What’s the cost of running an electric car?


For decades now, governments and scientists have worried about the environmental impact of the internal combustion engine.

Humanity fell for the convenience and power of petrol-powered vehicles in a major way almost as soon as they were invented at the beginning of the 20th Century and they have since truly taken over the planet. There are more than 32 million registered vehicles in the UK: on a global scale we are certainly talking billions, each one pumping out exhaust fumes every time the owner turns the ignition key.

As the years passed, it gradually began to dawn on scientists that the environment might be suffering as a result of this mass onslaught of engines (among other things). For many years the principal source of concern was tetraethyl lead, a toxic chemical compound routinely added to petrol to increase the efficiency of the internal combustion. After a great deal of international effort, leaded petrol was gradually phased out in the 80s and 90s.

Now environmentalists worry about the carbon monoxide that pours from exhaust pipes and the significant contribution this makes to climate change. This is a harder problem to solve. The most effective and far-reaching solution to date has been the rise of the electric vehicle.

When electric vehicle technology was still in its infancy, so-called hybrid vehicles were favoured; these combined the tried-and-efficiency of a petrol engine with an electric motor which engaged and took over propulsion in the right circumstances. These days pure electric vehicles are much more readily available as technology has improved: the continuing advancements in battery technology in particular have helped make electric vehicles a much more practical option for everyday drivers. Charging stations have become far more readily available as well, while overall awareness of electric vehicle technology has grown.

The EV boom

The days when electric vehicles were a novelty that only appealed to enthusiasts are now firmly in the rear view mirror. The UK market is, frankly, booming: while still only accounting for a limited sector of the market, sales of electric and hybrid cars are growing much more quickly than those of conventional vehicles. The latter were heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and just 115,706 new vehicles were registered in November 2021. This was an increase of just 1.7% following four solid months of falling numbers. New registrations for the whole of 2021 are expected to be just 1.9% up on 2020.

However, there were no fewer than 21,726 registrations of battery-powered electric vehicles the same month: more than 18% of the total and a healthy increase of 2.6% in just 30 days. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) now expects the number of fully electric vehicles registered in 2021 (‘battery electric vehicles’ or BEVs) to be the highest on record. 

Meanwhile, there were 10,796 hybrid vehicle (‘plug-in hybrid’) registrations in November, a decisive increase of 9.3% over the previous month. 

Overall sales of electric passenger cars in 2020 jumped by a pretty dramatic 186% in spite of the global pandemic. There are now around 300,000 EVs and 600,000 hybrids on British roads: this equates to one tenth of all cars currently in use across the country. There can be little doubt that electric vehicles are approaching critical mass and things can only get bigger and brighter from here.

How much does an electric car cost to buy?

Unsurprisingly, the ongoing EV boom has caught the attention of more or less all the major car manufacturers. While specialist, high end electric vehicle marques like Tesla hog headlines, many mainstream car brands have introduced affordable, primarily hybrid electric models, including:

  • Nissan
  • Vauxhall
  • Volkswagen

The latter has gone step further with the BEV ID range.

Even old school luxury vehicle manufacturer Mercedes Benz has got in on the all-electric game with its high end EQ range.

So there is a ‘how long is a piece of string?’ element to the question of costs. If you have the funds, you can spend a lot. But the majority of electric vehicle buyers do not log on to the Tesla website or visit the local Mercedes showroom. Instead they opt for more affordable models. On average, new hybrid vehicles sell for around 20% more than the petrol-only equivalent: that equates to a premium of £3,000-£5,000 on cars in the £15,000-£20,000 range.

That higher cost reflects the more powerful battery installed in hybrid models, along with all the additional electrical components. These premiums are likely to decline over time as electric vehicle technology becomes increasingly mainstream.

How much does it cost to tax and insure an electric car?

The precise figures will of course vary according to the make and model of vehicle, as well as your own status and driving history. But the good news is that it is now cheaper to insure electric cars than their petrol and diesel counterparts: £45 cheaper on average (at time of writing), thanks to a continuing fall in the price of premiums.

Perhaps more significantly, electric cars remain completely exempt from road tax – officially known as vehicle excise duty – because liability for this is calculated according to CO2 tailpipe emissions.

How much does it cost to maintain an electric car?

Maintenance costs depend on the type of electric car in question. Pure electric vehicles or BEVs have a much simpler structure and fewer moving parts than traditional petrol or diesel engines, so are less subject to wear and tear, keeping overall maintenance costs low. 

Despite this, trips to the local service centre are still necessary on occasion. BEV owners should anticipate occasional repairs to or replacement of:

  • Tyres
  • Brakes
  • Windscreens
  • Batteries

The latter is now relatively rare however, as electric vehicle batteries are designed to be very robust.

By contrast, typical maintenance costs for hybrid vehicles are analogous to those of conventional vehicles because they contain similar engine components.

How much does it cost to run an electric car?

Day-to-day running costs are a primary concern of vehicle owners. In conventional internal combustion engines the key running cost is fuel. This is, of course, heavily taxed: a major source of revenue for the government and a credit card-stretching headache for many drivers. The situation is quite different for electric vehicle owners. Let’s take a look at average electric car running costs in the UK.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

Again, there is no one-stop-shop answer to this question. Charging costs vary according to the manufacturer of the car, whether you are charging at home or using a public point, and the amount of power delivered. But we can still try and answer the key question: just how much does it cost to run an electric car?

At home

Charging at home is relatively straightforward as long as you have compatible, fully operational hardware. Charging costs are normally lower than those applied at public chargers; a full battery with a range of 200 miles will cost you around £9.

Away from home

There are three types of public charging point: slow (lamppost points), fast (typically those found in car parks) or rapid (normally those located in motorway service stations), with faster chargers costing more.

On average, however, even thirty minutes use of a rapid charger will cost just £6-£7, and that will power your vehicle for about 100 miles. The cost of charging premium electric vehicles like Teslas tends to be slightly higher, but the margin is not a huge one.

Is it cheaper to run an electric car than a petrol or diesel car?

Overall, the message is a clear one: the cost of running an electric car is significantly lower than a petrol or diesel vehicle. Electric vehicle drivers should expect annual running costs of less than £2,000 – or a little over £30 per week. This contrasts with an average of £2,200 for conventional vehicles – equivalent to more than £40 per week. That’s an overall saving of 21%.

Looking to hire an electric car?

If you’ve ever leased a car, you will be familiar with the procedure: hand over your credit card details and get ready to pay a hefty deposit before you even turn the ignition key. But the many innovations of electric vehicle technology have encouraged fresh thinking elsewhere too. Instead of leasing, how about subscribing? 

This type of subscription works just like any other: you pay your monthly fee and enjoy the benefits. Once you are ready to move on, you stop paying. There’s no hefty fee to pay upfront and no long term leasing contract to contend with.

The inclusion of routine additional costs such as insurance, maintenance and charging equipment in the customisable subscription fee even makes this approach an affordable alternative to buying a new car.

To find out more about EV subscriptions, you can review all of our current inventory on our electric cars page.

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