Cost of running an electric car

March 24, 2023 by

How much do EVs really cost to run? We crunch some numbers

The cost of living is an enormous concern at present, and this coincides with the looming ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, something which was going to happen in 2030, but has now been pushed back to 2035. 

And yet while few would suggest spending lots of money on purchasing a new electric car will help you trim your budget, many people will be looking to switch to electric motoring over the coming months and years, and one of the larger considerations this change brings is differences in running costs.

The cost of running an electric car involves a number of factors, from electricity prices and insurance, to maintenance and depreciation.

Cost of charging an EV in public

The cost of recharging an electric car depends on just two things: the size of its battery, and the cost of the electricity you’re putting in it.

A large EV might have a 100 kiloWatt (kWh) hour battery, whereas a smaller EV might have a 50kWh battery – just as a bigger fuel tank costs more to fill.

The larger battery will cost twice as much to charge as the smaller one, assuming the same price of electricity.

For the purposes of simple calculations, we’ll assume all charging sessions fill up a battery from 0-100%, though in reality most people will either top them up little and often at home, or charge them from 20-90% to preserve battery health.

Prices for public chargers vary from provider to provider and there is no readily available national average figure, but 65 pence per kiloWatt hour from a rapid public charger is not atypical.

If you charge a 100kWh EV from empty to full, that would cost you £65. Charge a 50kWh EV at the same price and you would be looking at £32.50.

An efficient EV might cover an average of 5 miles for every kiloWatt hours, and an inefficient one 2.5 miles per kWh. If you pay 65 pence for a kiloWatt hour and get five miles out of that kiloWatt hour, that’s 65 pence divided by five, or 15 pence per mile. At the same price, an EV managing 2.5 miles per kWh will cost 30 pence per mile.

Either way, public charging is relatively expensive, and it’s almost always cheaper to charge at home. Some EV charging networks require membership in order for you to use their chargers, or offer lower prices for members who pay a monthly subscription.

Cost of charging an EV at home

Smart home energy tariffs can give you an off-peak electricity cost, and allow you to charge your car when demand and prices are low – for example between midnight and 4am; you can even schedule your EV to charge only during these off-peak times.

Let’s say you have one of these tariffs, and electricity costs 7.5 pence off peak. A 100kWh battery would cost £7.50 to charge at that rate, and assuming it went 300 miles on that charge, that works out at a cost of 2.5 pence per mile for electricity alone.

If you need to charge using peak domestic electricity, for which a price of 45 pence per kWh might be reasonable, a full 100kW charge will cost you £45, which translates to 15 pence per mile.

You will need to factor in getting a home ‘wallbox’ fast charger installed at home though: charging via a conventional plug is very slow, and not recommended due to the heavy load it places on your electricity circuits. Prices for home charger installation vary a fair amount, but if you have a figure of £800 in mind you’ll be in the right ballpark. There used to be government incentives to help with installation costs, but these have now dried up unless you’re a landlord installing one for tenants.

Smart wallboxes can be small and inconspicuous, but can be configured in several ways

Cost to tax an electric car

Electric cars are currently exempt from road tax, though from 2025 they will be charged the same £165 a year as petrol and diesel cars. Company car tax for electric cars is very favourable, and also complex, so we’ve put together a dedicated guide to the topic, as well as a more general piece or tax and electric cars.

Cost to maintain an electric car

Charging is clearly a big, complex topic, but it’s only part of the story when it comes to EV running costs. Maintenance is another expense to factor in, and here EVs are at an advantage.

An electric car has no cambelts to change, no exhausts to replace, no oil to refresh, and so on – there is simply less to maintain on an EV compared to a petrol or diesel car, so your servicing costs should be lower. It’s also worth highlighting that EVs have better MoT pass rates than their petrol and diesel counterparts – though they still have to abide by the same MOT requirements.

We should also highlight that an early fear surrounding EVs – that they would need expensive battery replacement after not very many years – has proven to be largely unfounded, with many electric cars totting up serious mileages on their original battery packs. It’s also worth noting that petrol and diesel cars can go expensively wrong, as anyone who has ever had a snapped timing chain will testify.

Electric cars come with the same warranties as petrol and diesel cars, with the exception that battery and motor warranties tend to be longer; so while most of the car may be covered for 60,000 miles and three years (whichever comes first), the motor and battery could come with an eight-year, 100,000-mile guarantee.

Cost to insure an electric car

Here is one area where you may find EVs are actually more expensive than petrol and diesel cars. This is for a number of reasons, including the fact that many EVs are remarkably quick thanks to the way their batteries and motors deploy their power; EVs also tend to be more expensive to buy, so replacement costs are higher for insurers.

As an illustration, a diesel 2021 BMW 340d xDrive might cost £830 to insure for the year, whereas a Tesla Model 3 might cost the same drive £1,040.

Less powerful, cheaper EVs such as the Nissan Leaf will clearly be cheaper to get cover for – the above serves as just one example.

Electric car depreciation

Depreciation is based on future values, naturally, and is therefore a topic that is subject to a fair degree of prediction.

In the early days of modern electric cars, depreciation was harder to gauge because there were so few EVs on the market, but today the signs are that electric cars depreciate less than petrol and diesel ones.

Our guide to this topic has more information.

How do electric car running costs compare to petrol and diesel cars?

This depends on so many factors, from your garages hourly rate, to the cost of electricity and petrol.

If you pay £1.80 for a litre of petrol and your car has a 60-litre (13 gallons) tank and returns an average of 35mpg, that’s £117 to fill the tank, which will take you 455 miles, at a cost of roughly 26 pence per mile. That’s obviously a fair bit cheaper than charging using some public chargers, and a fair bit more expensive than charging at home using an off-peak tariff.

Your insurance is likely to be more expensive for an EV, but if you have a company car your tax liabilities will almost certainly be much lower.

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