Running costs of EVs: How much it costs to buy, charge and run an electric car

10 January 2022 | Celia Topping

The buzz around electric vehicles (EVs) is getting louder all the time. With no Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) (often known as Road Tax) to pay, no petrol or diesel costs, and guaranteed zero tailpipe emissions1, the greenest car on the street is also one of the most covetable. 

In Autumn this year, sales of new EVs overtook sales of new diesel cars for the first time ever! That’s great news for the environment, as the transport sector produces around a third of the UK’s carbon emissions. The government has now pledged to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. It’s all part of their proposal to produce almost zero emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement

A Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) runs on, yes, you guessed it, a battery. This means there’s no engine burning dirty fossil fuels, and thus, no nasty carbon emissions. So driving a BEV instead of a petrol or diesel car can cut an estimated 2 to 3 tonnes of CO23 per year! Nice one BEV! 

Hybrid cars (that use both a petrol/diesel engine and a rechargeable battery) still have lower carbon footprints than normal cars, despite increased emissions created during their production. So as more people wake up to the benefits of electric cars, there’s no better time to seriously consider getting rid of that gas-guzzler sitting outside your home. Get on trend and go electric! 

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. 

Read on to find out everything you need to know about owning and running an electric car. 

Costs of running an electric car vs a petrol car

The price tag of an EV is undeniably higher than an equivalent conventional car. But research already shows that over a vehicle’s lifetime, you could be financially better off with an EV.

You might not be rushing to get on the list for the much-anticipated second generation Tesla Roadster – which would set you back an eye-watering £189,000. Gulp. But, happily, BEVs are becoming more and more affordable and competitive for potential buyers. 

At the less expensive end of the scale are the Nissan Leaf at around £27,000, the Renault Zoe, which starts at £30,000, and the Volkswagen ID3, starting at about £32,000. And you can pick up a hybrid Renault Clio E-tech for just under £20,000. Sure, the original outlay may be more – but it’s important to remember that EVs are cheaper to run in many ways:

  • Since April 2020, all pure electric cars are exempt from road tax for the entire duration of their use. And hybrid vehicles pay a flat rate of £140 a year.
  • There’s also a government plug-in car grant for new EV buyers, which is worth £1500.
  • Running costs are much lower for BEVs – so no more expensive trips to the petrol station. BEVs are also very cheap to charge
  • EV owners have access to free parking spaces around the country, as well as free charging stations in many car parks.
  • Living in London? EVs avoid the £15 daily congestion charge for inner city driving. And there’ll be no charging issues in the Ultra Low Emission Zone (vehicles must meet the ULEZ emission standards or pay a daily charge).

Get the full picture on electric vs hybrid vs petrol, in our bumper (no pun intended) guide to the pros and cons of electric, hybrid and conventional cars.

How much does an EV cost in ‘fuel’?

Possibly the key benefit to owning a BEV or hybrid vehicle, is how much it costs to actually run on the road. 

Direct Line Insurance4 did the maths on an average traditional petrol-fuelled car and its EV equivalent. Annually, the petrol car cost £824 to run, but the EV a mere £343 to charge. Hybrids can save money on fuel costs too, as they use around 30% less fuel per mile than conventional cars5

Of course, depending on where you live, fuel and electricity might be more or less expensive. For example, if you use an off-peak overnight electricity tariff, the savings are even better. Check here for more specific car price comparisons. Fuel-wise, it’s a total win for EVs. 

How much does it cost to tax a Battery Electric Vehicle?

That’s an easy one: absolutely nothing. As of April 2020, all BEVs are exempt from paying tax. But, as VED (road tax) is based around CO2 tailpipe emissions, the average cost for petrol and diesel cars is £1666. And if your car’s purchase price was over £40,000, there’s a £310 supplement.

That’s another tick in the box for EVs. Plus, even for a hybrid car, you’ll only pay a flat tax rate of £140 a year. 

Do EVs lose value in the same way as traditional cars?

All new cars lose value, or depreciate, as soon as they leave the forecourt. A big consideration when you’re buying a new car is how quickly the car depreciates – especially if you’re buying on finance. 

Generally, after 3 years or 30,000 miles, most cars tend to be worth around 40% of their new purchase price. That’s a big drop. But, some cars depreciate faster than others. This depends on several factors, including:

  • How desirable and popular the model is
  • How dependable the car is
  • How much mileage is clocked up 
  • How well the car has been looked after

When the first generation EVs (like the Citroen C-zero or Reva’s G-Wiz) came on the market almost 20 years ago(!), they depreciated really quickly. This was because the public’s general understanding of the EV market was low. Plus, unfortunately, the tech wasn’t quite there yet, and these particular models got terrible reviews

Nowadays, the reverse is true. EVs are more in demand because of their green credentials, high-tech appeal, money-saving potential and other benefits.

Plus, with so many more makes and models on the market, the public’s general understanding of the market is far better than 20 years ago. For that reason, some EVs are not depreciating as much as their petrol or diesel counterparts. 

It’s also worth remembering that hybrids like the sensationally-popular Toyota Prius have been highly desirable since their introduction onto the market.

How much does it cost to insure an electric car?

Unfortunately, this is one area where EVs fall down. Electric cars are pushed into a higher insurance bracket for a number of reasons:

  • The initial purchase price of a new EV is higher than their fossil fuel equivalent
  • EVs, especially the high-end cars, tend to use more expensive and advanced lightweight materials, which are costly to replace in case of an accident. 
  • Even after a fairly minor collision, most manufacturers insist on the battery being replaced. This is due to concern that the lithium ion battery’s fuse could have been triggered and possibly catch fire at a later date. For a Mercedes, for example, that’s a £12,000 job. 
  • Specialist technical knowledge is needed to fix an EV’s electrical systems, and not all mechanics have this skill set yet. Generally, it’s only the more expensive main dealer workshops that have the know-how.

The good news is that as EVs become increasingly mainstream, more insurance companies will give policies, and prices will drop. In the meantime, it’s worth shopping around and not just auto-renewing at the end of your existing policy. 

Read more in our full guide to electric car insurance. 

Is it expensive to maintain an electric vehicle?

EV’s may have a high-tech image, but in reality, there are far fewer moving parts in an EV than in petrol and diesel vehicles. This means there are fewer things to go wrong and replace.

Electric car batteries and motors actually require very little routine maintenance. Besides that, an EV’s clever regenerative braking system spares the car’s brake pads and discs, which are usually a major expense in traditional cars. 

On the other hand, electric car tyres can be more expensive, as they’re less common. And, when electric cars do go wrong, the advanced technical knowledge needed to repair them can’t be found everywhere. So you’ll probably end up paying a premium for a main dealer to take a look. 

Bearing these points in mind, it’s worth noting that most electric car servicing plans are cheaper than traditional vehicles. So we can chalk up another win for EVs! 

Find out more about the various connector and plug options for charging your EV, with our how-to guide.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car? 

Just as with a regular petrol or diesel car, the cost to ‘refuel’ or charge an EV depends on various factors:

  • The make and model of the car, and the size of its battery
  • Where the charging post 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  subscription

Confused? Let’s break it down:

Cost of charging electric cars at public stations 

Public charging stations  aren’t the main charging option for EV owners – but if you’re caught short on a longer journey they’re invaluable. And a 40 to 50 minute boost while doing the weekly shop could add around 100 miles to the battery. 

Public charge points can be found on the street, in carparks, at supermarkets, service-stations, hotels and many other locations. And there are literally dozens of UK public charging networks providing them. The major ones, like Polar, GeniePoint, Ecotricity, Shell Recharge and ChargeYourCar mainly require subscription, but some offer a PAYG service as well. 

Polar is the UK’s largest public charging network, with over 7,000 charge points, and counting. They charge £7.85 a month for membership, which includes some free charging stations, while others have a 12p/kWh tariff. As with the other providers, access to the network is with a smartphone app, easy-to-use RFID (radio-frequency identification) card, or key fob. 

To find out more information about slow, fast and rapid charging, plus charging at home and away, see our detailed article on costs of EV charging

How many public charging stations are there?

‘Range anxiety’ is a very real concern for potential buyers. Just how far will an EV go on a full battery, and what if it runs flat? After all, it’s no use in keeping a spare can of petrol in the boot!

But, fear not, because new public charging points are being added to the network daily. In fact, there are now more electric charging points than fuel stations in the UK7. That works out at 12,690 locations, with a total of 35,146 connectors (November 2020)8. Puts your mind at rest, doesn’t it?

Cost of charging an electric car at home

Home-charging is the most convenient way for EV owners to charge their car. EVs plug into the mains electricity supply – so It’s crucial to find the  best home energy tariff to keep costs down. 

How much does a home charger cost? 

Installing an electric vehicle charger at home costs between £300 and £1,000, depending on:

  • The model of car (and size of battery)
  • The type of charging station
  • The location of the charging station (accessibility)
  • Who installs it

This sounds like a lot to pay up front. But if you use an Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV)-approved supplier, you could be eligible for a grant from the government worth up to £350 towards installation. 

NOTE: This grant will be discontinued as of April 2022

Besides that, considering the amount you stand to save in fossil-fuel costs, your charging station costs would be paid off within a few weeks. 

Read our complete guide to getting an EV charger installed at home.

Take a look at the table below, created by our resident EV expert, Chris Britton. It compares a traditional petrol Mini Cooper S and it's electrical counterpart, the Mini Electric. Just look at all those emissions cut by the Mini Electric! And despite the higher price tag, you're back in black after 4 years. 

Sources and references