The rising cost of charging explained and what it means for you

Ginny Buckley


The RAC has said that the cost of charging an electric car has surged due to the rise in energy prices, prompting fears it will put off drivers from buying them. It said owners who use "rapid" public charging points were paying almost the same for electricity as they would for petrol per mile. So let’s put this all into context and explain what it means for you.

Are charging costs going up?

Just as we have all had to pay more for our energy at home, the companies who provide public chargers have seen their costs rise too. In fact, they have had it even worse than domestic customers as there is currently no government-imposed cap on the prices charged to businesses.

As a result, charging operators have been steadily putting prices up over the past year. The highest currently charged is £1.00 per kWh at Osprey chargers, compared to 49p as recently as July. Non-Tesla drivers using the Supercharger network are also being hit hard with a price of 77p per kWh.

Overall the average cost of charging your electric car on the public network is now 56p.

Osprey's network is now the most expensive way to charge, at a whopping £1 per kWh

So it’s all doom and gloom then?

No, let’s put those rises into context. Those highest price hikes, which are driving overall costs up, are at the faster, rapid chargers. Drivers using these chargers are being hit hard for the convenience of topping up quickly as the hardware is expensive to buy and install, and they tend to be located in busy areas. 

This means electric car owners should only really use them in ‘emergency’ situations to get you home or to a cheaper charger - as you might do at a more expensive motorway service station where you know fuel prices will be higher.

What does the maths look like?

To ‘fill’ a 58kWh Volkswagen ID.3 on a cheap rate (7.5p Octopus Go) tariff, it will cost £4.35. To fully charge at a DC rapid charge point, the average cost is £32.48. At the most expensive ultra rapid charger in the UK this will now cost £58 - that should take you 210 miles. £58’s worth of petrol in a Golf would take you 374 miles.

The break-even point - where it’s actually cheaper to fill up with petrol - is when electricity costs go above 71p/kWh, which has already happened at some public charge points. If you’re using a Tesla or an Osprey charger to charge your car you now fall into this bracket.

Charging a car like this Audi at a Tesla station now costs 77p per kWh - more than petrol

Are those who can’t charge at home paying more?

Unfortunately, yes they are. And at we worry that we’re becoming a two tier nation, with the risk that electric cars will only make financial sense to drivers with off street parking. 

Many of those without access to home charging live also in urban areas, the very places electric cars can do the most to improve air quality.

What can be done to help drivers?

Some owners will be able to plug into cheaper sources of power - either on street, in supermarkets or even at work. There are also schemes and apps which allow people with off street chargers to rent them out to other drivers.

But mass adoption of electric cars will only come when the ‘fuel’ is cheaper than petrol and drivers can charge conveniently. To help this happen, we are calling on the government to reduce VAT on the power supplied through public chargers from 20% to 5%, in line with domestic electricity rates. We also await the details of the energy price cap for businesses, which will hopefully reduce cheating prices and give companies the confidence to invest in new infrastructure.

There are also places around the UK where you can charge for free, check out our guide on how to make the most of this. 

How can I save on the electricity my car uses?

By choosing a more efficient electric car, drivers could save more than £675 in annual charging costs alone, even when using cheaper energy at home. If you are using a typical public rapid charger to top up the saving rises to £1,308 every year.

In the same way that consumers have energy labels on their home appliances, we crunched the numbers and developed an E-Rating™ that has been designed to help buyers understand the overall efficiency of an electric car. The E-Rating™ algorithm gives cars a score from ‘A++’ down to ‘E’, to help buyers choose the right car for them whilst also saving money and time at the charger. You can find it on each of our reviews and search our cars by efficiency. You can read more about it here.

Charging at home is nearly always cheaper

So does an electric car still make financial sense?

In a word, yes. But the gap is narrowing and you’ll need to do some sums and make sure you choose how and where to charge to make you make the most of the possible savings. 

A year ago, the average electric car driver would see the cost to fuel their car drop by about 75% after making the switch, even when charging at peak rates during the day. Now the saving is just 49% on an average car. 

The latest Ofgem cap of 34p/kWh means that drivers who do 10,000 miles each year and charge on a standard energy tariff will still save £63 each month on fuel in a Volkswagen ID.3, compared to filling up a VW Golf with petrol at £1.69 per litre.

At the higher end of the market, those who choose a Tesla Model Y over a Mercedes GLC300 will still save £144 each month in fuel costs. 

The break-even point is when electricity costs reach 71p/kWh, which has already happened at some public charge points. This means electric car owners will need to be choosy about when and how they charge.

Hyundai Ioniq copnnected to bp pulse 50kW rapid charger Electric car driver need to be choosy about where they charge

​Will this stop people switching to an electric car?

Inevitably, especially private buyers who don’t get the same generous tax benefits given to company car drivers. Some industry bosses have already reported that orders have taken a sharp downturn, although there are enough back orders to disguise this for months to come.

But our survey figures show that the cost of charging isn’t the main reason people switch to electric though, with only 38% saying it is the top reason for swapping out of a petrol or diesel. Other factors, such as the environmental benefits and more refined driving dynamics, are just as important it seems.

What’s going to happen in October when the price cap changes?

For drivers who can charge at home, the per-mile cost will increase under the new energy price cap, but not as much as it would have done if the government hadn’t intervened. 

If you plug in your electric car at home and you’re on a standard variable tariff, then from 1 October you’ll be paying 34p/kWh for electricity. That’s up 21% from the current 28p/kWh capped rate.

Here are two examples of what the energy price cap will do to your per-mile costs based on an efficiency figure of 3.0 miles per kWh and 4.0 miles per kWh:

In less than a year many households have gone from fixed rate deals with their utility providers where electricity has cost around 14p per kWh for those on a single rate tariff to 28p a kWh after the Spring price cap was announced by Ofgem. We were facing a rise to 52p a kWh from 1 October, with likely further rises every three months after that.

Lower costs aren't the only reason drivers make the switch

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