How much does it cost to charge an electric company car?
More company drivers are choosing electric cars, but your savings will only be maximised if you can also keep your charging costs down. Here's how to keep your battery charged up for less...
Electric company cars can be a lot cheaper to run that petrol or diesel cars – that's the driving force for many people switching to electric power in the first place. Both fuel and electricity prices are proving to be volatile, though, so it pays to understand exactly what it costs to charge an electric car and how those costs can be controlled.
Free of charge
According to the latest data from charging app Zap-map, there are more than 5000 free-to-use charging points across the UK, more than 20% of which are in Scotland. They are most frequently found in supermarkets and public car parks. For example, Tesco now offers free 7kW or 22kW charging at more than 500 locations in the UK (it also has some faster 50kW charging units, but you have to pay a fee to use them).
Charging at home is the easiest way to keep your car’s batteries topped up, and can also work out to be very cost effective. The price per unit fluctuates, but the latest data from energy watchdog Ofgem puts the average cost per kWh of electricity at 18.9p in 2021, rising to around 28p per kWh from 1 April 2022.
At 28p per kWh, a complete empty-to-full charge of What Car?'s Car of the Year for 2022 – the Kia EV6 – would cost a little more than £20. The EV6's real-world range on a full battery is around 300 miles.
In comparison, inflated fuel prices mean that filling the average 55-litre family car with petrol now costs more than £100, with diesel costing even more.
Even if electricity costs rise in the coming months, therefore, there’s still going to be a big gap in cost between the two.
The public charging network is growing rapidly, but it’s still a minefield for the unwary. Different networks have different charging costs. Even within networks, the cost can vary depending on the charger’s power and whether you sign up for a subscription or membership plan.
Some are simpler than others. For example, the current Pod Point charging cost is 26p per kWh, which it says will give around 100 miles of charge in half an hour (depending on the rate your car can accept) and cost around £7.
BP Pulse, another of the larger UK networks, has nine different charges, ranging from 30p to 55p per kWh. The cost is determined by three different levels of charging power (AC, 50kW and 150kW), and whether the user is a subscriber, has a free membership or is using contactless to pay on arrival.
The Ionity network of high-powered chargers that is growing as part of a Europe-wide network and is generally in motorway service stations, charges 69p per kWh for users who have not joined as a member.
Fortunately, by law the latest charging points must now offer contactless charging access, so the days of needing several membership cards to cover all the networks are gone.
A number of car manufacturers – including Audi, BMW, Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Mini and Volkswagen – have launched their own charging arrangements to make the switch to electric driving easier for buyers. Some charge a monthly fee while others are free, but they all give access to multiple charging networks using the same app.
The bad news for company car drivers is that the Government is struggling to keep up with fluctuating energy prices, and has set the official reimbursement rates for electric company cars used on work business at 5p per mile.
That’s a level almost no electric vehicle can match, even when charged at home. Be grateful, though – it was 4p per mile until late 2021.
Cannier businesses have ensured that they have their own reimbursement rates in place to ensure drivers aren’t left out of pocket if they switch to an electric vehicle.
Efficiency over cost to charge
In the early days of electric cars becoming established, the single most important detail was a car’s range. As the variety of vehicles available and driver familiarity increase, vehicle efficiency will become more of a big deal.
Efficiency is determined by how far each kWh of energy will take a car. In other words, if you have two cars with a 250-mile range, the one with the smallest battery is the most efficient, and will cost you less to charge up each time.
Think of two cars that can both cover 400 miles on a tank of fuel, but because one is less efficient, it has a fuel tank 10 litres larger, and uses more fuel for the same distance. This is next-level electric vehicle know-how, but in time the miles per kWh figure will take on the same importance as miles per gallon (mpg) does for petrol or diesel-powered cars.
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