Working out electric car charging costs can be tricky. We can help.

When you buy an electric car you’ll be attracted by the promise of lower running costs - but how much does it really cost to charge an electric car? With petrol or diesel cars you only have to think about fuel costs at the pump, but with electric cars there are lots of variables that can affect the cost of charging.

The cost to charge an electric car

Electric car charging prices vary dependent on:

If you have a garage or driveway and an installed home charging point, the cheapest and most reliable way to charge your electric car is at home on a cheap electricity tariff, often overnight.

The cost of charging an electric car at a public station in the UK will be higher, especially if you’re using a rapid recharger, often found at motorway service stations, and this is often the most expensive way to charge.

How much does it cost to charge different electric cars?

You can use a simple equation to work out how much your car will cost to charge.

Size of car battery (kWh) x electricity cost of supplier (pence per kWh) = cost to charge an electric car from empty to full.

We’ll take a look at an example here, using current electricity rates and the amount of charge needed for a home charge.

A Nissan Leaf with a battery size of 40 kWh would take just over 13 hours to charge. The average cost of electricity per kwh in the UK is 19p (although that’s expected to rise to 28p in 2022.)

40 (kWh) x 0.19 (pence per kWh) = £7.60 to charge from empty to full

So, a Nissan Leaf would cost £7.60 to fully charge at home, or 4.8p per mile, to give you about 160 miles of driving.

If you’re using a public charging point you can expect to pay more, with the price varying depending on what the speed of the charging point is. Rapid recharger cost more to use than slower recharge points, and you can expect to pay up to around 35p per KWh. This means a Nissan Leaf would cost up to around £14 to charge at a public charging point, or 8.75p per mile.

For comparison, a petrol or diesel car would cost around 12p per mile – or £19.20 for the same amount of driving, so you can see the potential savings you could make over time.

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Is it free to charge an electric car anywhere?

There are free car charging points around the UK where you don’t have to pay to charge your car.

They can be found at supermarkets, shopping centres, cinemas and restaurants in a growing number of locations.

While they may be free to use, parking charges may apply, or venues may have requirements that you use their facilities while you’re charging. Some employers offer free charging at workplaces too.

How do you pay to charge an electric car?

There are different ways to pay on different networks and depending on the location of the charger you’re using.

If you charge at home, the EV charging cost will be added to your electricity bill. You may be able to keep costs down by making use of a night-time tariff and programming your car to charge overnight.

Public charging stations offer different ways to pay. Sometimes you need to be a member of a scheme, sign up to an app, or have a dedicated card. All chargers must also offer a public access way to pay-as-you-go, and many chargers now feature contactless technology, so you can pay with a standard debit or credit card.

For more information on the growing UK charging network, Zap-map is a very useful website and app that lets you search for charge points, plan journeys, calculate costs and pay on participating networks.