Is it cheaper to run a petrol or electric car? New data shows how energy crisis is hitting EV charging costs

Soaring energy prices sees cost-per-mile of rapid chargers overtake petrol prices but home charging remains far cheaper

Electric car drivers who regularly use rapid or ultra-rapid public chargers are paying more per mile than owners of petrol cars, according to new research.

The cost of public charging has soared by almost 60% in the last eight months as the energy crisis hits the nation’s charging stations as well as domestic bills. It now costs an average of 70.32p per kilowatt hour (kWh) to rapid charge on a pay-as-you-go basis, up from 44.55p (58%) last May. Ultra-rapid (100kW+) costs have also increased 47% to 74.79p per kWh on average.

The increase means that drivers who rely solely on pay-as-you-go rapid chargers (22-99kW) or use them for long journeys will now pay more than someone using a petrol car. However, for those who charge at home, per-mile fuelling costs for EVs remain lower than for petrol or diesel cars.

According to the latest figures from the RAC Charge Watch, drivers using rapid chargers now pay 20p per mile for their electricity, based on consumption of 3.5 miles per kWh. That compares to the 17p per mile cost of fuelling a petrol car capable of 40mpg and 20p per mile for a diesel with the same economy. Ultra-rapid chargers cost 21p per mile.

The rise means it now costs £36 to rapid charge a typical 64kWh family EV on average. That is almost £14 more than in May 2022 and more than twice the price of at-home charging on a standard domestic electricity rate, currently £17.87.

RAC EV spokesperson Simon Williams said: “For drivers to switch to electric cars en masse, it’s vital that the numbers stack up. In time, the list price of new electric models will come down but charging quickly has also got to be as affordable as possible.

“It continues to be the case that those who can charge at home or at work and who don’t use the public rapid charging network very often get fantastic value – even given the relatively high domestic energy prices right now.

“Sadly, the same can’t be said for people who either can’t charge at home or at work, or who regularly make longer journeys beyond the range of their cars. There’s no question they have to pay far more, and in some cases more than petrol or diesel drivers do to fill up on a mile-for-mile basis.”

While petrol and diesel prices have fallen in recent months, soaring wholesale electricity prices have pushed up the cost of energy for households and chargepoint operators. Last year it led to the first £1 per kWh chargers, although operator Osprey later cut its prices in response to the government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme.

Electric cars overtook diesel in 2022 to become the second most popular powertrain behind petrol. Registrations of EVs jumped 40% over the previous year and now account for 16.6% of all new cars.

However, there are concerns that especially during the current cost of living crisis, the rising cost of charging, problems with the charging network and the relatively high list price of EVs could discourage drivers from switching to an EV.

Williams commented: “As last week’s new car registration figures showed, the demand for EVs is clearly there but it’s vital this is sustained. Our concern is that the extremely high energy prices, which are already making people’s domestic energy bills so high, have the effect of putting people off using public EV chargers of all speeds altogether.

“Cutting the level of VAT on electricity sold at public chargers to 5% to match what people pay at home would be one way of keeping prices under control and would show the Government remains committed to doing everything it can to get more drivers to go electric.”

Sue Davies, head of consumer protection policy at Which?, said lower running costs had long been part of the appeal of EVs and rising bills could jeopardise this attraction. She commented: "Which? found that the upfront cost of buying an EV is the greatest barrier preventing drivers from considering one - and expensive running costs could further prevent people from choosing an EV. However, our research found that, for people who are able to charge an EV from home, electric cars are still generally cheaper to run than petrol and diesel equivalents.

"Charging at home won’t be an option for everyone, so it’s important that governments work with industry to develop and support solutions that enable people using public charging points to pay comparable rates."

Quentin Willson, founder of the Fair Charge campaign, called for an end to the “archaic” VAT policy on public chargers. He said: “While affordable home charging remains a real incentive for British drivers to go electric, we remain concerned that the small but significant proportion of drivers without access to private parking are doubly disadvantaged by more expensive charging costs and an added tax burden.”

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