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Updated: 9 Nov 2021

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

We reveal how much it really costs to charge an electric car, plus how this compares with hybrid, petrol and diesel cars
Adrian Porter
E-Car charging street5

Electric cars should cost hundreds of pounds less to charge a year compared with filling the same size of car with petrol or diesel, provided you use the results of our independent research and analysis. 

Those who have off-street parking and can charge at home will not only benefit from the convenience of being able to charge their car when it’s not in use, but should also be able to get the cheapest rates.

If you can't charge from home, you will almost certainly pay more to charge your car over a year using public charging points. Conversely, the fastest way to charge an electric car is to use a rapid or ultra-rapid charging points, but they’re almost always the most expensive. Some are so pricey that you could end up paying more than you would to fuel the equivalent-sized petrol or diesel car.

However, some public charge points are free to use and we can show you how to find them. 

Keep reading to find out all you need to know about how much it costs to charge an electric car, plus we reveal the cheapest (and the most expensive) electric cars to run.

Cheaper to run and satisfying to drive – take one of the best electric cars for a test drive and you may never drive a petrol or diesel again.

Gridserve electric car forecourt at Braintree

What it really costs to charge an electric car: a quick guide

As a general guide, based on our independent tests, here's how much you're likely to pay to cover 9,000 miles* if you can charge at home:

  • £500 to £580 a year to run a dinky sized city cars, such as the VW E-Up or a small hatchback like the Renault Zoe.
  • £525 to £730 for medium and large cars, such as the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model 3 respectively. It's a similar amount for compact SUVs, such as the Hyundai Kona.
  • £670 to £830 for large SUVs like the Audi E-tron.

As you can see from our figures, how much power an electric car uses is largely influenced by its weight and size. But, like their combustion counterparts, some electric cars are much more frugal with their battery power than others.

All of our expert electric car reviews will tell you how much a car will cost you to run a year, so you can compare costs and make sure you don't get caught out.

Hyundai Ioniq electric car

Which electric cars cost the least to charge?

In the same way that a petrol or diesel car can either be fuel efficient or a fuel drinker, there are big differences in how efficiently electric cars use the power from their batteries. So charging costs will vary from one electric car to another.

Unlike traditional combustion cars, there is also some energy lost when charging an electric car. This is because it takes more electricity to charge a battery than a battery can hold. We refer to this as loss of charge, and some cars/batteries suffer more than others.

Our electricity consumption figures takes account of how much electricity a car uses when driving and incorporates loss of charge to create a more realistic idea of power use. 

You’ll find out running costs for every car tested since 2012, electric or otherwise, in our car reviews. Here, we’ve pulled out the three most energy efficient electric cars from our independent tests.

Hyundai Ioniq Electric car_side

Hyundai Ioniq (2016-) 

  • Annual cost charging at home: £495.79 or approximately 6p per mile*
  • Annual cost using public charge points: £708.27 or approximately 8p per mile*
  • Electricity consumption: 16.3kWh per 100km
  • Needed for 9,000 miles: 2,360kWh*
  • Motor tested: 100kW/136hp
  • Battery capacity: 38.3kWh
  • Required to fill battery to 100%: 44.1kWh

The Hyundai Ioniq is extraordinary when it comes to energy efficiency. A large car with a kerb weight of around 1.6-tonnes, it would cost around £400 a year to keep charged over 9,000 miles. 

Based on our independent tests, this makes it the cheapest-to-fuel electric car you can buy brand new today.

How far will it get on a single charge and what's it like to drive? Find out by reading our Hyundai Ioniq (2016-) review.

Seat Mii electric

Seat Mii (2020-)

  • Annual cost charging at home: £526.21 or approximately 6p per mile*
  • Annual cost using public charge points: £751.72 or approximately 8p per mile*
  • Electricity consumption: 17.3kWh per 100km
  • Needed for 9,000 miles: 2,506kWh*
  • Motor tested: 61kW/80hp
  • Battery capacity: 32.3kWh battery
  • Required to fill battery to 100%: 37.8kWh

The small Seat Mii is effectively a rebranded version of the (now off-sale) VW E-Up, and has replaced the previous petrol version of the Mii. Its running costs are extremely low but the Mii costs around twice as much as a typical city car, making the cost saving feel null and void.

It might be efficient, but we can’t recommend the Mii based on its Euro NCAP safety score. It only received three stars out of five – we take vehicle safety seriously at Which? and any car that scores three stars or fewer is an instant Don't Buy.

Find out more about this car and its safety report - see our Seat Mii (2020-) review.

Mini Electric (2020-)

  • Annual cost charging at home: £535.33 or approximately 6p per mile*
  • Annual cost using public charge points: £764.76 or approximately 8p per mile*
  • Energy efficiency: 17.6kWh per 100km
  • Needed for 9,000 miles: 2549kWh*
  • Motor tested: 135kW/184hp
  • Battery capacity: 32.6kWh battery
  • Required to fill battery to 100%: 37.6kWh

The Mini Electric is based on the same three-door hatchback body as the conventional Mini Hatch, but with a few subtle differences, such as the closed-off front grille. 

With 184hp to use, Mini’s first ever electric car is no slouch.

It might be nippy, but what range does it offer and can you live with it? Find out by diving into our Mini electric (2020-) review.

Mercedes-Benz EQC (2019-) SUV

Least efficient electric car in our tests: Mercedes-Benz EQC (2019-)

  • Annual cost charging at home: £839.50 or approximately 9p per mile*
  • Annual cost using public charge points: £1,199.28 or approximately 13p per mile*
  • Energy efficiency: 27.6kWh per 100km
  • Needed for 9,000 miles: 3998kWh*
  • Motor tested: 300kW/408hp
  • Battery capacity: 80kWh battery
  • Required to fill battery to 100%: 93kWh

At the other end of the spectrum is this massive, luxury SUV from Mercedes – the EQC. It weighs in at a hefty 2.5 tonnes, has a massive 80kWh battery and a powerful 300kW/408hp to keep it moving. 

Put your foot down and you’ll find this big car will shift far quicker than you likely gave it credit for. But unless you adopt a relaxed driving style, as our lab experts put it, sporty drivers will see their range ‘dwindle away’.

It’s expensive to run for an electric car. It costs around £839 to charge from home or £1,200 out on the open roads, based on our tests. The equivalent-sized diesel or petrol SUV would, respectively, cost around £1,375 to £1,475 to fuel. Although that’s still a decent saving for those who can charge from home, it's less so for those who can’t.

To be fair, those spending well above £60,000 to buy a luxury SUV may be less worried about running costs.

But comfort, road manners and range remain essential. Read our Mercedes-Benz EQC review to find out if this is money well spent.

* Mileage and energy costs: 9000 miles is the average (pre-Covid) mileage survey respondents said they did in our most recent car survey. (UK wide survey, 47,013 owners told us about 55,833 cars they own). Home charging uses a rate of 21p per kWh, which is based on standard tariffs from multiple energy suppliers, including regional variations. Public charge point rate based on 30p per kWh.

Tesco VW PodPoint charger

Where can I charge my electric car for free?

Yes, you really can charge your electric car for free. Various businesses and attractions offer free charging, as well as retail parks and regular car parks. The catch is that it’s typically for paying customers of that business, and in some places, parking restrictions/fees may still apply.

A number of supermarkets also now offer free charging. Tesco, for instance, has partnered up with Volkswagen and Pod Point. At the start of 2021, it had 600 chargers across 300 locations, and provides free charging on its fast (7-22kW) charge points. Rapid chargers (50kW) still require payment. Though it's a collaboration with Volkswagen, all cars can use the chargers.

Pod Point, provider of the free charge points at Tesco and other supermarkets, is the one of the largest networks in the UK. Around 70% of its non-rapid chargers are free to use.

But just because a Pod Point charger is free it doesn't mean you can just plug it in and walk away. You'll still need to use Pod Point's app to start the charge, or alternatively, visit the company's website and select the charger you're using. 

This means you'll need a smartphone or other internet-enabled device to start a charge (though you will get up to 15 minutes of charging without this).

Zap-Map is arguably one of the most useful resources to today's electric car driver. Its app and website has mapped over 95% of the available chargers in the UK (no one has 100%).

You can use the filters on the Zap-Map website to look for charge points and filter by network, plug types, whether you can pay by bank card and more. You can also filter by free charging points (go to the 'Payment' filter, then select 'free to use'). 

The public charging infrastructure is complicated and could feel overwhelming at first. We'll help you get to grips with it – find out what you need to know in our guide on how to use electric car charging points.

Kia E-Niro (2019-) review

Why can charging an electric car be more expensive than petrol, diesel or hybrids?

With very few exceptions, it should always be cheaper to charge your electric car at home. But if you're using charging points away from home, you could end up paying up more than any other car type.

Those using Rapid and Ultra Rapid chargers (the fastest way to get electricity into your car) are particularly at risk from paying more than their fossil fuel counterparts.

As an example, our lab tests show that medium-sized electric hatchbacks like the VW id.3 use an average of 20.38kwh per 100km in our tests. That means a car this size will use 2951.9kWh over 9,000 miles - the typical pre-covid annual mileage.

If you were to pay 38p per kWh or more to charge it – and many rapid or ultra-rapid chargers cost more than this – you’d pay £1,121.71 over a year. That’s more costly than the equivalent diesel or petrol-hybrid car.

If you don't want to pay over the odds, use our information below. Basically, if you're paying more than the number on the far right, you're paying more for your electricity than the equivalent hybrid or traditional combustion car.

Medium cars

Medium car typeAverage fuel consumption in Which? testsCostPoint at which electric becomes more expensive 
Electric20.38kwh per 100kmn/an/a
Full hybrid (petrol)55.67mpg£1,068.5537p per kWh
Diesel55.81mpg£1,092.6338p per kWh
Petrol41.38mpg£1,437.5649p per kWh

Large cars

Large car typeAverage fuel consumption in Which? testsCostPoint at which electric becomes more expensive 
Electric21.17kwh per 100kmn/an/a
Full hybrid (petrol)57.21mpg£1,039.7834p per kWh
Diesel48.41mpg£1,259.6542p per kWh
Petrol36.27mpg£1,640.0954p per kWh

Compact or small SUV

Compact/Small SUV typeAverage fuel consumption in Which? testsCostPoint at which electric becomes more expensive 
Electric19.96kwh per 100kmn/an/a
Full hybrid (petrol)50.36mpg£1,181.2241p per kWh
Diesel49.01mpg£1,244.2244p per kWh
Petrol41.24mpg£1,442.4450p per kWh

Medium and large SUVS

Medium/Large SUV typeAverage fuel consumption in Which? testsCostPoint at which electric becomes more expensive 
Electric25.36kwh per 100kmn/an/a
Full hybrid (petrol)46.83mpg£1,270.2635p per kWh
Diesel41.41mpg£1,472.5841p per kWh
Petrol37.91mpg£1,569.1443p per kWh

Tables updated November 2021. Petrol rate is 145.39p per litre, Diesel rate is 149.04p per litre, taken from RAC's Fuel Watch (November 2021).

Use the results of our independent lab and road tests to help you choose your next car – see our expert pick of the best electric cars.