How much does it cost to charge an electric car? Public and private charging costs - and how long it takes

Breaking down the basics of EV charging, from public and domestic charging costs to different charger speeds and how to find a suitable device

Electric car charging costs are rising across the UK as domestic and business energy prices climb.

Recent research revealed that as EVs soar in popularity the cost of charging them is also rising sharply and in some cases is getting close to the per-mile cost of a petrol car.

Despite that, for many drivers an electric car is still far cheaper to run than a combustion engined model, with the difference significantly affected by factors such as the location and speed of the charger.

With car makers increasingly focused on EVs and the ban on sale of new petrol and diesel models getting ever closer, more and more drivers are considering making the switch, so to help, we’ve laid out the basics on how much it costs to charge an EV, how long it takes and how different factors affect both.

Location and speed of charger are just two elements that can affect costs

How many car charging points are there in the UK?

There are currently almost 35,000 public electric vehicle car charging points in the UK, but the government has announced it wants this to increase to 300,000 by 2030.

Some £500 million will be invested to install public chargepoints across the UK as part of the government’s new Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy, it was announced on 25 March, 2022.

Support will be focused on helping drivers without access to off-street parking, as well as on fast charging for longer journeys.

How much does it cost to charge an EV?

The answer to this depends on a number of factors but in every instance, costs have soared throughout 2022.

The first factor is the car itself. Different models have different battery capacities and in some cases the same car can come with a choice of battery capacities. The larger the battery, the more it will cost to charge but the further you’ll go on a single charge.

The second factor is where you plan to charge. In general, charging at home using a domestic wallbox is cheaper than using a public charger. The type of charger will also have an effect. If you’re using a public charging network then the faster the charger, the more you should expect to pay.

Home charging is generally cheaper but slower than using a public charger

To calculate how much a particular car will cost to charge you multiply its capacity by the energy cost.

This is simple for home charging, as long as you know your energy tariff. For example, the best-selling Renault Zoe has a 52kWh battery. At the current price cap of 34p per kWh it will cost you £17.68 for a full charge. A 64kWh vehicle such as the Nissan Leaf E+, Hyundai Kona or Kia e-Niro will cost £21.76 and a 100kWh Tesla Model S will cost £34.

Some energy suppliers offer tailored EV packages with incentives such as lower off-peak rates for overnight charging which can cut rates to as little as 7p per kWh. However, in the current climate many firms have stopped offering these rates to new customers.

Costs at public chargers are more complicated. Most charge per kWh, others charge by time and some include an initial connection fee. Some networks also offer preferential rates to subscribers who pay a monthly or annual fee.

As a rule, slow 7kW chargers are the cheapest and in some locations offer free charging. The highest costs are found at ultra-rapid units which offer charging between 100kW and 350kW.

Prices across all speeds of charger have risen sharply in 2022 and in September Osprey announced it was raising prices at its ultra-rapid units to £1 per kWh, making it the most expenseive public network in the country. Rival ultra-rapid providers Instavolt and Ionity charge 66p and 69p respectively while Gridserve charges between 64p and 66p per kWh depending on location.

At 66p per kWh a full charge for a Zoe would cost £34.32 while a 64kWh model like an e-Niro will cost £42.24, although most drivers simply top up at rapid public chargers rather than relying on them for 100% charges.

Complicating things further, some Tesla owners have unlimited free access to the brand’s exclusive Superchargers while others have to pay to use them, it all depends on the model and when it was purchased. The brand has also recently opened a handful of its sites to non-Tesla models.

How long does it take to charge an EV?

Like the cost, the answer to this depends on a number of factors.

The two key influences are the size of the car’s battery and the charger’s output power.

Chargers range from “fast” units - between 7kW and 22kW - to rapid (usually 50kW) and ultra-rapid 100-350kW. The more powerful a charger, the quicker it will top up a car’s battery.

Ultra-rapid chargers which offer more than 100kW are still relatively rare, although their numbers are increasing and according to Zap-Map there are now almost 6,500 rapid and ultra-rapid devices. At a station capable of 100kW charging, a typical EV will charge to 80 per cent in as little as 20 minutes.

As you’d expect, larger batteries take longer to charge but on a more common 50kW rapid charger most current models will charge to 80 per cent in between 60 and 90 minutes.

A 40kW Nissan Leaf will go from 20 to 80 per cent charge in around 60 minutes while the 62kW version will take 90. Hyundai says its 64kWh Kona Electric will take 75 minutes to go from zero to 80 per cent charge on a rapid charger and Renault claims the 52kWh Zoe will add the same charge in 100 minutes.

A Hyundai Kona Electric will take around 75 minutes to charge from 0-80% on a 50kW public charger

Below rapid chargers, “fast” chargers operate at between 7kW and 22kW. On public networks these are useful for a quick top-up rather than a full charge, with an 80 per cent charge taking around two hours for a 40kWh battery on a 22kW unit.

Home wallboxes also generally offer 7kW charging, where an overnight charge will completely recharge most cars’ batteries. A full charge will take somewhere between seven and 12 hours on a 7kW charger, depending on battery size. For example, a 40kWh Leaf takes around seven and a half hours while the 62kWh model takes 11 and a half. The Zoe will take around eight hours, while the Kona will take nine and a half.

Where can I charge my EV?

For most EV buyers a home wallbox is the preferred charging solution. This allows them to plug the car in to charge at a time that is convenient for them. There is a grant scheme to help pay for a domestic charge point and some manufacturers will also help cover the cost. In England, all new houses must now include an EV charger and similar legislation is being considered in Scotland.

However, when you’re out and about there are more than 30 networks offering public charging. According to Zap-Map there are currently 34,860 charging units across 20,888 locations, ranging from 3kW to 350kW.

Common locations to find public chargers are at motorway service stations, retail parks and supermarkets, public car parks and park-and-ride facilities as well as leisure centres, hotels, visitor attractions and car dealerships. More and more retailers such as McDonalds and Costa are also partnering with charger firms to install rapid charge units at their outlets.

Dedicated EV service stations are also starting to appear. Gridserve has opended two EV-specific Electric Forecourts with up to 30 charger each and Pivot Power has announced plans for a 38-charger location near Oxford. Both firms also plan to create dozens of similar sites around the UK in the coming years.

Different locations will feature different networks’ chargers. In some cases this may mean you have to sign up to additional networks before being able to use the chargers. However, some networks are working together to offer a single payment service while others such as Instavolt all you to tap and pay with a credit card.