How much does it cost to charge an electric vehicle?

Running costs are one of the key reasons why motorists are going electric. We show how much an electric car can cost to run.

One of the big selling points for electric vehicles is how much cheaper they are to refuel than conventional cars. With petrol and diesel prices rising in recent years, drivers looking to save on running costs are increasingly considering electric cars.

There are two main ways of charging an electric car, either at home or using a public charging station. The amount of money you’ll spend on charging your electric vehicle depends on four factors: at what time you are charging the vehicle; where you are charging the vehicle; how big its battery is; and how much charge you require.

Read on to find out how much charging an electric vehicle is likely to set you back, and some tips on where and how to save money.

Home charging

According to the UK Government’s Go Ultra Low campaign, up to 90 per cent of electric vehicles are charged at home. There are two different ways of charging your electric vehicle at home: using the existing, three-pin plug system you have in your house, or installing a faster, 3kW or 7kW charging point in your home.

The first option comes with no installation costs, given you will likely have a plug or two lying around that you can use to charge an electric vehicle. A basic connector is supplied with most electric vehicles as standard, allowing you to plug the vehicle into a standard three-pin plug. At a typical maximum current draw of 3kW the car will take several hours to charge, so the process is best carried out overnight. However, not all plugs can draw this amount of current – and manufacturers recommend not using a socket as the sole charging outlet.

The average electricity cost in the UK is 14.37p per kWh. As an example, using a 3kW charger on the new 40kWh Nissan Leaf would take 13.3 hours to fully charge the car. With Nissan’s quoted 166 miles of real-world range, this would cost £5.76.

However, because electricity is cheaper during off-peak times, such as during the night, with an average price of 10p per kWh, a more representative cost of charging the Leaf overnight would be £4.00.

But home socket charging speeds are often too slow, which is why many owners opt to purchase a home charging unit with a faster charging rate.

A typical home charging unit can supply power between 3kW and 22kW. The costs range quite drastically between different brands but, as an example, a 7kW home charging unit from Pod Point will cost owners £859 to purchase and install. The good news is that thanks to grants from the Office for Low Emissions Vehicles (OLEV), the Government will fund up to 75 per cent of the cost of installing a home charger, with a maximum contribution of £500 towards the cost.

There are several conditions to meet the OLEV grant, including that the work has to be carried out by installers that have been authorised by the Office for Low Emissions Vehicles.

With the OLEV grant, Pod Point says a 7kW home charging unit will cost £359 to install. It’s worth shopping around, though, as other companies like Chargemaster supply 7kW home charging units starting from £279.

A 7kW home charger significantly reduces the charging time, with little change in the cost of electricity. A full 235-mile charge on the Nissan Leaf 40kWh would take 5.7 hours when using a 7kW home charger, according to estimates by Zap Map.

As a rough comparison, a typical petrol vehicle costs 12p per mile to run, making an electric vehicle much cheaper.

Over a year and 9,000 miles, the maths between an electric vehicle and a petrol equivalent show some significant savings. At an average economy of 45mpg, a petrol car will cost £1,209 to run in fuel alone. A 40kWh electric vehicle with a real-world range of 168 miles would cost £300 for the 12 months.

It’s also worth noting that you can save even more by investing in solar panels and a wallbox to generate and store electricity.

Public station charging

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 individual pricing strategy.

The largest provider of public charging stations in the UK is Polar, with over 6,500 charge points across the UK. Chargemaster runs the service, and you have two options.

Polar Plus is a subscription service costing £7.85 a month, with new joiners getting the first three months free. Polar charge points, and most other ones outside the Polar network, are free to use, with the charge rate costing from 9p per kWh – cheaper than the average household cost of electricity. However, different stations may have higher rates.

Polar Instant is a pay-as-you go service. All charge points have an admin fee of £1.20, with charging varying from £6.00 for every 30 minutes when using a rapid charger, to £1.00 per hour when using 3kW slow chargers.

Accessing the Polar network is done via either the Polar Smartphone App, or an RFID card for Polar Plus members.

Motorway charging

If you are driving on the motorway, you will likely encounter Ecotricity charging stations.

As with other service providers, Ecotricity and its 300-plus motorway stations have a loyalty scheme of sorts. If you’re an existing Ecotricity customer, you will be charged at 15p per kWh. Those without an Ecotricity customer account will pay 30p per kWh.

As a comparison, using a 50kW rapid charger on a new 40kWh Nissan Leaf would cost you £12.00 to fully recharge, costing more than a home charger. However, with a rapid charger, you would have the car fully topped up in less than 50 minutes.

How to find out how much various public charging stations cost

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.

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