Electric-car subscription services explained
If you need ultimate flexibility or are just a bit of commitment-phobe, then an electric-car subscription could be up your street
We’re big fans of leasing as a smart way to get behind the wheel of a new electric car, as it minimises upfront commitment to a relatively small deposit while future-proofing your decision. As you never actually own the car, and because the drop in its value over time has already been factored into your monthly payment, you’re basically immunised against any surprises.
It’s a method businesses have used successfully for years, and which is gaining ground rapidly with the Personal Contract Hire schemes now widely available. But what if you don’t want to be locked into a multiple-year lease contract or don’t fancy stumping up a deposit? That’s where so-called 'subscription' schemes come in, offering much greater flexibility while still enabling you to budget easily.
The term ‘subscription’ is only loosely defined in this context, though: such schemes range from manufacturers offering what are effectively zero-deposit leases over flexible periods that enable you to change cars at intervals, to independent finance companies offering much the same thing, but also to club memberships that give you access to rental vehicles on a pay-as-you-go basis.
While manufacturer subscription schemes undoubtedly remove much of the hassle of car ownership, as maintenance, insurance, breakdown cover, and wear and tear are all included in your monthly payment, they can look expensive compared to PCP finance. Independent finance company schemes can be cheaper, but you do need to look closely at what’s included in any particular offer so you can weigh up the value. Remember it’s the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) figure that you need to compare with a subscription quote, although only you can put a price on the flexibility and simplicity that a subscription deal provides.
As for the pay-as-you go EV schemes, they’re great for city-dwelling drivers who don’t need to use a car often, but of limited use to anyone needing a car on a more regular basis. We’ve rounded up details of some of the range of subscription offers available, so read on to find out more...
Manufacturer electric-car subscription offers
Care by Volvo
Volvo offers an in-house subscription product that allows you to drive its XC40 Recharge P8 electric SUV from £619 per month, which includes insurance, maintenance, road tax and vehicle hire – but only if you sign up for 36 months. If you need more flexibility, there’s an option to sign a contract with a 90-day cancellation period, which also allows you to change car every three months, but prices for that start at £769 per month.
Jaguar’s subscription scheme is open to drivers of its electric I-Pace, who can get behind the wheel of this premium crossover model for a monthly subscription of between £1,000 and £1,250 a month under the Pivotal Indigo package. There’s a one-off sign-up or activation fee of £550, but the monthly payment is inclusive of vehicle hire and road tax, servicing, breakdown cover and fully comp insurance for two drivers.
You need to commit for at least 90 days, but after that you can change your vehicle every six months. You can pause the scheme, or cancel it at any time. Using the Indigo package that means you can swap your I-Pace for a fossil-fuelled Land Rover Defender or Discovery, or the Range Rover Velar.
Non-manufacturer electric-car subscription plans
Wagonex is finance company providing subscription deals on a wide range of vehicles from many manufacturers, and electric cars are included too. With nearly new and used vehicles included, you could be looking at a three-year-old Nissan Leaf with 24,000 miles on the clock for an all-in figure of £299 per month. Prices vary depending on how long you want to keep the car, but Wagonex offers great flexibility with a minimum one-month subscription.
Owned by used car retailer Cazoo, Drover provides drivers with a nearly new or used electric car, with insurance and maintenance included, so all you have to do is charge it up. Prices start at around £430 per month for a Corsa-e with delivery miles, and they can provide you with a variety of electric options up to a Tesla Model 3 for just under £1,000 per month – again with just a handful of miles on the clock. Costs vary depending on subscription length, which can be from 6 to 24 months.
Pay-as-you-go electric car subscription services
There are a number of pay-as-you-go electric-car hire companies based in the UK. For a fixed monthly membership fee and a per-mile or per-hour charge, you can pick up electric cars parked on the street or at handy locations, and pay only when you use them. This is perfect for people who only need occasional car access.
Previously known as Evezy, Onto is one of the most interesting electric-car hire offerings, as it bridges the gap between short-term car sharing and long-term car leasing, which is useful if you need regular access to an electric car without the commitment or cost of ownership. You pay a flat fee; there’s no deposit and no long-term contract. Mileage is capped at 1,000 a month, and insurance, charging and other costs are included. You can swap your car at any time by up or downgrading to another model, and the scheme is available nationwide.
The Volkswagen e-up! is the cheapest car available from Onto, starting at £339 per month. The Renault ZOE is £399, the DS 3 Crossback E-TENSE is £519 and the Jaguar I-Pace is £1,299 per month. The Peugeot e-208 hatchback and e-2008 SUV are among other models on offer, although there are waiting lists and limited availability for some cars.
In April 2021, it was announced that all Onto users would get free charging at InstaVolt locations. The network is made up of over 600 chargers and has locations at branches of McDonald’s, KFC, Costa Coffee and Starbucks, among others In May 2021, Onto became the exclusive rental and subscription partner for Fisker; 700 of the brand's Ocean SUVs will be available to Onto customers in the UK when it arrives in 2023.
Like Onto, rival firm Elmo offers Total Cost of Ownership subscriptions for EVs; its web platform allows customers to add ‘bundles’ to their deal. That means you can choose to tick-in features such as maintenance, insurance, a home wallbox, access to public charging, and even your home energy bill – or choose not to have them. As with Onto, you pay a single monthly charge, but there’s a much more limited selection of cars available. When we looked the Renault ZOE was advertised at £379 per month, and the MG ZS EV from £429.
Co-Wheels Car Club
Co-Wheels is a nationwide operation in over 60 towns and cities offering a pay-as-you-go subscription hire service. Users sign up by paying a £25 joining fee and a £5 monthly fee. You then hire cars by the hour, with prices starting at £5.50 per hour for a Renault ZOE. You can also hire electric vans, and if you’re lucky enough to live in Aberdeen you can even hire a Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell car. The scheme doesn’t exclusively offer electric cars, but it does have a substantial fleet of them, including the Nissan Leaf, Citroen C-Zero and BMW i3.
The biggest car-sharing club in the UK has a fleet of 325 electric cars in London, and they cost 31p a minute or £14 an hour to hire for short journeys around the capital. You have to sign up for membership of ZIpcar first, for which you can pay up to £15 per month depending on your membership level. Zipcar doesn’t expect members to charge up its Volkswagen e-Golfs; it takes care of that overnight, which means you need to check the charge levels of any available cars using the app before booking.
Enterprise Car Club
The Enterprise Car Club is designed for drivers who don’t need a car full-time, but pay a membership fee monthly to access a fleet of more than 1,400 shared vehicles across the UK on an hourly or daily basis. Membership rates range from £7 to £20 per month, and the more you pay the lower your hourly hire rate – rates vary widely across vehicle types. Unfortunately, there are currently only around 80 electric vehicles on the fleet, so access to them is relatively limited.
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