How much does it cost to charge an electric vehicle?

Very low running costs are one of the main reasons to switch to an electric car. But how much do they cost to charge exactly?

One of the big selling points of electric cars is how much cheaper they are to run than petrol or diesel-engined cars. With fuel prices rising in recent years, drivers looking to save on running costs are increasingly considering electric vehicles.

There are two main ways of charging an electric car: either at home or using a public charger. The cost of recharging your electric car depends on four factors: when you charge, where you charge, your car's battery size and how much charge you require. This article explains how much charging an electric car is likely to cost, as well as including some top tips on how to save money when charging.

Cost of home charging from a domestic socket

According to the UK government’s 'Go Ultra Low' campaign, up to 90% of electric-car charging is done at home. There are two ways of charging at home: using an existing three-pin socket in your house, or installing a faster wallbox charging point – typically capable of 7.4kW charging – outside your home.

The first option has no installation cost, given you'll likely have a socket or two that you can use to charge an electric car. A basic connector is supplied with most electric cars as standard, allowing you to plug it into a standard three-pin socket.

At a typical maximum current draw of 3kW, most electric cars will take many hours to charge fully, so the process is best carried out overnight. However, not all plugs can draw this amount of current – and manufacturers recommend not using a domestic socket as your sole charging outlet. It's better to see it as an emergency backup option.

The average electricity cost in the UK is around 14p per kilowatt-hour (kWh). So, using a 3kW charger to fuly top up a Nissan Leaf with a 40kWh battery would take 13.3 hours, at a cost of £5.76. With the Nissan’s quoted range of 168 miles, that amounts to just over 3p per mile.

For a rough comparison, a typical petrol car costs 12p per mile to run, making an electric car much cheaper. However, because electricity is cheaper during off-peak times – such as the night – with an average price of 10p per kWh, a more representative cost of charging the Leaf overnight would be £4.

Cost of home charging from a wallbox

Sometimes, a slow overnight charge isn't convenient, which is why many choose to install a home wallbox in order to charge faster. A typical home charging unit can supply power between 3 and 22kW, although most operate at 7.4kW. The costs range drastically between brands but, as an example, a 7kW home charging unit from Pod Point will cost £859 to purchase and install. However, a grant from the Office for Low Emissions Vehicles (OLEV) covers a portion of the installation cost.

There are several conditions to qualify for the grant, including that the work has to be carried out by installers authorised by the OLEV. You must also have your own off-street parking and have a plug-in car either on order or already in use (it can be a new or used car). It’s worth shopping around, though, as other companies like Chargemaster supply 7kW home charging units.

A 7kW home charger significantly reduces charging time, with little change in the cost of electricity. A full 168-mile charge for a 40kWh Nissan Leaf would take less than six hours, vastly improving convenience for those occasions when you need to top up in a hurry. Over a year and 9,000 miles, there are significant saving to be made with an electric vehicle versus its petrol equivalent show.

At an average of 45mpg fuel economy, a petrol car will cost £1,209 to run in fuel alone. A 40kWh Leaf with a real-world range of 168 miles would cost £300 for the same 12 months. It’s also worth noting that you can save even more by investing in solar panels and a household battery to generate and store your own electricity.

 

Cost of charging at public charging points

The cost of charging at one of the UK’s thousands of public charging points depends on the one you visit. Various charging networks run different charging stations, each with their own pricing structure. The largest network of public charging stations in the UK is the Polar Plus network (which is owned by BP Chargemaster), with over 7,000 points across the UK.

A subscription costs £7.85 a month, with new joiners getting the first three months free. Most of the charge points are free to use for members, with some stations incurring fees starting from 12p per kWh. Some of the faster chargers will cost more than this, however.

Meanwhile, Polar Instant offers a pay-as-you go service. The faster the charger, the more you pay for each kilowatt-hour: this is slightly more expensive, but works for occasional users who don't need access to public chargers on a regular basis.

Cost of motorway charging

If you're driving on the motorway, the likelihood of coming across a rapid charger capable of 350kW is increasing month by month. IONITY plans to have 40 such stations in operation in the UK by the end of 2020, giving ultra-fast turnaround times to electric cars with the biggest batteries.

IONITY started out by charging customers a flat rate of £8 regardless of how much energy they consumed. but since 31 January 2020, customers without contracts have been charged an ad-hoc rate of £0.69 per kWh. That translates to a 0-100% charge cost of approximately £27 for a 40kWh Nissan Leaf, or around £41 for a Tesla Model 3 Long Range.

To find out the charging rates of public charging stations near you, log onto www.zap-map.com and click on the map. After typing in your postcode, you can then click on the individual stations near you to find out their charging speeds, connector types and even if they are in use. The service will also show if they need a subscription and how much you will be charged – with prices often described in either £ per kWh or £ per minute/hour of use.