Electric vehicles are increasingly prevalent on the UK’s roads. The government has committed to banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030, a change that will put millions of EVs in our driveways and car parks. As this happens, petrol stations will dwindle, replaced by public charging stations and home charging equipment.
Charging an electric vehicle is generally cheaper than refilling a tank. But home charging, paying through your electric bill, is cheaper than using a public charging point. You can save even more money by opting for an energy tariff pitched at EV drivers.
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The total cost of fully charging your electric car depends on the vehicle’s battery capacity and the electricity cost.
EV battery sizes range from the 16.7kWh batteries on Smart EQ city cars, with a range of just 58, to the 100+kWh batteries built into high-end Tesla, Mercedes and BMW vehicles, which can drive upwards of 300 miles on a single charge.
The UK’s most popular EVs are the Tesla Model 3, with battery capacities of between 54kWh and 82kWh, depending on the year and trim, and the Nissan Leaf, with batteries of between 40 and 62kWh.
You’ll never have access to the full advertised capacity of your EV’s battery even when it’s brand-new. Then as the battery ages, particularly if you repeatedly run it to 0% before recharging it, the total usable capacity will further dwindle. For the calculations in this article, we’ll use an average 60kWh battery, with a total usable capacity of 54kWh (or 90%).
Multiplying the capacity of your battery by the rate you pay for electricity (p/kWh) will give you the total cost of recharging your battery. You’re probably more interested in the amount you’ll pay per mile, which you can calculate by dividing that figure by the range of your car.
The UK has more than 35,000 public charging points at more than 13,000 locations, ranging from supermarket car parks to city pavements. While between 60% and 85% of charging is done at home, city dwellers without access to private parking spaces are reliant on public charging stations. Those making long journeys will also use public charge points, often in motorway service stations.
Most public charge points are part of major charging networks such as ubitricity and Pod Point. These charging networks vary in the way they charge for electricity, with some using a PAYG model, selling electricity by the kilowatt-hour, and others running a subscription service. Some offer fast charging, refuelling your vehicle in as little as 30 minutes but charging more per kilowatt-hour. Costs may also vary by region.
Using a public charging station to reboot an EV with a 60kW battery and 54kW usable capacity can cost between £10.80 and £22.70 PAYG, depending on the network you use and the charging speed. If you’re regularly charging at public stations, a monthly membership makes financial sense and unlocks cheaper rates, with full recharges from £8.64.
When you charge your electric vehicle at home, you’ll pay for it through your electric bill. The average rate paid for domestic electricity is 17p/kWh. This rate varies by energy supplier and tariff but is in general cheaper than you’d get at a public charging point.
Some energy suppliers offer time-of-use tariffs designed for EV drivers, offering discounted charging rates overnight, when drivers typically plug in their cars. These rates can be as cheap as 4.5p/kWh.
For home charging, you’ll need to have an EV charger installed. According to the RAC, the average home charge point costs £800 with installation. The government’s Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) provides a 75% contribution to the cost of one charge point and its installation, with a maximum grant of £350.
When you buy an electric vehicle to charge at home, you should expect your electricity consumption and thus your energy bills to rise. This may be by as much as £1,000 per year, depending on how much you drive.
However, if you choose a time-of-use tariff that offers cheaper electricity overnight, the impact on your bills will be lower. Note: to have a time-of-use tariff, you’ll typically need to have a smart meter installed.
Some suppliers also offer tariffs for EV drivers with a certain number of free miles per year. This means they’ll credit your account with a certain number of kilowatt-hours.
Yes, an electric car is cheaper to run than a car with an internal combustion engine, especially if you charge your EV at home.
According to data from the Department for Transport, the fuel for a petrol car costs around 15.8 pence per mile while the fuel for a diesel car costs around 13.4 pence per mile. In contrast, electric cars cost around 4.8 pence per mile to drive. Heavier, luxury electric vehicles like Teslas, cost slightly more to drive, around 5.3 pence per mile, but are still much cheaper than petrol and diesel alternatives.
Read more: Should I buy an electric car?
Electric vehicles are already cheaper to run than petrol and diesel cars. However, you can further reduce the cost of charging an electric car by taking the following steps.