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An electric car at the charging station

Source: (Photo by Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS — Is charging an electric car actually cheaper than keeping gas in a regular? The answer to that question may not be as obvious as it appears.

It all depends on how you use your electric car and where you charge it. Just like in a regular car when you pay to fill it up at the gas pump, public charging stations also cost money to use.

“We find that typically the most expensive way to charge is at fast charging stations or Level 3 stations,” said Zac Elliott with central Indiana power provider AES Indiana. “In our area, those can average around 40 to 50 cents per kilowatt hour.”

Charging a near-empty battery can add up to about $30 for a full charge in one stop, which is not that much cheaper than paying for a full tank of gas. However, that’s not a one-size-fits-all for electric vehicles.

Elliott explains that you only see those prices at DC Fast Charging stations. He said people really only use those stations if they are traveling longer distances in an electric car and need to get recharged quickly.

People who use their electric car for day-to-day needs, like going to and from work, typically charge their car at home overnight which adds about 12 cents per kilowatt hour to a person’s home electric bill, according to Elliott.

“80 plus percent of people in our service area charge overnight at home,” he said. “That is much more cost-effective.”

He said slower charging public stations are also more cost-effective. They typically charge 20 to 30 cents per kilowatt hour and can even sometimes be free.