Electric car drivers warned plug-in network costs are set to soar


The nation sighed in collective relief earlier this month when new Prime Minister Liz Truss announced an unprecedented £150billion energy support package that would see typical annual domestic energy bills frozen at £2,500 for two years.

The news will be welcomed by electric cars owners who charge vehicles at home, as they are now guaranteed cheaper running costs than if Ofgem’s energy price cap was introduced from next month.

However, electric car drivers without off-street parking and a homecharger are already seeing the cost of boosting their EV’s batteries soar, with one provider increasing the price of plugging into its network by more than 50 per cent – which would make annual running costs more expensive than an equivalent petrol model.

Could charging an electric car now be more expensive than fuelling a petrol alternative? Rising costs to access public charging devices means EV owners without off-street parking are set to be stung by wholesale energy price increases

With no clarification regarding the energy support package for businesses, operators of the public charging network are yet to be offered any protection from ever-spiralling wholesale electricity prices, and some have confirmed they are passing these on to customers.

Last week, leading provider Osprey Charging announced it has increased costs to access its network of rapid devices by more than 50 per cent, with rates hiked from 66p to a record £1 per kWh – and other operators are likely to follow suit, experts warn.

It is the second increase in eight weeks, and it means charging an average-size electric family hatchback from 10 to 80 per cent battery capacity will cost around £40 – that’s compared to just £16 a year ago. 

In an email sent to to customers on Wednesday, Osprey’s chief executive, Ian Johnston confirmed that the cost to use its devices would rise from Thursday 15 September.

He said a lack of immediate help from the Government has forced the company to pass on increasing wholesale prices, which as a result has more than doubled the cost of charging a family-sized electric car at one of its devices compared to a year ago. 

On its website it says: ‘We offer a simple flat-rate across our UK network of £1 per kWh.’ It has more than 300 charging sites across Britain, located on major transport routes, at retail parks, restaurants and on-street locations.

While Liz Truss’ multi-billion-pound energy plan will include support for businesses, no details or timeline regarding its availability has been divulged, which he says has put him and the company in a ‘difficult position’.

Osprey Charging last week announced it has increased costs to access its network of rapid devices by more than 50%, with rates hiked from 66p to a whopping £1 per kWh - and other operators are likely to follow suit, experts warn.

Osprey Charging last week announced it has increased costs to access its network of rapid devices by more than 50%, with rates hiked from 66p to a whopping £1 per kWh – and other operators are likely to follow suit, experts warn.

In a 90-second video statement included in the email, he told customers: ‘Unlike for residential customers, to date there has been no cap on the price that businesses pay for their electricity. And indeed in recent weeks the price of electricity has risen to more than three times what it was this time last year.’

He went on: ‘Until we know about the Government support scheme, we have no choice but to increase our pricing.

‘Of course, we want to reduce these prices if we are able to do so.’

Experts have for weeks been calling for minsters to slash public charging costs amid concerns that it will curtail the demand for electric cars.

Ian Johnston, Osprey Charging CEO, says a lack of details about the energy support package for businesses had put the company in a 'difficult position' and had to increase costs

Ian Johnston, Osprey Charging CEO, says a lack of details about the energy support package for businesses had put the company in a ‘difficult position’ and had to increase costs

Many have demanded that VAT is slashed on public charging to help current and prospective EV drivers during the cost-of-living crunch.

They have called for taxation to be reduced from 20 per cent to 5 per cent to bring it in line with domestic charging, though ministers appear reluctant to action such a move. 

‘We understand how hard things are customers right now and we look forward to giving you more positive pricing news in the year to come,’ Mr Johnston concluded in his video to customers.

Ginny Buckley, founder of EV website Electrifying.com, says it’s ‘no surprise’ that prices are rising across the charging network and suspects Osprey will not be the only provider to hike charges. 

‘For drivers who are unable to take advantage of cheaper home energy tariffs, this is having a serious impact on running costs at a time when budgets are under unprecedented strain,’ she told This is Money.

‘It hits those living in towns and cities the hardest, the very place electric cars can have the most impact on air quality.

‘With such a huge difference between the highest and lowest prices, I would also advise drivers who want to manage their budgets to shop around for the best public charging rates, even if they are just stopping for a quick top up.’

The RAC’s electric vehicle spokesman, Simon Williams, added: ‘Thanks to the Energy Price Guarantee, households now have the certainty they needed on what they’ll have to pay for electricity and gas ahead of colder months ahead. 

‘This is particularly good news for drivers of electric vehicles who are able to charge their cars at home but those that regularly use public chargers look likely to be badly affected due to the hike in the cost of wholesale electricity that chargepoint operators are being hit by. 

‘We now need the Government to urgently announce a specific support package for chargepoint operators, and indeed other businesses more widely, who have no option but to raise their prices to previously unthinkable levels to reflect soaring electricity costs.’

Electric vehicle VS petrol car: Which is cheaper to run right now?

To compare the cost of running an electric car compared to a petrol equivalent, we have based our calculation on the charging costs for the popular Volkswagen ID.3 powered by a 58kWh battery, which in the UK is priced from £36,195.

We have then compared it to the fuel costs for a similarly-sized VW Golf family hatchback with a 1.5-litre petrol engine, which starts from a more affordable £25,950.

It’s important to note that our calculations are only for comparative purposes and subject to a variety of different factors. For instance, electric car owners who have a charger at home and use their domestic tariff to cover the cost of boosting the batteries, costs can differ depending on the EV they own and its battery size, how many miles they drive, their charging device, the type of energy tariff they have and time of day they generally charge up.

Of course, for the petrol equivalent, fuel prices are subject to daily fluctuation and always changing. Our calculation is based on the prices for Wednesday 14 September, with the UK average for a litre of unleaded at 166.3p (according to RAC Fuel Watch). 

We've calculated the annual charging costs for Volkswagen's electric ID.3 both at home and using the public network

We have compared the ID.3 charging costs to the fuel bills for a petrol-powered Volkswagen Golf (pictured), which is a similar-size family hatchback

For comparative purposes, we have calculated the difference in annual home charging costs for an electric Volkswagen ID.3 (left) and yearly fuel bills for a petrol Volkswagen Golf hatchback (right)

Electric vehicle VS petrol car running costs 

VW ID.3 CHARGED AT HOME

Single charge cost (0-100%): £19.80

Number of charges required to cover 10k miles a year: 38 

Annual bill for 10k: £752

VW ID.3 CHARGED USING PUBLIC DEVICES

Single charge cost (10-80%): £40 

Number of charges required to cover 10k miles a year: 48

Annual bill for 10k miles: £1,920

VW GOLF PETROL FUEL COSTS

Each refuel from empty to full: £82.90

Number of refuel required to cover 10k miles a year: 19

Annual bill for 10k miles: £1,575

NB: Figures based on an electric VW ID.3 with a 58kW battery and claimed 265-mile range VS VW Golf 1.5-litre petrol with a 50-litre fuel tank capable of covering 50mpg. Home charging calculated using a 7kW charger at a unit rate of 34p per kWh. Public charging cost based on Osprey’s £1 per kWh charge. Petrol costs based on 166.3p-a-litre UK average on 14 September 2022.

Cost to charge an EV at home 

Most homechargers offered to customers today are 7kWh devices, so we have used this as our benchmark for the calculation. 

The energy price guarantee means electricity costs to the nearest pence from 1 October for an average household on a default tariff paying via direct debit will be 34p per kilowatt hour with a standing charge of 46p per day. 

This is much less than it was due to cost under the proposed energy price cap put forward by Ofgem for the start of next month, with the unit rate for electricity set to soar to 52p per kWh. 

In the scenario that an electric car owner pays 34p per kWh, fully charging the Volkswagen ID.3’s battery to 100 per cent will, in theory, take just over eight hours at a cost of £19.80.

EV owners who charge at home will welcome the energy price guarantee. It means the average cost per kWh will be 34p when it was expected to soar to 52p under Ofgem's energy price cap from 1 October

EV owners who charge at home will welcome the energy price guarantee. It means the average cost per kWh will be 34p when it was expected to soar to 52p under Ofgem’s energy price cap from 1 October

With the ID.3 offering a range of 265 miles (according to the manufacturer claims), that works out at cost per mile of around 7.5p.

Based on the average Briton covering 10,000 miles per year, an owner of an ID.3 would need to charge their car at least 38 times, working out an annual running cost bill of £752.

The above calculation is based on a worst-case scenario, with the likelihood that many EV drivers charge their cars overnight during cheaper off-peak periods and will have shopped around for the cheapest fixed rate energy deal that guarantees them lower domestic electricity pricing.

Some might have been fortunate enough to have taken advantage of EV-specific energy tariffs that have until recently been available to electric car drivers.

Numerous providers were offering these dedicated EV-tariffs a year ago, though almost all have been pulled from the market in response to the rising cost of energy – the latest being EDF Energy, which has cited ‘ongoing energy market volatility’ for closing availability to new customers in recent weeks.

Only Octopus Energy currently offers a low fixed-rate EV tariff, providing off-peak rates of 7.5p per kWh when charging an electric car during the hours of 11:30pm and 5:30am. 

That’s 26.5p less during that six-hour window than the energy price guarantee of 34p per kWh from October – though an Octopus spokesperson told us that its pricing is always under review, suggesting it might not stay that low for long.

Cost to charge an EV using the public network

Around a third of properties in the UK do not have off-street parking. For EV drivers in this predicament, they are heavily reliant on the national network of public chargers, of which there are over 32,000 devices in the UK, according to latest government statistics. And they’re much pricier to use compared to charging at home.

Charging the battery of an electric VW ID.3 from 10% to 80% at Osprey devices will cost £40, says Electrifiying.com

Charging the battery of an electric VW ID.3 from 10% to 80% at Osprey devices will cost £40, says Electrifiying.com

Almost every public charging operator has already increased their prices once this year in response to the wider energy crunch, with Osprey’s new hike being its second in just eight weeks.

The increase to £1 per kWh makes Osprey Charging by far the most expensive network to date. In fact, the next priciest is Ionity, which currently charges 69p per kWh for pay-as-you-go customers to access its rapid devices – though that could soon rise.

For our calculation for EV running costs via the public network, we have used Osprey’s existing rate of £1 per kWh.

Electrying.com says the cost to charge the Volkswagen ID.3 from 10 to 80 per cent battery capacity – which is the typical charging session on a public rapid device – at an Osprey charger has risen to £40. A year ago, it would have cost just £16.

In order to cover 10,000 miles a year, the driver would need to plug into the network 48 times (taking into account the battery is only being charged up to 80 per cent capacity).

This means the annual running costs for the family-size EV would rise to £1,920.

Cost to refuel a petrol equivalent 

Now we know how much it could cost to annually charge an electric car at home or via the public network from 1 October, how does it fair against an equivalent petrol model?

The 1.5-litre petrol VW Golf we’ve used for comparative purposes has a 50-litre fuel tank and an ‘official’ range of just over 50mpg. It means it can travel for 550 miles when brimmed with unleaded, though realistically – like the ID.3 – the real-world range will be shorter under normal driving conditions.

Based on current fuel prices (unleaded at 165.8p a litre on Thursday 15 September) it costs £82.90 to fill the tank of the popular family hatchback.

The Golf will need to be filled up with fuel 19 times a year to cover 10,000 miles in 12 months, which works out at £1,575. 

That’s £823 more than the domestic charging costs for the electric ID.3, meaning EV owners who do have charging provisions at home will continue to save a substantial amount of money having switched away from petrol cars. 

However, it is £345 less than charging up only using Osprey devices, meaning the combustion-engine car is the cheaper of the two options to run.

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