How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

There's a lot of confusion around the cost of charging an electric car. Here are the facts...

Unlike with petrol or diesel cars, where one only has the forecourt fuel price to consider, there are a lot of variables when it comes to the cost of charging an electric car or a plug-in hybrid. When you charge an electric car at home or at a public charging station, the cost can fluctuate depending on when you charge, which tarif or charging network you use, how big the battery is and how much energy you need.

Cost of home charging

At home, you can use a three-pin plug or a faster wallbox. The first comes with no installation costs because you’ll have existing sockets in your house, but since a car takes several hours to charge, it’s best done overnight. Electricity costs 14p per kWh on average. So, you’d pay £6 for a 13-hour charge on a 40kWh Nissan Leaf at a 3kW charger. However, as electricity costs less off-peak (e.g. at night), the charge is more likely to be £4. 

A typical wallbox home-charging unit can supply power between 3 and 22kW. You’ll need to pay to install one, but a government grant will fund up to 75 per cent of the cost of purchase, up to £350. A 7kW home charger cuts the charge time significantly, with little change in the cost of power. 

Costs of public station charging

The cost of using public charging stations varies, but we’ll take BP Pulse (formerly Polar), one of the largest providers of such stations, as an example.

Your first option is a BP Pulse subscription at £7.85 a month (although new joiners get the first three months free). If you don’t wish to subscribe, you sign up for a free standard membership, but will pay a mid-rate tariff starting from 34p/kWh.

If you wish to pay via contactless and without a membership, you can hook up to any BP Pulse chargepoint as a guest, but will pay the highest tariff starting from 35p/kWh.

Cost of motorway charging

On the motorway, you’ll probably find Gridserve charging stations (formerly Ecotricity) although the variety of different providers is growing. Gridserve customers pay 30p per kWh and no membership is required. Gridserve’s network output ranges from 60kW to 180kW, and the company claims that its chargers can provide 80 – 240 miles of range in 20 minutes

How does a petrol vehicle compare?  

Over a year and 9,000 miles, an electric vehicle can cost far less than the petrol equivalent. In that time, a petrol model with average economy of 45mpg will cost over £1,200 in fuel. Over the same period, a 40kWh electric car with a real-world range of 168 miles would cost around £300.

You can save even more with solar panels linked to your home wallbox to generate and store electricity.

Check out the list of the best electric car chargepoint providers in the UK...

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