Electric car drivers face postcode lottery on charging costs

Just 21 councils in England and Wales offer free charging while some demand up to £240 for a full charge

Electric car owners face a postcode lottery when it comes to charging costs at council-run facilities, new research has revealed.

While motorists in some local authority areas can top up their batteries for free, others are paying up to £4 per kWh at some locations.

The analysis of public charging costs shows a clear north/south divide with the cheapest chargers in the south of England an average of 28% more expensive than the cheapest chargers in the north and Wales.

However, those in the south also have far better access to chargers. A National World investigation last year found a significant north/south divide in charger provision and EV uptake and the new British Gas research suggests there are nearly 1,500 more council-run on-street chargers in the south.

A handful of councils offer free public charging
A handful of councils offer free public charging
A handful of councils offer free public charging

The research looked at the average cost of charging at the cheapest “fast” 7kW chargers in each council area, as well as looking at details of the most expensive overall units.

It found 21 council areas in England and Wales offered completely free charging at their fast chargers (see below) but on average drivers in the north paid 25p per kWh while those in the south paid 32p.

The West Midlands was the cheapest area overall, with an average charge of 20p per kWh, just ahead of the East Midlands at 22p/kWh.

Drivers in the East of England paid twice as much, at 40p/kWh, while those in the South-West faced average charges of 63p/kWh for the cheapest fast chargers.

Lucy Simpson, head of EV enablement at British Gas warned that such disparities risked slowing EV adoption in some areas, especially among drivers without off-street parking.

She commented: “With 29% of drivers citing expensive public charging as one of the main reasons holding them back, it’s unfair that those who don’t live in areas with either free or low-cost charging are being discriminated against based on their address. If this continues, we risk leaving a huge number of drivers behind in the transition to electric cars.”

Two councils are tied for the most expensive authority-operated device.

Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council and Cotswolds District Council both have locations that charge a massive £4 per kWh, meaning it would cost £240 to fully charge the average EV. That is almost 10 times more than a private firm such as Instavolt or Gridserve charges for ultra-rapid charging.

While the Bournemouth device is an ultra-rapid charger - meaning it will charge at more than 100kW - Cotswold council is charging the same extortionate rate for a standard fast charger.

RAC director of EVs Sarah Winward-Kotecha said that such rates were the opposite of what was needed to encourage drivers to adopt EVs.

She said: “Charging drivers an eye-watering £4 per kilowatt hour, sadly, makes current record petrol pump prices look reasonable. For example, using one of these chargers works out to be more than twice as expensive as filling up at a motorway services.

“We’d urge local authorities to lower prices for the charge points they are in control of to help make sure drivers don’t pay over the odds.”

The research did not examine data for Scotland or Northern Ireland, both of which have government mandated public charger networks. In many cases these offer free or heavily subsidised rates, although some units charge up to 30p per kWh.

List of councils where it is currently free to charge your EV:

  • Arun
  • Bracknell Forest
  • Bradford
  • Bridgend County Borough Council
  • Crawley
  • Daventry
  • East Riding of Yorkshire
  • Hambleton
  • Lancaster
  • Leeds
  • Lichfield
  • Lincoln
  • Oadby and Wigston
  • Southampton
  • Staffordshire
  • Stevenage
  • Stockport
  • Swindon
  • Tunbridge Wells
  • Warrington
  • Woking