Is Getting An Electric Car Cost Efficient?

by @edent | # # | 2 comments | Read ~475 times.

After three years of driving a nifty little hybrid, it’s time for my company car to be replaced. Of course, being a hippy, it’s only right that I choose an electric vehicle (EV).

Why? Cost, obviously.

I’ve been obsessively tracking my fuel consumption using the Fuelly app.

Edent Fuelly-fs8

If I’m lucky, I get around 60MPG (UK) – given my mileage, the yearly cost is around £1,350. That means that my average cost per mile is £0.104 (over the last 3 years).

Electric cars are, generally, more expensive to buy. But what are their running costs? Looking at the BMW i3 specs (the car I’m probably getting) the calculation is…

(Battery Capacity * Electricity Cost) / Miles

The battery has a 22kWh capacity, I pay around £0.12/kWh. The i3 can get around 80 miles out of the battery.

(22 * 0.12) / 80 = £0.033

So, the cost per mile is a third of what I pay for petrol. But wait! There’s more!

Regular readers know that I have solar panels on the house. During summer, I can easily generate the 22kWh needed to fill the car. On the weekends – or when I work from home – I can fill the car for free!

During November – usually the worst month for solar power – the maximum I can generate is 12kWh. Of course, the minimum is a paltry 0.8kWh, which will just about power the radio!

In total, assuming I do roughly the same mileage, I’ll be saving at least £900 per year. More if you factor in solar charging.

Public Charging

The fly in the ointment is the cost of public charging. For now, my work lets me plug in to a slow charger for free. If I want to charge up in a car-park or service station, I’ve got a small problem. Because of the UK Government’s pathological fear of centralised planning faith in the power of free-market capitalism, there are several different charging providers.

Now, this in itself, isn’t a problem. But each of them requires a separate subscription and smart card. There are universal power sockets – but not universal payment methods. Imagine if you had to pay a yearly fee to Esso just in case you wanted to fuel up at one of their stations.


Anyway, with a service like Polar some service stations charge £7.50 for a 30 minute rapid charge. That should fill the battery up to 80%.

7.5 / (80 * 0.8) = £0.075

7p per mile. Double what I pay at home, and within touching distance of the 10.4p per mile of petrol.

That’s before you add on the £20/year cost of membership to the charging network.

Frequent public charging brings the cost efficiency of an EV down slightly.

Home Charging

Ok, so there is one more cost! Most EVs will charge through a domestic plug socket. Thanks to the UK’s 230V infrastructure, a regular plug will fully charge a car overnight.

Get a 7kW fast-charger, and the car can be filled to 80% in around 3 hours.


The UK’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) provides subsidies to get fast-chargers installed at home. Generally speaking, the cost of installation is around £200.


We British are far too prudish with matters of finance, so I’m going to attempt to break from that stereotype and present some real figures about my personal costs for getting an EV.

I have a company car provided via my employers. Your sums may be different.

My current car costs me £16.03 per month in extra tax. I pay an average of £1,350.08 per year in petrol. Over a year, the total cost of ownership is £1,542.44

A fully tricked out BMW i3 with all the exciting features (Self driving! Auto parking! Magic door locks!) will cost me £62.05 per month in extra tax. Youch! It’s a more expensive car, on a lower tax band.

Assuming 3.3p per mile, and the same average mileage each year, my fuel costs will be £428.39. Over a year, the total cost of ownership is £1,172.75

That’s a saving of £370 per year.

In the first year, I’ll have to pay around £200 if I want a faster charger fitted.

At the moment, I park on the street outside my house – my garage is used for storing all the USB cables and old bits of computer that I just can’t bear to throw away. If I want my garage to get a new roof, electric doors, and generally made good – that’s another £4,500.


Further Thoughts

For my commuting needs, an electric car makes total sense. The i3 has a small petrol engine which can recharge the battery if needed – doubling its range should I wish to journey further afield.

Cost wise, it’s not the car itself which is the problem – it’s the infrastructure to support it. At the moment, I’m quite content to park on the street – getting an EV really necessitates a working garage. Unless I want to fling an extension cord onto the pavement…

Or, I’ll see if I can get a Tesla!

2 thoughts on “Is Getting An Electric Car Cost Efficient?

  1. I found that not owning a car saves me a LOT of money each year :). Instead I pay for a ZipCar membership and use that in the occasion that I need it. I just wish they did electric cars.

    Obviously my commute is in London where public transport is actually useful 🙂

  2. Get a Tesla

    More seriously, good blog. Looks about the same price as running a 20-year old Golf that we don’t drive very much. Hmm.

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