How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

With fuel prices spiking above €2 per litre, and no sign of them falling, many of us are thinking about turning to all-electric motoring much sooner than we might.

Of course, it’s pretty much inevitable now (barring some sort of miracle scientific breakthrough) that we will all, eventually, be driving electric cars. The EU is on the cusp of enshrining in law a ban on sales of new combustion-engined vehicles from 2035, while Ireland itself is looking at doing so sooner — by 2030.

But, you may ask, aren’t electricity prices rising steeply too? If I switch to electric power in the hope of saving on fuel, am I in danger of jumping from the pump price frying pan into the electricity rate fire?

Thankfully, no. At least, certainly not yet. Even with the recent increase in electricity tariffs, running an electric car should be at least 50 per cent cheaper than running a petrol or diesel car.

“Your average fuel bill to cover 10,000km is now something like €2,000” says Dave Watson, chief executive of charging point provider Ohme. “If you switch to an electric car, even without any special electricity tariffs, you’re going to cut that to €850 straight away. In Ireland, if you have a day/night tariff, and you charge mostly at night, you’re cutting it to about €450. So not only is there a direct benefit to you, but you’re displacing the fossil fuel that would otherwise have to have been bought and imported.”

So, how much does it actually cost to charge an electric car?

The answer will depend upon two things — the size of your battery, and where and when you’re charging your car.

Let’s take Ireland’s current best-selling electric car, the Volkswagen ID.4 (which, at the time of writing, was just a handful of sales ahead of Hyundai’s Ioniq 5). The ID.4 comes, usually, with a 77-kilowatt/hour (kWh) battery pack — similar in size to the larger batteries used by Hyundai, by Kia for the popular EV6, and by Tesla for the Model 3, so it’s a representative battery size.

Taking the ESB as a baseline for domestic electricity prices, and using its standard new-customer discounted rate, you’ll pay 19.69c per kWh. So to charge an ID.4 from completely flat to completely full will cost you €15.16. The ID.4 has a claimed one-charge range of 517km — you probably won’t quite manage that in real-world conditions, but that should give you an average range of around 450km, meaning you’re paying 3c per kilometre travelled.

If you’re not on the discounted rate, then you’ll be charged 25.58c per kWh, which would add up to €19.60, or 4c per kilometre, assuming a 450km real-world range.

You can dramatically cut the cost of your charging

If you opt for an ESB day & night meter (and it’s probably worth us saying here that other electricity suppliers are available) then at night, you’ll pay just 10.38c per kWh. This is crucial, as most people will mostly charge their electric cars at home, overnight. Doing that with our nominal ID.4 on the night rate means you’ll pay just €7.90 per full charge, which means about 1c per km cost. Or, in other words, if you covered an annual mileage of 16,000km and charged at home, at night, on the night rate, and nowhere else, you’d pay just €160 per year for your ‘fuel’ costs. Some people are currently paying that much for one tank of diesel…

OK, so that’s not an entirely realistic scenario, but it’s not out of the bounds of possibility. Also, that assumes that every time you plug in and charge up, your battery is flat which is actually very unlikely, unless you’re incredibly good at calculating exactly how much charge you need to get home, and running out of juice just as you pull up in front of your door. More likely, the battery is going to contain anything from ten per cent charge to maybe 50 per cent charge, so that will further cut your charging costs.

What happens when you’re out and about, though?

Using the public charging network is rather more expensive than charging at home, but obviously you’re going to need to at some point if you want to undertake a longer journey, or head away for a weekend.

The most expensive public charging points are also the fastest — IONITY, a pan-European charging provider set up by a consortium of car makers, uses ultra-fast 350kW chargers. These cost 71c per kWh if you’re not signed up for a monthly IONITY plan. That would mean a flat-to-100 per cent charge for our ID.4 would cost a pretty whopping €54.

The reality is slightly less pricey — generally, it’s best for your battery to fast-charge only to 80 per cent, using such services as a ‘get me home’ charge, before fully charging at home. Do that, and assuming you arrive at the charger with a reserve of ten per cent in the battery, and you’re looking at somewhat more reasonable €38.20. On top of which, for €17.99 per month you can sign up to an IONITY regular charging plan, which cuts the cost of using one of its chargers to 34c per kWh, meaning our 80 per cent charge now costs €18. Much better.

ESB’s ultra-fast chargers (which come in either 150kW or 350kW power outputs) are more reasonable still — they charge between 46c and 42c per kWh depending on whether or not you’ve signed up to a plan (which costs €4.79 per month). At the higher rate, on pay-as-you-go, you’re looking at €24 for an 80 per cent charge.

Slower (but still reasonably quick) 50kW ESB chargers cost between 39c and 43c per kWh, again depending on whether you’ve signed up to a monthly plan or not. At the higher rate, that would cost €23.17 for an 80 per cent charge in our ID.4. Finally, there are the 22kW ‘slow’ kerbside chargers, which cost between 33c and 37c per kWh, giving you a maximum cost of €19.61 for an 80 per cent charge.