On-street public charging costs are making electric car ownership much more expensive

One of the main selling points for full electric vehicles is the cost of charging up the batteries. At home overnight charging should cost owners a few pounds rather than tens of pounds to fill up with petrol or diesel.

However, electric car owners who do not have their own charging facility, flat owners or urban dwellers are being charged hundreds of pounds more to recharge their vehicles at on-street public charging points.

Even the cheapest public charging points can cost twice the rate of a home charger. Worryingly research reveals that the most expensive can cost more than petrol or diesel fill ups.

Resent research suggests the savings of electric car charging disappear if drivers rely on public charging points. Given that nearly a third of drivers in the UK have no access to off-street parking, this could mean millions of drivers will have higher transport costs after they switch to an EV.

Real world driving costs

A report by EV website My Urban Car reveals driving an electric car 1,000 miles can cost more than driving a petrol or diesel car the equivalent distance, depending on the charge point used.

In comparison, petrol or diesel cars with fuel efficiency of 45 miles per gallon would require about £115-131 worth of fuel to drive 1,000 miles. Charging an electric car (Tesla 3) to travel the equivalent distance can cost almost £200 on the most expensive public chargers. This is compared to just £15 using a home charger.

Fast chargers are usually more costly than slower plug points. Ionity offers ultra-rapid 350kW plug points that inject 80 miles of range into a car’s battery in just 15 minutes. But it is also the most expensive provider in My Urban Car’s analysis, with costs totalling £196 for 1,000 miles of driving.

David Nicholson, who conducted the analysis for My Urban Car, pointed out that some public charging points are much cheaper. An Ubitricity lamppost charger would cost around £68 to charge a Tesla Model 3 for 1,000 miles of driving, while a BP Polar charger would cost around £85. “Finding good value public charging can be confusing for new EV owners as prices vary wildly,”.

A real world long distance drive away from home therefore could be more expensive than driving an ICE powered car.

Do your research

The findings are backed by What car? which found that the cost of recharging a BMW iX3 can cost up to £40 at the most expensive charge points, six times the cost of using a home charger.

What Car? said the cheapest pay-as-you-go public recharge available was offered by BP Pulse. This costs just under £10 for a recharge on its 7.4kW chargers. Source London’s “flexi” 7.4kW chargers were named as the most expensive option with a recharge costing £40.66. Source London said its prices also include the cost of parking. Source stressed cheaper tariffs are available if drivers sign up to its membership offer or charge at night.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said drivers relying on public chargers should do their homework on charging costs. “Motorists lucky enough to have off-street parking where a charge point can be fitted might benefit from very competitive domestic electricity prices. Unfortunately those reliant on public charging will need to do a bit more homework on the opportunities available to them”.

In a real long distance trip a driver has to plan its charging en-route. To add choosing the most cost effective supplier as well, may be a bridge too far!

With the Government planning on banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars form 2030 there is clearly still a lot to do. For example VAT of 20% is charged on public charge points as opposed to 5% on home electricity.


The Government clearly has a lot to do in this fledgling industry, legislation will be required to make pricing more transparent and a much larger pot of cash is required to enable enough on-street parking.

In light of this the UK Government has published plans to help curb the variation in the cost of public charging. However they do not include adjusting VAT rates. Instead, ministers plan to force all charge point operators to charge prices on a pence-per-kilowatt hour basis. This is the same formula used for home electricity bills. This will help consumers compare how much they are paying at home with how much they are paying when they use the public charging network.

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