How much does it cost to charge an electric car at home, work and on the go?
By Celia Topping Friday 27 November 2020
One of the most attractive benefits of electric cars is how cheap they are to run. And no wonder – electric vehicle (EV) owners can save over £1,000 a year on fuel costs alone! How much you actually pay to charge your EV depends on a few factors:
The make and model of the car, and the size of its battery
Where the charging point is – at home, at work, or in a public space
Which speed you choose to charge the car – slow, fast or rapid
If charging at home, which tariff you’re on
If charging in a public space, which network is being used, and whether you need a subscription
That’s why we’ve put on our EV expert’s hat, to explain how much it can cost to charge an electric car, and how to keep those charging costs down.
Thinking of buying an electric car? Read our article on "Things to consider when buying an electric car" by OVO's resident EV expert, owner and enthusiast, Chris Britton.
How much does it cost to charge an electric car at home?
Possibly the most energy-efficient and convenient way to charge your EV is from home. As EVs can charge slowly and economically overnight, it makes sense to do most of your charging while you sleep. So while you recharge, your car does too!
How much does a home-charger cost?
An EV can be charged with a domestic 3-pin plug – but it’s not very efficient, taking around 17 hours to charge your car. Instead, the most popular way to charge your EV from home is by using a smart charger. They cost around £300 to £1,000, depending on which one you buy, but getting one installed doesn’t have to be expensive. If you have it installed by an Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV)-approved supplier, you could be eligible for a government grant of £350 towards the cost – find out more in our complete guide to government electric car grants.
Plus, OVO has just launched a £100 off smart car chargers offer for all our members. That’s in addition to OLEV’s £350 grant. Which means a whopping £450 off your very own smart home charger!
And the money-saving doesn’t stop there. This clever, wall-mounted device can be set up to only charge your car when it’s cheapest and most environmentally friendly to do so. By communicating directly with the National Grid and the EV charging infrastructure, your charger instantly knows the best and cheapest time to power up.
FInd out more about EV home charging installation and what to expect through the process in our useful guide
And what about the electricity? Does it cost a lot to charge your EV from home?
The cost of charging from home depends on your home energy plan, so it’s important to find a tariff that offers cheap off-peak rates. OVO’s EV Everywhere tariff offers the benefits every EV owner needs – including:
Low-cost overnight charging with Economy 7
2 years of fixed energy prices to protect members from energy price hikes
Free Polar Plus1 network membership (including free charging at 80% of their 100% renewable energy charging stations)
100% renewable energy at home
A tree planted2 every year for every member
This tariff means members can use 100% renewable electricity3 both at home and on the go (as Polar Plus uses 100% renewable electricity, too). It also means that simply by joining OVO, you can cut your carbon footprint at home by about one tonne4 a year.
Our experts have done the maths on a Mini Electric vs Mini Cooper S Hatch:
The total energy a Mini Electric needs to cover 8,000 miles is 2,000kWh
So based on an off-peak home-charged rate of 7p/kWh, you could run a Mini for just £140 a year
To fuel the Mini Cooper S Hatch costs over £1,000 (based on 39 miles-per-gallon, and a petrol price of 111.2p)
That works out at an annual saving of over £800!
How Vehicle-to-Grid technology will be able to earn you money
EV technology is progressing at lightning speed, with new innovations and devices being developed as fast as you can say Battery Electric Vehicle!
The two-way Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology is one such invention. It allows energy stored in EVs to be fed back into the national electricity network (or 'grid') to help supply energy at times of peak demand. This means you’ll soon be able to use your car’s stored energy to actually make money!
Read more about this ingenious V2G idea in our informative guide
How much does it cost to charge an electric car at work?
Wouldn’t it be nice to drive to work, plug in, then drive home after work with a fully-charged car, for free? With EVs fast becoming a mainstream choice, the dream could soon become a reality. More and more businesses are looking at workplace charging options to attract clients and keep staff happy.
As more employees demand this service, more businesses are taking note and installing EV charging facilities. For those with fleets of company cars, making the switch to EVs is an obvious choice. Considering current trends, it’s most likely that charging will be free, as a staff incentive – or for a minimal expense.
How much does it cost to charge an electric car in public?
Public charge points can be found on the street, in car parks, at supermarkets, service-stations, hotels and many other locations. Generally speaking, urban charging isn’t the cheapest option, although most subscription services offer some free charging to their members. In addition, some public charging locations, like supermarket car parks, offer free charging while you shop, which is a pretty neat idea.
How do EV charging subscription services work?
There are literally dozens of public charging networks across the UK. The major ones, like Polar, GeniePoint, Ecotricity, Shell Recharge and ChargeYourCar are mainly subscription-based, but some offer a PAYG service as well. Simply go online and sign up.
The Polar network is the biggest in the UK, with over 7,000 charge points nationwide. Polar Plus members pay £7.85 a month and receive a key fob or charge card to use at the charging stations. Once subscribed, you just check your map for free charging locations, or pay a standard 9p per kWh.
Alternatively, you can plug into Polar as a pay-as-you-go customer and pay £1.20 to plug in, and £1 an hour for a 3kWh charge. It’s £6 for a 30-minute rapid charge.
With OVO’s EV Everywhere tariff, you get Polar-Plus membership for free5! This includes free charging at 80% of their charging locations.
What are the differences between slow, fast and rapid charging?
Out on the roads are three types of charger. These vary in speed, convenience and price. Using Zap-map, drivers can easily locate charge points across the country and find one to suit their needs. If you have a subscription, you can also use a map to find your own network charging points – and you might even find you’re close to a free one. Bonus!
Rapid-charging stations are usually found in motorway service stations, or near main roads. Depending on the model of EV, it can take as little as 20 minutes to charge to 80%. As you’d expect, the convenience and speed of these chargers means they’re the most expensive option.
But even for a typical EV with a 60kWh battery and 200-mile range, it would only cost around £6.50 for a 30-minute charge – which would take you about 100 miles. Incidentally, rapid chargers already have a contactless bank card option – the UK government is urging more charging stations to offer this method of payment, making the process even smoother.
Tip: access to well-placed rapid chargers is vital for longer journeys, although regular rapid charging is not recommended for long-term battery life.
Fast-charging stations tend to be found where drivers are likely to be parked for an hour or more – such as car parks, supermarkets or leisure centres. To charge to capacity would take several hours, but a shorter boost for a few pounds, while you’re watching a film or working out, would still be plenty to get you home.
It’s not ideal to use a slow charger in public, but they are available, and are generally found in lamp posts or bollards. But because it takes around 6-12 hours to get a full charge, slow charging is a better option at home, or while you’re at work.
And if you'd like to learn even more about the 3 main different charging options for your EV, check out our blog on the subject.
How many nationwide public charging stations are there?
The number of public charging stations is rising daily – putting those ‘range anxiety’ fears to rest. As of November 20206, there are 12,690 public charging stations, with a total of 35,146 connectors, and counting.
That means there are actually more public charging points than fuel stations in the UK. Which means you’re more likely to run out of battery for your phone than for your car!
How long does it take to charge an electric car?
Charge time depends on the size of your battery, and the speed of the charging point. So a big battery, like a 100kWh in a Tesla, charging on a 3kWh charge point would take a lot longer than a Mini Electric’s 32kWh battery on a rapid charge. It can take from 30 minutes to over 12 hours.
On average though, to charge from empty-to-full, it takes a typical electric car (40kWh battery) around 5.5 hours to charge with a regular 7kWh charge point. Bear in mind these points for optimum battery life:
Keep your charge between 20 and 80%. Charging to capacity every time will wear your battery out quicker.
Most drivers tend to top-up charge in the day and do an 80% charge at night.
You can add around 100 miles of range in about 30 minutes with a 50kWh rapid charger.
After a long motorway drive, it’s best not to charge straight away. Allow the battery to cool.
If you’re going away for a week or so, make sure you set your charger to keep your car at around 50%, so it’s not flat by the time you get back.
Rapid charging is not very good for your battery, so don’t use this method regularly.
Electric car charging cards
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) charging cards used to be the most popular way to pay for charging at the bigger public charging networks. Although these cards are still sent out to members, this method is quickly being replaced by contactless options.
Zap-map is probably the most well-known public charging network map, but there are others you can try too – including:
National Chargepoint Registry
Open Charge Map
Popular questions other EV owners also ask about charging
Is it safe to charge an electric car in the rain?
Considering the British climate, it would be a bit daft to invent a charger that could only be used in dry weather!
All EV chargers are manufactured with waterproof covering shields and several protective layers. There's nothing exposed that could cause any kind of spark, loss of current or short circuit.
What are the cost differences with petrol cars?
While the initial outlay for an EV is generally higher, you can get a grant from the government for up to £3,000 to help with costs. Plus the savings on fuel really add up over time.
Also, remember, you don’t have to pay Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax) on fully electric cars – and there’s no congestion charges if you often travel into London.
To find out more about the cost differences between petrol, hybrid and electric cars, read our handy blog
Just to recap...
You can charge your EV at home, at work, or at a variety of public charging stations. How much it costs depends on how big your car battery is, and how fast the charger is. Here are some key points to remember:
Charging at home costs around £8 for a full charge overnight on an off-peak tariff.
Charging at work is often free for employees. Maybe you just need to suggest it?
Public charging points vary from slow to rapid. The faster the charge, the more you pay.
Subscribe to a national public charging network for cheaper prices on the go.
Supermarkets and leisure centres often offer charging for free.
Rapid-charging stations are often found at motorway service stations, and cost around £6.50 for a 30 minute charge, or a 100 more miles on your journey.
OVO Energy can help you charge your electric car everywhere, for less. Get a quote and switch today!
Sources and references:
1 Free membership for 2 years to the UK's biggest charging network worth £188: By signing up to the EV Everywhere bundle for 2 years, you will get free membership to Polar Plus from the Polar network (normal cost £188.40 for 2 years). This membership will give you access to 5,635 charge points in the UK - you will have free charging at 80% of those charge points, but you will need to pay a charging cost for the remaining 20%
2 Each year, OVO plants 1 tree for every member in partnership with the Woodland Trust. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so tree-planting helps to slow down climate change.
3 The renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on REGO certificates and how these work.
4 By switching to OVO Energy you could reduce your carbon footprint by up to 1 tonne of carbon per year. This is based on the carbon emissions caused in the production and consumption of the 100% renewable electricity OVO provides as standard, compared to the emissions caused by the production and consumption of UK grid average electricity. Average UK household energy consumption figures were sourced from BEIS (2019). The carbon emissions factors were calculated by the Carbon Trust.
5 Free membership for 2 years to the UK's biggest charging network worth £188: By signing up to the EV Everywhere bundle for 2 years, you will get free membership to Polar Plus from the Polar network (normal cost £188.40 for 2 years). This membership will give you access to 5,635 charge points in the UK - you will have free charging at 80% of those charge points, but you will need to pay a charging cost for the remaining 20%.