Electricity is produced from energy sources such as wind and solar energy, hydropower, nuclear energy, stored hydrogen, oil, coal, natural gas. It is defined as an alternative fuel by the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (DOE 2019). For additional background, see the Alternative Fuels Data Center's Electricity Basics.
On this page, explore the fuel price and emissions intensity of electricity.
The data and estimates presented here are based on the following key assumptions:
- The fuel price (e.g., Lowest Cost, Lowest Emissions) is associated with a single year. Because we do not provide a time-series trajectory, here we show fuel price at a frozen level for all years so we can offer a range of fuel price values. In the levelized cost of driving and emissions charts, this approach clearly distinguishes effects of fuels from those of vehicle technologies, because fuels remain constant while vehicle technologies change over time.
- Multiple charging and grid mix scenarios are provided, which are meant to encompass the potential variability of electricity prices and emissions.
- In the plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) charging scenarios, the electricity price represents an estimate of the average price paid by a current PEV user. This price is a weighted average of different electricity prices. We assume 81% of PEV charging happens at home (Borlaug et al. 2020). Moreover, electric vehicles are often charged at favorable time-of-use rates that provide discounted electricity during certain hours of the day (usually at night) and align well with electric vehicle charging needs (Kaluza, Almeida, and Mullen 2016). We assume 50% of home PEV charging takes advantage of time-of-use rates and that these provide a 50% price saving. We assume the remaining 19% of charging happens at workplace/public stations, for which costs and business models are variable. We assume 14% of PEV charging pays commercial electricity prices and 5% of PEV charging pays the current DC fast charge price, estimated at $0.27/kilowatt-hour (Borlaug et al. 2020). The table below summarizes the assumptions and costs used in the PEV charging, National grid mix scenario.
Electricity Price and Charging Assumptions for Plug-in Electric Vehicle Charging
Time of Use
6.44 (50% reduction)
DC Fast Charge
- The PEV charging high-cost scenario is included to explore the sensitivity of levelized cost of driving to electricity price. The high-cost case represents a scenario with no time of use of rates. The price is calculated using the home, workplace, and public charging shares above (with no time of use).
- The DC fast charging scenario is based on the estimated price of DC fast charging of $0.27/kilowatt-hour under high cost assumptions (Borlaug et al. 2020). The higher cost assumptions are used as an upper bound on electricity prices.
- For current grid mix scenarios (National, IN, and CA) residential and commercial electricity prices are estimated from 2018 electricity retail price data from EIA (2019c). The grid mixes for the national and Indiana grid mix scenarios are based on 2018 electricity generation from EIA (EIA 2019b), and the grid mix for California is based on 2018 in-state generation and imports from the California Energy Commission (2019). Note that the in-state generation mix in California (without imports) includes less coal, and thus has lower emissions factors than the values shown here; for example, the CO2e emissions for in-state generation only is 67,700 g/mmBtu CO2e based EIA (EIA 2019b).
- The Future National Grid Mix and Future Low Renewable Energy (RE) Penetration scenarios are based on 2050 values in the Annual Energy Outlook 2020 for the Reference and High renewable cost cases, respectively (EIA 2020a). The Future High RE Penetration scenario is estimated from the 2050 results of the Low RE Cost scenario in the 2019 NREL Standard Scenarios analysis (Cole et al. 2019). The Standard Scenario analysis only provides wholesale electricity prices, therefore we apply the percent change in wholesale prices from 2018-2050 to the 2018 residential and commercial rates from the Annual Energy Outlook Reference case to estimate electricity prices for the Future High RE Penetration scenario.
- The emissions intensities are estimated using GREET 2018 (Argonne National Laboratory 2018) and are based on grid mixes corresponding to each scenario described above. The table below shows the generation penetration by technology for each grid mix scenario.
Electricity Mix by Technology for Alternative Grid Mix Scenarios
- In the vehicle levelized cost of driving calculation, we include charger equipment and installation costs for battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, based on Borlaug et al. (2020). We assume plug-in hybrid electric vehicles use 50% Level 1 and 50% Level 2 chargers, and battery electric vehicles use 16% Level 1 and 84% Level 2 chargers. We use charger costs for Level 1 at $0 and Level 2 costs at $1,836. These costs are added to the capital cost of the vehicle. We assume the technology will last the life of the vehicle. We note that if charging equipment is already available, a consumer would not need to incur this cost to purchase a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle or battery electric vehicle.
- The electricity price was converted to dollars per gasoline gallon equivalent from dollars per kilowatt-hour, assuming 1 gge = 33.7 kilowatt-hours (EPA 2011).
- The data downloads include additional detail on assumptions and calculations for each metric.
The following references are specific to this page; for all references in this ATB, see References.
Argonne National Laboratory (2018). GREET Model: The Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy use in Transportation Model. Argonne National Laboratory. https://greet.es.anl.gov/
Borlaug, Brennan, Salisbury, Shawn, Gerdes, Mindy, & Muratori, Matteo. (2020). Levelized Cost of Charging Electric Vehicles in the United States. Joule, 4(7), 1470-1485.
California Energy Commission, (2019). 2018 Total System Electric Generation. California Energy Commission. https://www.energy.ca.gov/data-reports/energy-almanac/california-electricity-data/2018-total-system-electric-generation
Cole, Wesley, Gates, Nathaniel, Mai, Trieu, Greer, Daniel, & Das, Paritosh. (2019). 2019 Standard Scenarios Report: A U.S. Electricity Sector Outlook. (No. NREL/TP-6A20-74110). National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States). https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy20osti/74110.pdf
DOE (2019). Alternative Fuels Data Center. https://afdc.energy.gov/
EIA (2019). Electricity Data Browser: Average Retail Price of Electricity. https://www.eia.gov/electricity/data/browser/#/topic/7?agg=0,1&geo=vvvvvvvvvvvvo&endsec=vg&freq=A&start=2001&end=2017&ctype=linechart<ype=pin&rtype=s&pin=&rse=0&maptype=0
EIA (2020). Annual Energy Outlook 2020. U.S. Energy Information Administration. https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/
EIA, (2019). Annual state-level generation and fuel consumption data. https://www.eia.gov/electricity/data.php
EPA (2011). New Fuel Economy and Environment Labels for a New Generation of Vehicles. (No. EPA-420-F-11-017). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyNET.exe/P100BAV0.TXT?ZyActionD=ZyDocument&Client=EPA&Index=2011+Thru+2015&Docs=&Query=&Time=&EndTime=&SearchMethod=1&TocRestrict=n&Toc=&TocEntry=&QField=&QFieldYear=&QFieldMonth=&QFieldDay=&IntQFieldOp=0&ExtQFieldOp=0&XmlQuery=&File=D%3A%5Czyfiles%5CIndex%20Data%5C11thru15%5CTxt%5C00000001%5CP100BAV0.txt&User=ANONYMOUS&Password=anonymous&SortMethod=h%7C-&MaximumDocuments=1&FuzzyDegree=0&ImageQuality=r75g8/r75g8/x150y150g16/i425&Display=hpfr&DefSeekPage=x&SearchBack=ZyActionL&Back=ZyActionS&BackDesc=Results%20page&MaximumPages=1&ZyEntry=1&SeekPage=x&ZyPURL
Kaluza, Sebastian, Almeida, David, & Mullen, Paige. (2016). BMW i ChargeForward: PG&E's Electric Vehicle Smart Charging Pilot. A cooperation between BMW Group and Pacific Gas and Electricty Company. http://www.pgecurrents.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/PGE-BMW-iChargeForward-Final-Report.pdf