How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

Get to grips with electric car charging costs, from free charging points to paid locations - and how Tesla charging works

Craig Hale
May 24, 2022

Topping up a petrol or diesel car is pretty straightforward, with the price per litre normally displayed at the entrance to the forecourt and on a screen next to the pump.

Electric car charging costs can vary hugely, however, and it’s not quite as easy to see how much you are paying per kWh. For home charging, this will be displayed on your electricity bill. The UK average is around 30p/kWh, with some providers offering off-peak tariffs with costs as low as 7.5p/kWh.

Public charging usually costs more than most home tariffs, though some supermarkets, hotels and other points of interest offer access to free electric car charging. Rapid charging, which offers the quickest charging times, meanwhile, is typically the most expensive option.

Free electric car charging points UK

It is possible to take advantage of free charging stations, however, which is particularly valuable in times of increasing home energy bills. Typically, these are located at places such as supermarkets (Tesco and Lidl score well here), pay and display car parks and universities, which can all be very useful. That said, free chargers are not without their problems.

‘Free’ attracts a lot of attention, so if the charging points are located in a particularly busy area, expect them to be occupied constantly throughout the week - there may even be daily battles between motorists as to who can nab them first. Also, compared with charge points that charge you as well as the car, there aren’t as many of them.

A number of the free-to-use chargers actually have restrictions on them, as well. For example, they might not be accessible 24 hours per day or may be located on a dealership forecourt and only available to those with a car made by whichever brand the dealership represents.

Paid electric car charging stations UK

The reality is, if you are charging your electric car away from home, you are more than likely going to have to pay for the privilege. The majority of charge points rely on an app linked to a credit or debit card, the use of contactless cards, or even membership fobs for payment.

Normally you will be billed per kWh of electricity you use. The table below shows what some of the major players in car charging typically charge customers. There are other potential costs too. For example, Tesla will make you pay an idle fee in high demand areas if you leave your car plugged in after it is fully charged.

Other charges can take the form of an initial connection fee or a minimum cost regardless of the amount of energy delivered, while price-per-time setups have largely been phased out.

On the other hand, there are ways to save money on electric charging. Ecotricity allows customers to halve the cost of charging their cars if they choose Ecotricity as their energy provider. There are also a handful of membership/subscription schemes that will best suit those doing higher mileages and regularly plugging in with a specific company's chargers while out on the road. These typically charge users a small monthly fee in return for reduced or even free use of charging points.

Charging networkCost per kWhEstimated cost to charge a 50kWh battery
Gridserve Electric Highway39-50p£19.50 to £25.00
Tesla Supercharger (when charging Tesla models)From 28p (free for Teslas registered before 16 January 2017)From £14.00
Tesla Supercharger (for non-Tesla drivers. Currently on trial at several sites)60p, plus idle fees upon charge completion£30.00
BP Pulse35-45p (AC), from 43-56p (43kW AC and 50kW DC), from 45-59p (150kW DC)£17.50 to £29.50
GeniePointFrom 48p (registered users), from 50p (contactless payments)£24.00 to £25.00
OspreyFrom 49p£24.50
InstaVoltFrom 57p£28.50
IonityFrom 69p£34.50

 

How much to charge a Tesla UK

Charging a Tesla from one of the chargers in its own network has always been easy. There’s no need to authorise or activate a charging session, because payments are managed through an account linked to each car.

Costs to charge a Tesla vary. Destination chargers - those at locations including hotels, restaurants and car parks - which are usually slower 7kW or 11kW units, are often free to use.

Superchargers - the company’s name for its ultra rapid chargers - are also free to use for Tesla owners who ordered their car before 16 January 2017. Nearly all vehicles sold after this will be billed, though the exact cost varies by location. Some sites also offer cheaper off-peak charging rates.

The Supercharging network also imposes idle fees for cars that remain plugged in after completing a charge, encouraging drivers to unplug and free up the station for the next user. Idle fees (50p per minute) are only applied if at least half of the other chargers are occupied. When all chargers are occupied, idle charges double to £1 per minute.

 

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