed. The higher up the charging speed ladder you go, the more expensive the per-minute charging rate becomes. Tesla also implements an idle fee, so this is something to be aware of if you’re using one of their Superchargers.

According to a Reddit post on the Tesla subreddit, Supercharger prices have increased throughout California, with some owners reporting prices as high as $0.65 at peak times, though it appears $0.50 is more common.

Charging at $0.50 per kWh (or more!) is insanely expensive compared to the other charging options, especially compared to Volta’s fast charging network, which is either free or much cheaper. Tesla has the luxury of increasing prices as they see fit because its infrastructure is built for its vehicles, and owners will continue to use the Supercharger network because of its size and convenience.

Regardless, it’s better to charge your vehicle during off-peak hours if you’re considering using a Tesla Supercharger. Better yet, if you really want to maintain your EV’s battery, charge it slowly at home. This will stress out the battery less.

The long-term vision for all these charging stations, including the Supercharger network, should be installing renewable energy on-site to power the energy demands. This method would save money for the people visiting the station and is also a much more sustainable way to power electric vehicles.

Volta Is the Cheapest Charging Network Overall

When you consider that Volta offers free level 2 charging and even free level 3 charging in select locations, it’s safe to assume that the cheapest option is Volta. Especially when you consider Tesla has hiked its Supercharger stations prices in certain locations, and Electrify America only offers free charging to certain new EV manufacturers they’ve struck deals with.

The only drawback with Volta is that their network is tiny compared to the bigger charging networks. Hopefully, they’re able to keep expanding and offering great pricing schemes.

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