How much does an electric car cost to run?

Electric cars are cheaper to run than petrols and diesels, but exactly how much are the running costs exactly?

Speak to any electric car owner and one of the first things they'll tell you is how much money they’ve been able to save since switching to electric.

Low running costs are a huge selling point for electric cars, and they're the reason main reason so many make people convert from internal-combustion-engined vehicles. Although electric cars tend to be more expensive to buy than their conventional counterparts, in many cases the total cost of ownership is actually much lower.

So why is that the case? And exactly how much could you save by driving an electric car? We've put together the following guide to explain the ins and outs...

Fuel costs and electric cars

The main expense for electric vehicles is recharging costs. Just as normal cars need to be refuelled with petrol or diesel, electric vehicles need to be regularly topped up with electricity, with charging taking place either at home or a public station. Where and when you charge determines how much you'll pay.

According to Government estimates, 90% of all charging takes place at home, with many homeowners investing in a dedicated charging unit to make the process safer, faster and therefore more convenient.

Home-charging stations – often called wallboxes – cost from less than £300 for a 3kW system, rising to over £1,000 for the fastest, most powerful units. However, this is a one-off cost that quickly pays for itself.

Currently, electricity costs around 14 pence per kilowatt-hour on an average, household tariff. Using the Renault ZOE as an example, a full charge of its 52kWh battery will cost £7.28. Given the car's official, 245-mile range, that works out at less than 3p per mile.

That means you could drive 10,000 miles per year and pay less than £300 in 'fuel'; even the most efficient petrol and diesel cars are likely to cost three or four times as much to run.

This calculation also doesn't take into account that the price of electricity falls at nighttime when demand is lowest, so anyone charging their electric car overnight will likely spend even less.

Meanwhile, public charging stations tend to be more expensive to use. Tesla's Supercharger network – which is exclusive to Tesla owners – charges 24p/kWh, while those using IONITY's rapid-charging network will be charged a flat fee of £8, regardless of how much energy is consumed.

Electric cars and vehicle tax

Fully electric cars are currently tax-exempt, meaning they face no Vehicle Excise Duty payments. This can bring big savings over the years. Currently, all other vehicles are taxed based on how much carbon-dioxide they emit.  

For example, the Hyundai Kona Electric costs nothing to tax, as it emits no CO2 at all. However, the diesel version of the Kona emits 112g/km – meaning it costs £145 to tax in the first year, while subsequent years cost £140.

Plug-in hybrids and conventional hybrids bought after 1 April 2017 (when the latest VED rates were introduced) also face VED. Their first-year rates vary, but are unlikely to be more than £100, while subsequent years cost £130.

There's another big incentive on the horizon for company-car drivers, too: for the 2020/21 financial year, zero-emissions vehicles will cost nothing in Benefit-in-Kind company-car tax, rising to only 1% and 2% in subsequent years. This could save business users thousands of pounds.

How much are electric cars to service?

Another large bill motorists fear comes from servicing and repair fees. The good news is that electric vehicles are in general cheaper to service and maintain than their petrol and diesel counterparts.

The Government’s Go Ultra Low campaign estimates electric vehicles can be up to 70% cheaper to service and maintain. This is largely because they have fewer moving parts and fewer items that wear over time.

For example, a three-year service plan on a BMW i3 costs £239. Compared to a BMW 2 Series, drivers save £60 over three years. The savings rise to £160 when comparing against a 3 Series.

The same goes for other brands. Nissan, for example charges £149 for its Service Plan when purchasing an EV, rising to £199 for petrols and £219 for diesels.

Where the real savings come is when you need to replace parts after the warranty runs out. Electric cars don’t need oil filters and have no cambelts or other items that are costly to replace.

Insurance costs and electric cars

Insurance prices in the UK have risen over the past several years, and although electric vehicles are different from conventional cars, they also have to be insured.

While servicing, fuel and tax costs are cheaper for electric cars compared to conventional vehicles, electric vehicles tend to be more expensive to insure. This is partly because their repair costs are higher, but also because there aren’t enough trained technicians in the UK to do the work.

Research conducted in 2017 by comparison site comparethemarket.com found that some electric vehicles can cost 45% more to insure than conventional cars. However, this isn’t always representative.

Our research found we could be insured on a Hyundai Kona Electric for £648 a year. Using the same details of a 42-year-old engineer living in Banbury, Oxford, who's married and a house owner, the insurance on a diesel Kona cost £612.