Cheapest electric cars to charge

Electric cars not only cut your tailpipe emissions, they should also cut your fuel costs. But which is cheapest to charge? Find out below

James Wilson
Feb 4, 2022

Although electric car drivers don't need to worry about paying for petrol or diesel anymore, they do still have to consider the cost of 'filling up' the batteries with electricity. If you are on a quest to keep the cost of running your car to a minimum, you are going to need one of the cheapest electric cars to charge.

Two major factors influence the cost of charging an electric car: the price of electricity and the capacity of the battery pack you're filling up. As electricity is commonly sold in kWh (or kilowatt-hours) and battery capacity is handily quoted in kWh, the maths is pretty simple.

Having a small battery capacity not only keeps the cost of charging down, but it also reduces the time taken to charge and the weight of a car. Large cars have their merits - space for up to seven passengers and a large boot to name just two - but smaller cars aren't short of their benefits, either. As well as being well-suited to a town's narrow streets and car parks, a lighter car will usually be more efficient, meaning you will have to top it up less frequently.

You might think that the size of the battery will directly relate to the range of an electric car, too, and in most cases, you'd probably be right. But, there can be some variation, with certain small-batteried models managing a longer range than rivals with a larger battery. This is down to factors such as the overall weight of the car and how efficiently it uses the energy from its batteries.

Cheapest electric cars to charge

For the sake of comparison, each of the cars below are shown with three costs for charging: one for those paying a standard UK energy tariff, another for those on a tariff that includes cheap off-peak rates (usually overnight), and other for those who need to rely on public rapid chargers.

Finally, make sure when buying an electric car that you know what the range is for that exact model, as manufacturers periodically improve the batteries and electric tech in their plug-in cars. This means that later versions of the same model may gain extra range or more power, so it can be worth tracking down a more recent version for maximum range per charge.

1. Smart EQ ForTwo

Used deals from £15,650
Monthly finance from £294*

Cost to charge (7.5p/kWh cheap/overnight rate)

Cost to charge (40p/kWh standard rate)

Cost to charge (65p/kWh rapid charging rate)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

£1.32

£7.04

£11.44

17.6kWh

99 miles (NEDC)

 
An electric Smart ForTwo seems to make sense. A car so tiny that few will venture outside of the city or on longer trips, hence a smaller battery capacity is perfect. With Smart EQ ForTwos costing as little as £1.32 to fill up, running costs will be rock bottom, too.

As Smart is targeting upmarket city motorists (it is, after all, a sister company of Mercedes), buyers are treated to a well-built electric car festooned with many goodies such as climate control, air-conditioning, alloy wheels and cruise control.

Smart revised the styling for the EQ ForTwo towards the end of 2019. Naturally though, this hasn’t changed the fact buyers are limited to just two seats and neither passenger nor driver will be able to bring much luggage along, so why not just save more money and go for a used one?

SMART FORTWO BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Smart EQ ForFour

Used deals from £14,000
Monthly finance from £265*

Cost to charge (7.5p/kWh cheap/overnight rate)

Cost to charge (40p/kWh standard rate)

Cost to charge (65p/kWh rapid charging rate)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

£1.32

£7.04

£11.44

17.6kWh

95 miles (NEDC)

 
While seating, or a lack of it, will put a few buyers off the two-seater Smart EQ ForTwo above, the EQ ForFour fixes this with an additional two seats in the rear. Aside from that, the ForFour has the same mix of funky styling, a well-built interior and good levels of equipment as its diminutive stablemate.

Thanks to using the same electrical engineering underneath its body as the electric ForTwo, EQ ForFour models cost the exact same to 'fill up' - just £1.32 on the off-peak tariff. Due to its extra size and weight, however, the claimed range falls from 95 miles in the ForTwo to 99 miles in the ForFour.

With 82hp (identical to the Smart ForTwo above) you get a 0-62mph time of 12.7 seconds and a top speed of 81mph. One thing to note for the two Smart cars here is that the range figures are quoted using the old economy test - which is less accurate than the new, more challenging format that the other cars on this list have been tested on.

That means that you might find it harder to achieve the claimed range figures on real roads, compared with the other cars on the list. So if being able to travel a long distance per charge is important to you, you're better off opting for one of the other cars in our list.

SMART FORFOUR BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Volkswagen e-Up

Used deals Limited stock

Cost to charge (7.5p/kWh cheap/overnight rate)

Cost to charge (40p/kWh standard rate)

Cost to charge (65p/kWh rapid charging rate)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

£2.42

£12.92

£21.00

32.3kWh

160 miles (WLTP)

 
Volkswagen recently announced updates for the e-Up which included almost doubling its battery capacity and yet it still ranks very highly here. Moving up to a 32.3kWh battery pack keeps a full charge under £3 but also pushes range to a useful 160 miles.

Standard equipment on the refreshed e-Up includes air-conditioning, Bluetooth and lane departure warning (amongst other features). There is very little to distinguish an electrified Up from its petrol-powered brethren design-wise apart from curved LED lights at the corners of their front bumpers.

One thing to note: those expecting a large touchscreen media system as found on many a new car these days will be disappointed as VW has instead implemented a system that allows drivers to attach their phone to the dash and use that for sat-nav/music instead. This does mean you won't have to worry about your cars media system becoming outdated in years to come, though, which is actually a very refreshing approach.

VOLKSWAGEN UP BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Honda e

Used deals from £27,500
Monthly finance from £481*

Cost to charge (7.5p/kWh cheap/overnight rate)

Cost to charge (40p/kWh standard rate)

Cost to charge (65p/kWh rapid charging rate)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

£2.66

£14.20

£23.08

35.5kWh

137 miles (WLTP)

 
If it is retro-styling fused with modern electronics you're after, the Honda e offers that in spades. Not only does it cost less than £3 to charge (on the cheap tariff) but it also comes with a wall (yes, wall) of screens inside - in some models, wing mirrors are even replaced with screens inside the cabin that show camera footage of what's behind.

There are two models to choose from, a standard e and an Advance e. The latter brings a slightly more powerful motor (152hp as opposed to 134hp), meaning that there's extra acceleration on offer if you work it hard.

This is another small and charismatic city car that should be relatively light on its feet, and a range of well over 100 miles ought to prove usable enough for most city dwellers.

READ MORE ABOUT THE HONDA E

5. Volkswagen e-Golf

Used deals from £19,995
Monthly finance from £350*

Cost to charge (7.5p/kWh cheap/overnight rate)

Cost to charge (40p/kWh standard rate)

Cost to charge (65p/kWh rapid charging rate)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

£2.69

£14.32

£23.27

35.8kWh

144 miles (WLTP)

 
If the e-Up is too small, the e-Golf should fit the bill, although note that it has been indirectly replaced by the all-electric VW ID.3 which, while more efficient, uses larger batteries that are more expensive to fill up. Much like the standard Golf, the e-Golf is very easy to use and feels well-built. The biggest difference is, of course, the fact there is a whisper-quiet electric motor under the body powering you down the road.

Inside and out there is little that stands out to say this is an all-electric car, aside from the lack of exhaust and different dials in front of the driver. Technology on offer is similar to that of well-specced fossil-fuel-powered Golfs, meaning buyers get a 5.7-inch touchscreen media system, climate control air-conditioning and adaptive cruise control as standard.

Sprinting from a standstill to 62mph takes 9.6 seconds and flat out you will be doing 93mph. While the e-Golf is by no means a bad car to drive, thanks to its heavy batteries it isn’t as enjoyable as the regular Golf.

VOLKSWAGEN GOLF BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Hyundai Ioniq Electric front three quarters view

Used deals from £20,900
Monthly finance from £377*

Cost to charge (7.5p/kWh cheap/overnight rate)

Cost to charge (40p/kWh standard rate)

Cost to charge (65p/kWh rapid charging rate)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

£2.87

£15.32

£24.90

38.3kWh

193 miles (WLTP)

 
Even before Hyundai updated the Ioniq Electric a few years after it was initially released, it was a cracking electric car. As part of the updates, Hyundai increased the size of its battery pack from 28kWh to 38kWh. The result of which pushed the range up to 193 miles, but this hasn’t changed the fact it costs very little to charge.

The Ioniq Electric comes very well equipped as standard. Specification includes alloy wheels, a digital driver display (which replaces traditional dials), 10.3-inch touchscreen media system, a wireless phone charging pad, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and lane departure warning as standard.

HYUNDAI IONIQ ELECTRIC BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Nissan e-NV200

Used deals from £15,190
Monthly finance from £0*

Cost to charge (7.5p/kWh cheap/overnight rate)

Cost to charge (40p/kWh standard rate)

Cost to charge (65p/kWh rapid charging rate)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

£3.00

£16.00

£26.00

40kWh

124 miles (WLTP)

 
Your options for a fully-electric car with seven seats are fairly limited. You can choose from a Tesla Model S or Model X, which are great cars but are pretty costly, the new Mercedes EQV, which is also on the expensive side, or the Nissan e-NV200, which is far more affordable - especially if you pick a used one.

Aside from the price, the e-NV200’s party piece is its practicality. This means those looking to get the kids to school and produce zero emissions (assuming their electricity is coming from renewable sources) in the process will want to take a look at the electrified Nissan.

There are a few drawbacks though, performance is best described as steady (perhaps not important on the school run) and although the e-NV200 is a practical car, its internal space isn’t used quite as cleverly as it should be.

BEST ELECTRIC SEVEN-SEATERS

8. Nissan Leaf

Used deals from £18,841
Monthly finance from £310*

Cost to charge (7.5p/kWh cheap/overnight rate)

Cost to charge (40p/kWh standard rate)

Cost to charge (65p/kWh rapid charging rate)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

£3.00

£16.00

£26.00

40kWh

168 miles (WLTP)

 
The first-generation Nissan Leaf was popular with early adopters of electric cars, while the latest generation (launched in 2018) has continued this success thanks to improving upon the original in almost every measurable way - especially when it comes to range. The standard model comes with 168 miles of range, but the more expensive Leaf e+ can travel up to 239 miles on one charge.

Part of the Leaf’s popularity can be attributed to the fact it is so easy to drive. Nissan even includes a feature that ramps up regenerative braking from the electric motor - which slows the car when you lift off the accelerator. Nissan calls this its 'e-Pedal', although it's not a unique feature to the Leaf.

This adds charge back to the batteries - meaning drivers need not use the brake pedal in most driving situations, as simply easing off the throttle causes the car to slow down relatively quickly. Should you find yourself on a race track though, the Leaf will hit 89mph flat out having taken 7.9 seconds to get from 0 to 62mph.

NISSAN LEAF BUYERS' GUIDE

9. Renault Zoe

Used deals from £7,990
Monthly finance from £313*

Cost to charge (7.5p/kWh cheap/overnight rate)

Cost to charge (40p/kWh standard rate)

Cost to charge (65p/kWh rapid charging rate)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

£3.90

£20.80

£33.80

52kWh

239 miles (WLTP)

 
The Renault Zoe is the French brand's solution to affordable electric car motoring. If you're looking at used models, make sure you know whether you're buying the batteries or if you have to make an extra monthly payment to rent them, because Renault previously offered drivers to rent their batteries. It no longer offers this service, though you should be able to recognise these models by the 'i' in their names.

Renault has gradually honed the Zoe tweaking things here, improving things there and ultimately ending up with an electric supermini which has a claimed range of 239 miles, offers a reasonable amount of punch and has enough space for four or five at a push. All in all, quite a compelling option.

Much like most of this list, the Zoe is available with as all the equipment you can hope for in a car. Including the likes of touchscreen sat-nav, climate control and parking sensors.

RENAULT ZOE BUYERS' GUIDE

10. BMW i3

Used deals Limited stock

Cost to charge (7.5p/kWh cheap/overnight rate)

Cost to charge (40p/kWh standard rate)

Cost to charge (65p/kWh rapid charging rate)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

£3.17

£16.88

£27.43

42.2kWh

193 miles (WLTP)

 
BMW managed to make electric cars desirable with the i3. Even after being on sale for not far off a decade, the i3 still looks modern. Its interior supports this, thanks to a simple dash which can be specced with wood inserts and seats clad in recycled materials.

Performance is pretty spritely, with the 0-62mph dash taking just 7.3 seconds and a top speed limited to 93mph. BMW included some clever engineering in the i3, including rear-hinged back doors and the use of carbon fibre in the car’s structure to keep it light, improving acceleration and helping it to travel further per charge.

A couple of things worth noting with the i3 is that the boot is relatively small (260 litres) and the ride isn’t the smoothest out there - but a small price to pay to ‘save’ the planet in such style. Thanks to its decent range, cost per mile figures for fuelling the i3 are competitive, too.

BMW I3 BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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