In the outgoing world of fossil-fuelled cars, drivers hoping to save some money seek out the most fuel efficient motors to gain the most miles per gallon. Similarly, those same motorists will check out their local filling stations to find the best per litre price; these days there is even an app or two for that.
Well, there’s nothing wrong with being careful and, in the incoming world of the electric car, those same frugal, money-saving ideas will still apply. In short, we all know by now that battery-electric cars (BEV) are cleaner, greener and cheaper to run, and that plug-in hybrid vehicles consume less fuel per mile: but there’s no harm in checking out the best electricity prices to make owning an electric car that much more worthwhile.
These days there is an increasingly wide selection of vehicles on offer to suit most budgets and needs in terms of practicality and the like. Thus, having then selected the right EV at the right price, remembering to cost home charging stations and battery charging cables into the equation, it then makes absolute sense to consider your personal home electricity tariff too; seeking out the best deals. To help, here’s a handy guide:
Do electric cars increase your electric bill?
The quick answer is yes: It stands to reason that any further electricity use over and above the usual household consumption is going to cost more. However, this extra cost will almost certainly be offset by the far cheaper running costs of a BEV or hybrid plus savings on servicing as EV’s are cheaper to maintain. The cost of charging will be included in the normal electricity bill, that makes choosing the right car and the right accessories even more important.
Buyers need to consider how they will, broadly speaking, use the vehicle. Is high mileage involved for example? This will necessitate a choice of vehicle that can manage longer journeys between battery charges. Conversely, if mostly local mileage is the norm then consider a smaller, lighter vehicle with less distance capacity and a smaller battery pack. Clearly then, usage will impact on an energy bill and by how much will depend on the size of the EV battery, and what the domestic tariff is for each unit of electricity.
For convenience and, crucially, charging efficiency, the soon-recouped single outlay for a controllable home charging station that can monitor and adjust charging to maximise use of cheaper night-time tariffs makes sense from the outset.
Remember too that long journeys will of necessity mean a top-up of the vital juice en route. Although this does not affect home running costs it does affect the motoring budget. Fuel stops at public charging points will mean an additional cost, usually by way of a subscription. Typically, the cost for thirty minutes rapid charging (approximately 100 miles worth) with be around £6-7. So, as with any vehicle, there is a price to pay; that’s why careful thought and a bit of energy tariff comparison from different suppliers will pay dividends. Don’t just stick with the big brands either; investigate the growing numbers of independent suppliers many of whom are operated on a more ethical basis, if that is important to you.
Why is choosing the best tariff important
One of the principal joys of buying a BEV or hybrid is that owners can luxuriate in the knowledge that they will never again have to pay through the nose for heavily taxed petrol or diesel. They also get free road tax (for now at least), yet still the cost of electricity must be taken into consideration.
Most people will be more than well aware from past experience that the energy market is something of a buyer’s minefield. The old days of nationalised industry simple choices, like Economy 7 are in the past. These days there are usually a broad and frankly for the layman, confusing, selection of tariffs on offer some of which can be flexible and others that can tie the customer into a fixed price contract. Every choice offers the usual swings and roundabouts and, of course, the additional costs of charging an EV have to be taken into consideration.
Independent assessment has shown that home EV charging, using a three-pin plug or a more sophisticated home charging unit with a dedicated charging cable, can increase a household electricity bill by a fairly substantial amount. That is why it is so important that electric car owners ensure that they switch tariffs or suppliers to find the best EV focused tariff available to keep those running costs down.
How much can you save with the correct EV tariff?
Obviously the amount of money saved can vary depending upon the type of electric car, how it is used and the overall annual mileage driven, so there’s no hard and fast rule. That said, respectable sums can be saved simply by following the rules of energy purchase that are always advised in this free market economy.
As a nation we are recommended to regularly check, compare and switch energy suppliers annually or at least every time a contract comes up for renewal. That advice still holds good; we all know that energy companies want to attract new customers and always offer preferential deals to newbies. As a rough rule of thumb, consider this: For every one-hundred pounds saved, an electric car could travel 1000 miles. Based on that figure and using the nation’s annual mileage average, pretty much all the additional costs of fuelling an EV could be saved simply by regularly switching to the cheapest available fixed rate tariff.
Often some fairly substantial discounts can be found, saving hundreds of pounds. We should all do this as a matter of course but it makes even more sense when running a BEV or hybrid car. When searching for a great deal look at off-peak prices, as many energy companies offer lower electricity tariffs at night when the demand on the grid is reduced and energy prices are cheaper. Further, consider the time it takes to fully charge a car and compare that with the number of off-peak hours available.
Although they have received something of a mixed reception, sooner or later consumers are going to have to accept that so-called ‘Smart’ meters are going to be in every home. The idea is that these units make it easier for the customer to keep tabs on usage and, because the company has linked access to the readings, they can accurately calculate bills.
There’s also the added benefit of a new breed of tariff, making the most of cheaper off peak electricity, enabling EV charging to take place at the most economic period of the day. That’s where the latest crop of intelligent home charging units fit in. The more sophisticated units can now be controlled remotely by the user, to make the most of cheaper energy.
Comparing the Best Energy Suppliers for Electric Cars
It will come as no surprise to learn that energy supplier companies have been quick off the mark and are making sure they have some great deals on offer for EV users. These brands have quickly realised that EV-owning customers will be looking for competitive tariffs to power up their vehicles. To find the best deal, visit a comparison site or go to the individual brand’s website. A quick phone call can also ascertain if they offer deals to electric car users.
As a general guide, For a typical electric car with a 60kWh battery and circa 200 mile range, charging at home will cost about £8.40 for a full load, although, naturally enough, this could vary somewhat depending upon vehicle and tariff, but it’s a guide. Here’s some examples:
One of the larger energy providers, Scottish Power have launched, as of June 2020, their first tariff designed for EV users who charge their electric vehicles at home. The offer is for 100% renewable energy, plus additional extras and the brand will also sell customers a smart home charger combining eligibility for grant funding, dedicated control via an app and fully compliant installation. The only proviso here is that, following the standard switching advice, is to ensure that the unit can be transferred to a new supplier without issue.
The company has a dedicated page for EV users on their website and have further developments in the pipeline, seeking to enhance their existing provision of home services. In their opinion the switch to electric vehicles will speedily increase in the coming years and that is why they are increasing their focus on electric vehicle services and bespoke tariffs. Charge, for up to ten times less than the cost of petrol per mile with their discounted charging periods, are currently 4.7p/kWh.
This household name states that it is committed, as they all are, to a low-carbon, sustainable future and as such are also at the forefront of offering packages to electric car or hybrid owners. Their vision, they say, is to decarbonise transport for a healthier future.
EDF Energy provides electric vehicle services for consumers and for business users including charge points and installation and dedicated energy plans for EV owners both at home and at work. Interestingly, they are also getting into electric vehicle leasing.
Here’s an example from this company: Their 100% renewable energy ‘Go Electric’ tariff offers half-price electricity evenings and weekends (9pm to 7am) for both home and car. Currently (no pun intended) that’s 8p per kWh.
A more recent and popular addition to the growing list of energy suppliers, Octopus was one of the first to offer a flexible tariff aimed at drivers of electric cars and boasts that it is easy to go electric. They offer a selection of easy and affordable charging solutions with great prices on smart chargers and energy tariffs designed with the electric car in mind.
Their present offer for off-peak power is a 5p/kWh rate for four hours every night (between 12.30 and 4.30am). This equates to around 1p per mile, but will require a rapid home charger. At other times the peak unit price applies: At the time of writing this will be around 13-14p/kWh.
The company that was once and still is a leading producer and seller of fossil fuels has not been slow in adapting to the world of Utilities that supply home energy. In addition to rapid chargers on their forecourts, they have also entered the home charging market with dedicated units.
Right now the company are offering EV drivers an exclusive tariff that covers the cost of 2000 miles a year. In other words that’s 2000 miles on them. Users will need to have a Smart meter installed and can then take advantage of their ‘exclusive’ EV tariff.
Following denationalisation of the Utilities market in the UK, British Gas were one of the first on the scene and continue to be one of the biggest and oldest suppliers. Moving with the times, British Gas now offer a competitive deal for EV drivers. It’s called the ‘Electric Drivers Energy Plan’ and offers, they say, a cheaper rate of 4.7p/kWh between midnight and 5am, although this can vary up to 11.84p kWh, depending on the deal taken. As elsewhere, customers will need to have a Smart meter fitted, in this case free by the company.
Getting a home charge point can be reasonably competitively priced thanks to a government grant which is available to all EV users regardless of supplier. This could bring down the cost of home charge points to around £300 – £400 for a basic unit.
For any supplier, switching to a tariff that has an overnight off-peak rate, the most likely time for EV charging, will likely reduce costs but it may not suit all users so choose carefully when selecting a tariff.
The fixed price EV tariff and free mileage/discount offers?
Fixed rate tariffs ensure that contracted customers are not afflicted by sudden price rises, so giving peace of mind. Of course, they would still be on the same rate if prices dropped, so there’s that, but in the current economic climate it doesn’t seem very likely, long term.
Generally speaking, a fixed rate tariff for EV users is pretty much the same idea. These tariffs are offered to drivers who own or lease a BEV or a plug-in hybrid. Usually, these tariffs come with the promise of 100% renewable electricity. Drivers need to be able to charge their cars quickly and conveniently, which means home charging in the main. Offering EV-specific ‘fix and drive’ rate tariffs means that customers can make use of cheaper off-peak power for their cars. Since most domestic electricity use is when the household is up and about, it means that the extra cost that charging adds to the bill can be mitigated by making more and better use of off-peak deals.
Better still, many suppliers offer useful perks in the form of, essentially, free miles in the form of a discount on the bill. It varies and needs to be balanced against the unit cost but, to attract new business, suppliers are offering special deals for a certain amount of free power which they equate in terms of miles. Shop around for the best fixed rate EV offers.
How much electricity does it take to charge a BEV?
This question is much the same as asking, ‘how long is a piece of string’? The answer is necessarily variable and depends upon the type or brand of car involved, specifically relating to the size of the battery pack. Thus a car with a larger battery pack will draw more power.
The rated power of any given vehicle is determined by the charge current, which may be AC or DC, and the voltage. The limiting factor in rated power is usually the grid connection so using a single phase domestic set-up, the maximum charging rate for any car will be 7.4kW. Alternatively, 3 phase connection (usually found in commercial premises) is limited to 22kW. Any faster and it becomes the province of the latest breed of rapid chargers at dedicated sites.
Thus it is not so much how much electricity it takes to charge a car but rather how it is charged. The battery capacity limits the amount of distance travelled that any given EV can manage. The very latest vehicles can manage higher mileage but will usually charge at a faster rate.
Therefore it comes to down to how a vehicle is driven and the weight of it that governs how much power is used. A light car with a small battery pack equates to a heavy car with a big battery, if you get the point.
Is it cheaper to charge an electric car at home?
In general, yes. Charging a BEV at home is not only more convenient but it is also more cost effective. This is especially true when a good electricity tariff is arranged as discussed above. Grants are available to facilitate the purchase of dedicated, efficient home charging units. These can be purchased and fitted independently or can be bought as part of a deal with the energy supplier.
Charging on public networks vary. Some enlightened retailers for example offer a no-cost top-up facility, but mostly they have to be paid for and the cost is more than it would be at home. That said, public charging networks are ideal for a charge boost on a long trip and the cost, although greater, is not prohibitive as the example above indicates.
When it comes to the future of motoring, it is electric cars that will lead the way to our motoring future if for no other reason than buyers knowing that charging an EV at home costs less than half the amount it would cost to refuel a petrol or diesel car. Certainly, it will take time to prise motorists out of their internal combustion engine vehicles but, with ever better electric cars, an ever-improving charging network, the availability of some really clever home charging units and, now, some great EV user deals from the Utility companies, the future of motoring is clear and it’s electric.