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
Apr 30, 2020

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, then.

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. A large car is all well and good when you need to lug Tom, Dick and Harry from one end of the country to the other, but for nipping through town and parking in tight car park spaces, a smaller footprint is likely to be more suitable.

You might think that the size of 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 two costs for charging: one for those paying a standard UK energy tariff and another for those paying the Economy 7 tariff - which brings lower rates of electricity for off-peak (night-time) energy use - and charging over night.

Finally, make sure when buying an electric car that you know what the range is for that specific car, 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

Cost to charge (Economy 7 tariff)

Cost to charge (cheapest standard tariff)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

Cost per mile

£1.53

£2.43

17.6kWh

91 miles (NEDC)

1.7p

 
Used deals from £13,890
Monthly finance from £193

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 £1.53 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

Cost to charge (Economy 7 tariff)

Cost to charge (cheapest standard tariff)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

Cost per mile

£1.53

£2.43

17.6kWh

87 miles (NEDC)

1.8p

 
Used deals from £13,760
Monthly finance from £215

While seating, or rather lack of, 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, 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 £1.53 on the off-peak Economy 7 tariff. Due to its extra size and weight, however, the claimed range falls from 91 miles in the ForTwo to 87 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

Cost to charge (Economy 7 tariff)

Cost to charge (cheapest standard tariff)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

Cost per mile

£2.81

£4.46

32.3kWh

162 miles

1.7p

 
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 162 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 which allows drivers to attach their phone to the dash and use that for sat-nav/music instead. It does mean you won't have to worry about it becoming outdated in years to come, though, which is actually a very refreshing approach.

VOLKSWAGEN UP BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Honda e

Cost to charge (Economy 7 tariff)

Cost to charge (cheapest standard tariff)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

Cost per mile

£3.09

£4.90

35.5kWh

136 miles (expected)

2.3p

 
If it is retro-styling fused with modern electronics you are after, the Honda e offers that in spades. Not only does it cost just over £3 to charge (on the Economy 7 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.

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.

READ MORE ABOUT THE HONDA E

5. Volkswagen e-Golf

Cost to charge (Economy 7 tariff)

Cost to charge (cheapest standard tariff)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

Cost per mile

£3.11

£4.94

35.8kWh

144 miles

2.2p

 
Used deals from £13,999
Monthly finance from £258

The Volkswagen e-Golf fills the gap between the e-Up and new electric-only VW ID.3. Not just in terms of size, but in terms of range, price and performance as well. Much like the standard car, 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 it is based on. You won't get fuel costs of 2.2p per mile with one of those, though.

VOLKSWAGEN GOLF BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Cost to charge (Economy 7 tariff)

Cost to charge (cheapest standard tariff)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

Cost per mile

£3.33

£5.29

38.3kWh

194 miles

1.7p

 
Used deals from £18,999
Monthly finance from £296

Even before Hyundai updated the Ioniq Electric this year, 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 range up to 194 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, wireless phone charging pad, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and lane departure warning as standard. A final sweetener? The Ioniq Electric will go from 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds - on par with the Golf above.

HYUNDAI IONIQ ELECTRIC BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Nissan e-NV200

Cost to charge (Economy 7 tariff)

Cost to charge (cheapest standard tariff)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

Cost per mile

£3.48

£5.52

40kWh

124 miles

2.8p

 
Used deals from £12,990
Monthly finance from £318

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

Cost to charge (Economy 7 tariff)

Cost to charge (cheapest standard tariff)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

Cost per mile

£3.48

£5.52

40kWh

168 miles

2p

 
Used deals from £17,600
Monthly finance from £255

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.

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. That's quick acceleration for an ordinary electric car.

NISSAN LEAF BUYERS' GUIDE

9. Renault Zoe

Cost to charge (Economy 7 tariff)

Cost to charge (cheapest standard tariff)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

Cost per mile

£3.57

£5.66

41.0kWh

186 miles

1.9p

 
Used deals from £7,000
Monthly finance from £137

The Zoe is Renault’s solution to affordable electric car motoring. Unlike its rivals, Renault allows buyers to lease battery packs, meaning the initial purchase price of cars is lower and there is no need to worry about batteries going kaput and racking up a hefty repair bill. If you're looking at used models, therefore, make sure you know whether you're buying the batteries or if you have to make an extra monthly payment to rent them.

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 186 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 air-conditioning and parking sensors.

RENAULT ZOE BUYERS' GUIDE

10. BMW i3

Cost to charge (Economy 7 tariff)

Cost to charge (cheapest standard tariff)

Battery capacity (kWh)

Claimed range (miles)

Cost per mile

£3.67

£5.82

42.2kWh

193 miles

1.9p

 
Used deals from £12,500
Monthly finance from £230

BMW managed to make electric cars sexy and 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 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

 

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