How much does an electric car cost to run?

A key selling point for electric vehicles is that they're cheaper to run than conventional cars. Here, we show you why

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

Low running costs are a huge selling point for electric cars, and the reason why many make the switch. Although they tend to be slightly costlier to purchase than their conventional counterparts, electric vehicles come with many benefits that help owners save money in the long run.

The Government’s Go Ultra Low savings campaign estimates owners can save thousands when switching to electric. Here's how.

Fuel costs and electric cars

One of the big expenses for electric vehicles is recharging costs. Equivalent to refuelling a conventional car, electric vehicles have to be regularly topped up either at home or a public charging station. Instead of petrol or diesel, they're topped up using electricity purchased from the grid.

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 and faster.

Home-charging stations cost from £249 for a 3kWh system, rising to over £1,000 for more powerful units. However, this is a one-off cost and quickly pays for itself.

Currently, electricity costs around 13p per kWh in the UK. Using the Hyundai Kona Electric as an example, it costs around £8.30 to fully recharge its 64kWh battery.

According to the latest testing procedure, the Kona Electric can manage 300 miles from a single charge. Over a year and 9,000 miles of driving, this would cost owners a total of £250 in recharging fees, assuming the vehicle was only charged at home. That works out at a cost of 2.7p per mile for the Hyundai Kona Electric.

To give an indication of how much cheaper it is to run an electric vehicle than a conventional car, take the diesel variant of the Hyundai Kona. Powered by a 1.6-litre CRDi engine, it claims 67.3mpg under official testing. Across 9,000 miles, it would cost roughly £825 a year to refuel. So the diesel version would cost roughly 9.1p per mile to run.

In general, according to the Government’s Go Ultra Low campaign, a conventional car costs 12p per mile to run, while electric vehicles cost 3p per mile.

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.

How much are electric cars to service?

Another large bill motorists fear is 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 are more expensive to insure. This is partly because their repair costs are higher and because there aren’t enough trained technicians in the UK to do the work.

Research by comparison site comparethemarket.com last year 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.