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How much it costs to charge and run an electric car

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Last updated: 26 March 2021

Electric cars are becoming more and more common, providing a viable, eco-friendly alternative to petrol and diesel vehicles. Drivers of electric vehicles can expect to save money at the fuel pump, on vehicle tax, and with parking permits, but just like their fossil fuel cousins the cost of running an electric car depends largely on the vehicle itself. Continue reading to find out more information on how much it costs to charge and run an electric car, and what the effect of owning an electric vehicle will be on your energy bills.

Benefits of buying an electric car

Better for the environment

The auto industry is becoming more modern and eco-friendly. Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming a popular alternative to traditional petrol and diesel models. Perhaps the main benefit of driving an electric vehicle is your decreased impact on the environment in terms of carbon emissions; EVs provide a more sustainable, greener solution to traditional methods of transport. 

Lower running costs

There are also financial benefits to driving an EV, with reduced fuel consumption and lower running costs meaning that you could save more than £40,000 in your lifetime (according to EDF Energy) by switching to an electric car. Much of this is because electric cars are much cheaper to maintain than petrol or diesel cars; they require fewer parts to run, meaning there are fewer parts susceptible to breaking or being damaged. 

Government assistance for those who switch

The UK government are also backing a switch to EVs, with grants available for those switching – you could save up to £3,500 with a grant after purchasing an EV. You will also save on road tax, as if your EV costs less than £40,000 you will be fully exempt. Some councils across the UK also price their parking permits according to vehicle types. Permits for EVs are likely to cost less on average than normal petrol and diesel cars. Londoners or those travelling into London will also benefit, as EVs are exempt from the Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emission Zone.

Becoming easier to charge whilst on the go

Though it used to be alternative, the EV market is expanding rapidly due to the current environmental awareness and financial incentives. The number of EV charging points is also on the rise with more than 20,000 registered charging points around the UK.

You can charge them at home!

Need to top up your car? No need to go to the petrol station with an electric vehicle - you can charge it at home! This is simple, fast, and cost-efficient. Most electric vehicles will be able to charge to full from empty in 8-10 hours with a standard charging port, with rapid chargers delivering results even faster. 

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

One of the main benefits of owning an electric vehicle is that you no longer have to pay petrol and diesel costs. But how much does charging your car actually set you back? 
 
Data collected by the Electric Nation Smart Charging Trial in 2018 showed that nearly 90% of EV charging is done at home. The costs of charging at home can vary greatly depending on your energy supplier, the make of your vehicle, the size of your car’s battery and the type of charging point you have. The government offer grants up to £500 towards the cost of purchase and installation of a home charging point. Many energy providers also offer free or discounted home chargers with specialist EV energy tariffs.
 
Home energy costs can be higher for EV drivers; however, you will be making significant savings by cutting your fuel consumption, whilst also looking out for the environment. When it comes to charging your EV, the better your home energy deal, the cheaper it will be to charge your car at home.
 
When charging your vehicle away from home, you have three options - "slow", "fast", and "rapid" charging.
  • Slow chargers are usually attached to lampposts. These will charge up your vehicle at a similar rate to a standard home charger, and can be free or offered as part of a subscription.
  • Fast chargers are found in car-parks. These will give your car a quick top-up whilst you are out and about for a few hours, and can be free or offered as part of a subscription.
  • Rapid chargers can typically be found at motorway service stations. Usually the more expensive option, these will charge a typical EV up to 80% in around 30 minutes, or around 100 miles of range. On average, you can expect to pay around £7 per 30-minute charging session, but this varies on where you charge up. 

Types of electric car

There are many different vehicles that are now electric, from lorries to motorbikes. The most common types of EV fit into three categories:
  1. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) – BEVs are fully electric vehicles that use a battery-powered motor. These are cars such as the Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf, which are the cheapest electric cars to purchase, or the Tesla Model S which is more expensive.
  2. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) – Vehicles that run using a combination of a battery-powered motor and a petrol/diesel-powered engine. These include popular cars such as the Toyota Prius and Mitsubishi Outlander.
  3. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) – These vehicles are capable of self-charging using the car’s braking system. They work differently to BEVs and PHEVs (mentioned above) as you don’t need to plug them in to charge them.

Are electric cars worth the cost?

There are advantages and disadvantages when it comes to electric cars, although the benefits may well outweigh the disadvantages. Not only do electric cars provide a more sustainable transport option than fuel-powered cars, but there are impressive cost benefits too.
 
EVs are likely to set you back more than a petrol or diesel-powered car will upfront. However, this initial investment should save you money in the long run. You can save thousands in fuel costs over its lifetime, whilst also getting tax exemptions and EV energy tariffs. Now may also be great time to buy an EV as the government have grant schemes in place that may not be available in the future as EVs become more common. Maintenance costs for BEVs are also far lower because they have simpler engines with fewer moving parts, making them easier to fix and less likely to break down. This will only improve over time as the technology gets better.
 
The downsides are that car insurance often increases for EVs. Premiums are higher as EVs are heavier vehicles and big repairs can be very costly. You may also feel like EVs are not great for driving around the country, but public charging point numbers are increasing around the UK.

Energy tariffs for electric vehicles

Some energy suppliers offer specialist energy tariffs for electric vehicles. These energy tariffs offer a plan with cheaper tariffs during off-peak hours, allowing you to charge your vehicle overnight at a lower price. Make sure you think about how often you drive though, as these deals will likely be more expensive than standard fixed-rate tariffs. The best thing to do is shop around and compare energy deals to be sure you get the most suitable package for your needs. All EV energy tariffs currently available offer 100% renewable energy
 
Here are some tips to help you save money if you have an electric vehicle or if you’re considering switching to one:
  • Switch tariffs – find the cheapest possible energy deal by switching your tariff. It’s usually always possible to find a cheaper deal than the one you currently have!
  • Choose carefully – some tariffs reward you for charging your car at off-peak times, so look out for deals that offer this benefit.
  • Discounts – a few energy suppliers offer discounts on tariffs for owners of electric vehicles. 
  • Be smart – smart meters record how much energy you are using, so can help you to work out exactly how much electricity your car is using to charge. Some energy suppliers also offer smart meters that tell you when to charge your car, at off-peak times for example.
  • Free charging – there are free charging points located around the UK at various shopping centres, car parks and supermarkets. Try planning your journeys to take advantage of these.

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Fergus Cole

Author: Fergus Cole

Fergus is a journalist specialising in the personal finance, energy and broadband sectors. He also has a passion for travel and adventure so tries to make the most of this in any spare time he gets.

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