Electric Cars / Employee

How to save money when charging your EV

How much does it cost to run and charge your electric car?


It’s undoubtedly one of the most popular questions surrounding EVs but, just as with a petrol or diesel car, it can vary.

Unlike with a petrol or diesel car though, the average EV driver usually has more control about the costs of how and where they charge on a day-to-day basis. With petrol or diesel, aside from motorway service stations where the costs can be very high, even shopping around for the best deals can usually only save a handful of pence per litre.

With an EV though, the differences in the costs of recharging can be far more dramatic and if you don’t shop around, you can easily pay double or even treble the price. So how much should you pay and what are the best ways to save money when charging your EV?

Clearly, free charging points are most obviously the cheapest locations. Although they’re becoming rare now, some retail locations are still offering free charging points to encourage visitors and, even if it’s a relatively slow 3kW post (the equivalent of plugging into a three-pin plug), then it’s still effectively free fuel, so worth doing.

After that, if you can charge at home then that will be your next cheapest place to charge. At present, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the average UK electricity price is 17.4p per kWh. However, there are some EV-specific tariffs which see that rate drop to 7.5p/ kWh between 00.30 and 04.30 every night.

While some rates seem like a bargain, the flip-side is that you do pay a slightly higher rate for the remaining 20 hours of the day, so you’ll need to do some calculations and see if it’s worth it depending on how much electricity you use during the day.


How do those rates translate do a full charge of an EV?


Using our Citroen e-C4 as an example, that has a 50kW battery, so for a hypothetical full charge from empty, that would be 50 x 17.4p at the standard rate which is £8.70. With that rate, if you charged only during those off-peak four hours, the cost for the same 50kW charge would be £3.75.

Charge out on the road and it’s a little different. Usually, not unlike petrol and diesel, you pay a premium for location, so prices at motorway service stations tend to more expensive than more rural, quieter places. The same goes for convenience and speed too.

While the likes of Gridserve have guaranteed a lower price at their electric forecourt service stations, normally the faster the charger, the more you will pay. So rapid chargers of 50kW and above tend to slightly more expensive to charge at than less powerful 7kW ones. How much more? Well, Ionity charges 69p/kWh for its rapid chargers of up to 350kW. That’s enough for our hypothetical full charge of the Citroen e-C4’s 50kW battery to be a whopping £34.50 (which is still cheaper than a petrol alternative, which for the same mileage would be £43.50)

Thankfully, you might not have to pay that though. If you enter into a tariff agreement with one of Ionity’s linked car manufacturers, then that same charge more than halves to 28p/kWh, but it does have an extra monthly subscription fee on top. You have to be using one particular charging company regularly to make that subscription worthwhile.

There are similar charging membership plans in place with other operators too which either have a subscription or be free – and this is where you can be clever and save yourself some money. If you use a 50kW BP Pulse charger for example, they charge 35p/kWh, but with their free membership plan that drops to 29p/kWh or if you take out a subscription, its 23p/kWh.

It may only sound like you’re saving a few pennies, but again if you’re using those charging points regularly, it can soon add up. With our 50kW Citroen e-C4, that’s the difference in charging alone between £17.50 or £11.50. You just need to make sure that you also factor in that subscription fee with working out your costs.

There are other factors when calculating the cost of your charge too. Some operators of charge points still require you to take out an account with them and pre-load it with credit before you start charging. Most have dropped this in favour of contactless payments but, as we said earlier, this might be at a higher rate of charging, so you need to check to get the best deal. Alternatively, they also sometimes add a connection fee on top as well, and so while often only a pound or two, it all adds up.

One thing to be mindful of so you don’t fall foul of additional fees, is the overstay fees at rapid chargers that some impose. Charge point operators are often keen for drivers not to hog the chargers for too long (the clue is in the name – ‘rapid’ chargers) for those of 50kW and above. So if you stay for longer than 90 minutes on a BP Pulse charger, then it will charge you an extra £10, so it’s worth making sure you only stay for the time you need. Most drivers are unlikely to of course, but it’s worth bearing in mind on longer journeys.

Another thing to be mindful of is the issue of parking fees – ironically one that catches most people out. Some charging points are in car parks or on private land where you can sometimes have to pay to park as well as the charging fee. Look out for signage around the charging point or check with Zap Map to see what other users have reported. Some hotels have CCTV which simply require you to register your number plate before leaving to ensure you don’t get a charge later on.

All in all though, with a little bit of effort it’s deceptively easy to reduce the cost of charging your electric car, as long as you keep your wits about you and keep an eye on exactly which charges you’re paying for. And then, hopefully, keeping your battery charging costs closer to £3.75 rather than £34.50 can ensure that’s the only charging that’s going on…


Interested in finding out more?