When you’re deciding which type of car to get, it’s important to have a rough idea of how much it will cost to run. Generally, electric vehicles (EVs) are cheaper to run if you charge them at home on an off-peak tariff, but the costs can vary if you use public chargepoints.
In this article, we look at some rough estimates for how much it costs to charge an electric car using a public chargepoint, and discuss some of the main factors that you’ll need to consider.
If you drive a petrol or diesel car, it’s relatively easy to know how much it will cost to fuel it – you simply need to know the cost per litre and the capacity of your fuel tank. But for electric car drivers, particularly those switching from a petrol or diesel vehicle, it’s slightly harder to work out what the fuel cost will be.
If you charge at home, you’ll soon understand how much it costs to power your EV. But if you have to rely on the public charging network, as many EV drivers do, the costs can vary significantly.
So, to help you better understand how much you are likely to pay to charge your EV, here are the charging station basics you need to consider.
How much will it cost to fill up your EV from empty to full?
The answer to this depends on a number of factors. The main things you need to know to work it out are how big is your EV’s battery, and the cost of the electricity you’re ‘filling’ (i.e. charging) it with.
So, for example, if the tariff is 30p per kWh and the battery size is 80kWh, you’d multiply 30p (the price per kWh) by the battery size (80kWh) and divide it by 100, to get the cost to fully recharge in pounds (£24). But it’s a little more complicated than that.
There are a number of factors that determine the cost of a charge when you use a station on the EV charging network. Location, charging speed, connection fee and the specific network you use all determine how much you are likely to pay, alongside battery capacity and energy cost at that moment in time. That makes it impossible to give a guaranteed cost that will apply to all EV drivers.
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But, there are a few figures that can guide you…
According to Pod Point (one of the leading providers of EV charging stations in the UK), for a typical EV with a 60kWh battery and 200-mile range will cost you around £19 for a 30-minute rapid charge, which will add around 90 miles to your battery. For context, a full charge at home for the same car would only cost about £17.
The RAC’s Charge Watch provides useful up-to-date data on rapid and ultra-rapid public charging costs. Based on their research, the cost to charge a 64kWH EV to 80% at a public charger costs £36,53 using a ‘rapid’ 23-90kW charger, and £38.30 using an ‘ultra-rapid’ 100kW charger. They also show the costs of running an electric car using the different types of chargepoints, compared to petrol and diesel costs.
But of course, not all EVs have the same size battery – some are smaller, some significantly larger, and that will affect the cost of charging. If you want to get the estimated charging costs for a specific model of electric car, you can use a public charging cost calculator like this one from Zapmap to get a better idea of what you can expect. If you use it, you’ll notice that there are more things to consider than just the battery size and cost of electricity.
Other charging station variables to consider
Just as different petrol stations set their own pricing, different EV networks set their own charging costs. For example, Shell Recharge rates will be different to the BP Pulse rates, or the Ubitricity rates, etc. So how much you pay will depend on where and, in some cases, when you stop to charge.
Most EV networks operate a supermarket-style loyalty scheme. If you subscribe to a particular network and download its app, each time you charge at one of its stations you can expect to pay a lower price than a pay-as-you-go driver with no subscription or affiliation.
Be aware that if you are a Motability Scheme customer, you’ll receive a subscription to the BP Pulse network of public charge points during your lease, giving you access to more than 9,000 public charge points, including 3,000 rapid and ultra-fast. Some of those charge points will give you cheaper rates, and some are entirely free.
Speed of charge
The speed of charge also determines the price, as you can see when looking at the charging costs graph shown above. The general rule is that ultra-fast charging is almost always more expensive than rapid or fast charging.
Motorway services charging is generally faster than charging at hotels, supermarkets, town centre car parks, places of work or any other charging destinations where people are likely to spend more time. The price you’ll pay for rapid charging is usually higher, while destination charging can often be free.
So, are EVs cheaper to run than petrol or diesel cars?
Essentially, the answer depends on where you charge most often. If you usually charge at home using a cheaper tariff, but use public chargepoints on occasion, you’re still probably going to be paying less than someone who is filling up with petrol or diesel full-time. But if you’re only charging your electric car using public ultra-rapid chargers, it’s likely that you could end up paying slightly more to power your car than if you filled up with fuel.
Like with most aspects of electric cars, the answer of whether an electric car will be the cheapest option for you depends on your needs, driving habits, charging routines and lifestyle.