Long before fuel prices started rocketing, the financial lure of running an electric car has been enormous. But are kilowatts really cheaper than petrol and diesel? We’re on hand to crunch the numbers and tot-up how much it costs to charge an electric car, so you can put the calculator down and get the kettle on. Thank us later.
How much does it cost to charge at home?
You can charge at home using a three-pin plug in the wall like you would your smartphone, but it’s the slowest option available to electric car owners. Even a small electric car can take all night to be charged up with a domestic three-pin plug, although in doing so, you’ll have access to off-peak electricity rates. That’s beauty of electric cars, because charging at home saves you the time, money and the hassle of going to a petrol station and having to sweat over the rising fuel prices.
At the time of writing (16 April), the average price of electricity per KWh across the UK is 28.3p. While the average power of a three-pin plug in wall is between 2 to 3.5kW, so let’s call it 3kW for our calculations here. Don’t worry if that’s gone over your head; just know it means you’d spend about £12 to charge an 80kW Renault Zoe for 14 hours. This would theoretically give you the car’s claimed 196-mile range, equating an average cost per mile of 6.1p. That’s about a third of what a petrol car that averages 46 miles per gallon could offer, with average petrol costs at the time of writing.
The most common electric car home charging ports (dedicated electric car plugs added to your property) in the UK are more powerful than three-pin plugs, ranging from 3.6 to 7kW. Best of all, even if your charge point were to be 7kW one, it would cost you the same amount to fill up an electric car as it would do were you to use the three-pin plug. In fact, it might be cheaper, because you’re still accessing domestic electricity, but the higher-speed charger would ensure the same top-up takes just six hours. This can be less than half the time to charge a car using a three-pin wall plug, meaning the charge period is less likely to fall outside of the lowest-cost window.
How much does it cost to charge on the road?
When you’re out and about, there are many different types of chargers and locations where you can top up your battery, which is incredibly handy. You can find charge points at petrol stations, supermarkets and even on the streets, with some lamp posts across the UK having chargers retrofitted into them. But naturally with such an array of locations and types of charging stations, the cost and length of time it takes to charge up your car can vary by a large amount.
The ability to charge at lamp posts is incredibly convenient and they are ideal if you’re parking overnight or throughout the day. But they tend to be the slower public option and are relatively inconsistent across the UK. This is because they range from 3.7kW to 7kW (like those home charge points) and they also depend on the power supply that’s readily available at the lamp post.
Case in point: it would take just over 13 hours to take an 80kW Renault Zoe from 20% to 80% charge with a 3.7kW plug, or six hours with a 7kW one. Most lamp posts in the UK allow you to pay on the go or sign-up to a monthly subscription, where they will bill you each month for the amount of electricity you use, but it’ll be charge at near- (if not exact) rates to the domestic plugs. Some, remarkably, are free. For now, anyway.
Supermarkets up and down the country have installed charging points at a rapid rate, meaning you can top up your battery while you do your weekly shop. To make things even better, these are often free to use while you shop inside, with the supermarkets determining that the amount you spend inside will far outweigh what the cost of your charge will be. That’s telling. Oh, and workplaces are also increasingly rolling out free charging points.
Not surprisingly, service station chargers are typically the most expensive, but they’re often also some of the fastest. Use a high-power 150kW charger it might cost you over £30 for half an hour charging. But that could equate to over 100 miles of added range thanks to the rate of added kilowatts. Petrol stations can be close to half that price (like petrol, prices vary depending on location), while offering the same sort of charge speed.