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The true cost of using public charging points

We compare the cost of charging up an electric vehicle at many of the different public charging points around the UK...

True cost of going electric

If you’re lucky enough to be able to charge up your EV for free at work, or cheaply at home, you’ll be quids in when it comes to replenishing your car’s batteries.

The cost of charging a Volkswagen ID.3 on a slow charger at home can be as little as £5.68 at the UK’s average electricity rate of 14 pence per kilowatt hour (kWh). Even with the BMW iX3, which has a larger battery capacity than the ID.3, you’ll pay only £7.25 to charge it from 10-80%, which is the maximum charge recommended by many car makers to prolong battery life. This will give it a real-world range of around 200 miles. 

However, it’s estimated that around a third of the UK’s 27 million households don’t have off-street parking, so many EV owners will need to use public charging points. A decade ago it was possible to charge up for free, or for very little, at a number of sites around the UK, often with free parking thrown in as an added incentive.

True cost of going electric

But that situation has changed somewhat now that a growing number of big businesses have got into the charging game. Although there are still many places where you can recharge an EV for little or nothing, they are generally the oldest and slowest machines, which will take more than 17 hours to restore the battery of a BMW iX3. If you want to replenish your car’s battery in an hour or less you’re likely to have to pay a significant price to do so. 

We compared the cost of 29 different public charging options offered by 12 different companies. We chose the iX3 for this price comparison because –being not only electric but also an SUV – it’s bang on trend. It can be charged at a rate of up to 150kW (faster than many other EVs) so it can benefit from using many of the most powerful public rapid chargers available. 

The most expensive charge we found is for residents in three London boroughs (Camden, Kensington/Chelsea and Westminster) who choose Source London’s Flexi tariff for a 7.4kW charger and charge up in the daytime. The cost of £40.66 consists of a £10 one-off charge plus 7.3 pence for every minute of charging. 

The network’s 7.4kW chargers automatically stop charging a fee after four hours for cars being charged up between 8pm and 7pm, so an overnight charge for the iX3 on the Flexi tariff would cost £27.52, including the initial £10 fee. 

The one-off fee also makes the first daytime charge on a 22kW Source London Flexi subscription eye-wateringly expensive at £38.79. That said, subsequent charges are more affordable and frequent users will recoup the cost of the initial fee. It’s also important to note that Source London only charges its highest rates in the three London boroughs listed above; prices are lower elsewhere and many of its chargers are free to use. 

A spokesperson for the company stated: “Source London is the only network to include on-street parking in its usage fees. This gives our members the ability to park anywhere in London, including Central London, without having to pay any additional on-street parking fees which would often have to be paid separately at other locations.”

True cost of going electric

The next priciest option for the iX3 was a 10-80% top-up on an Ionity unit (which can deliver power at a rate of up to 350kW) will take around 35 minutes. This is great for anyone who is in a rush to charge, but with a fee of 69p per kWh, it costs £35.74 – nearly five times as much as a slow home charge. 

Taking out a subscription can help to cut charging costs. For example, if you join BP Pulse’s monthly service, you’ll pay £7.85 each month, but the cost of a 150kW charge drops to £21.84, because the cost per unit of electricity used is only 27p. The key here is to find a tariff with an affordable monthly fee and a lower-than-average price per kWh. This is easier with networks that publish the kWh cost, rather than those that only provide a cost per minute. 

When it comes to rapid charging options (43kWh and 50kWh), Shell’s Recharge is the priciest at £20.20 due to its 39p per kWh cost, and Pod Point’s is the cheapest at £11.91 thanks to its 23p per kWh fee. 

Two networks that offer lamp-post charging among other solutions both look pricey compared with rivals. The PAYG and Ubitricity monthly subscription tariffs cost £17.09 and £16.57 respectively for a 7kW charge on our iX3. BP Pulse’s PAYG 7.4kW tariff is the cheapest we found, costing just £9.32 to replenish the iX3’s batteries. 

How public charging points compare on price

10-80% charge for a BMW iX3 with an 80kW battery (74kW usable capacity)

Network and tariff Monthly fee Charge fee Cost per unit Total cost
Source London Flexi 7.4kW* na na 7.3p/min £40.66
Source London Flexi 22kW* na na 13.3p/min £38.79
Ionity 350kW na na 69p/kWh  £35.74
Source London PAYG 7.4kW na na 8.4p/min £35.28
Source London Full 7.4kW £4.00 na 5p/min £25.00
Source London PAYG 22kW na na 15.7p/min £22.18
BP Pulse Subs 150kW £7.85 na 27p/kWh £21.84
BP Pulse PAYG 150kW na na 42p/kWh £21.76
BP Pulse PAYG Contactless 150kW na na 42p/kWh £21.76
Shell Recharge 43kW, 50kW na na 39p/kWh £20.20
ESB subs London 50kW £4.99 na 28p/kWh £19.49
Source London Full 22kW £4.00 na 10.9p/min £19.40
Osprey 22kW to 50kW na na 36p/kWh £18.65
Insatvolt 50kW na na 35p/kWh £18.13
Geniepoint London 43kW, 50kW na na 35p/kWh £18.13
Geniepoint Rapid 43kW, 50kW na na 35p/kWh £18.13
Geniepoint 7kW, 22kW na na 35p/kWh £18.13 PAYG 7kW na   33p/kWh £17.09
Ubitricity M'ship 7.4kW £7.99 19p 16p/kWh £16.57
ESB Contactless London 50kW na 50p 30p/kWh £16.04
BP Pulse subs 50kW £7.85 na 15p/kWh £15.62
BP Pulse Contactless 50kW na na 30p/kWh £15.54
Ecotricity 43kW, 50kW na na 30p/kWh £15.54
ESB PAYG London 50kW na na 30p/kWh £15.54
BP Pulse subs 7kW £7.85 na 12p/kWh £14.07
BP Pulse PAYG 50kW na na 25p/kWh £12.95
Ubitricity PAYG 7.4kW na na 24p/kWh  £12.43
Pod Point 43kW, 50kW na na 23p/kWh £11.91
BP Pulse PAYG 7kW na na 18p/kWh £9.32

*£10 sign-up fee, the cost per minute on 7.4kW chargers is capped at four hours between 8pm and 7am, making overnight charging cheaper