How much does it cost to charge an electric car?
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.
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:
- £400 to £500 a year to run a dinky sized city cars, such as the VW E-Up or a small hatchback like the Renault Zoe.
- £450 to £600 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.
- £560 to £700 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.
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.
Hyundai Ioniq (2016-)
- Annual cost charging at home: £397.58*
- Annual cost using public charge points: £590.58*
- 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.
Seat Mii (2020-)
- Annual cost charging at home: £421.97*
- Annual cost using public charge points: £626.81*
- 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.
Mini Electric (2020-)
- Annual cost charging at home: £429.29*
- Annual cost using public charge points: £637.68*
- 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.
Least efficient electric car in our tests: Mercedes-Benz EQC (2019-)
- Annual cost charging at home: £673.20*
- Annual cost using public charge points: £1,000*
- 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 £670 to charge from home or £1,000 out on the open roads, based on our tests. The equivalent-sized diesel or petrol SUV would, respectively, cost around £1,250 to £1,350 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.
* 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 16.83p per kWh, which is based on standard tariffs from multiple energy suppliers, including regional variations. Public charge point rate based on 25p per kWh, which is the average non-member charge from major public networks.)
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 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').
Why can charging an electric car be more expensive than petrol, diesel or hybrids?
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 need an average of 2954.8kWh for 9,000 miles.
If you were to pay 29.8p per kWh to charge it – and most rapid chargers cost more than this – you’d pay £881 over a year. That’s more costly than the equivalent diesel 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 car||Average fuel consumption in Which? tests||Cost||Point at which electric becomes more expensive|
|Electric||20.4kwh per 100km (2,954.8kWh used)||n/a||n/a
|Diesel||55.95mpg||£878||29.8p per kWh|
|Petrol||41.28mpg||£1,136||38.5p per kWh|
|Large car||Average fuel consumption in Which? tests||Cost||Point at which electric becomes more expensive|
|Electric||19.83kwh per 100km (2,872kWh used)||n/a
|Petrol-hybrid||57.27mpg||£819.84||28.6p per kWh|
|Diesel||48.41mpg||£1,001.96||34.9p per kWh|
|Petrol||41.28mpg||£1,136||38.5p per kWh|