Like much of the world, the UK is currently experiencing a cost of living crisis, the price of food, products and energy is rising at a rate not seen for a generation. While the overall cost of running an EV is still lower than petrol and diesel cars, some aspects of EV driving are also feeling the effects of inflation. One of the most notable of these is the cost of using a public rapid or ultra-rapid charger.
Recent analysis by Voltonomics has compared the prices of 12 of the top EV rapid charging networks, many of which are used by EV drivers on long distance journeys. The study, which has been tracking the changes in price over the last tumultuous 8 months, has found that on average the price per kWh has increased by 36%! Back in October 2021 the average price per kWh at a public rapid charger was 36p, by January this year, even before the invasion of Ukraine this had increased to 41p and as of May 2022 the average price is now 49p (based on an average of 12 of the most popular UK charging networks). The chart below shows a detailed breakdown of how each charging operator has increased their prices for rapid and ultra-rapid EV charging, we have not included any paid subscription rates, but some of these prices do require users to register with the operator for free.
Operators have blamed these large increases in prices on the corresponding increase in wholesale electricity costs in the UK. Partly driven by post-pandemic demand and an over-reliance on gas and then further exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, wholesale electricity prices jumped by 144% between August 2021 and March 2022. Many rapid charging companies have had little choice but to pass these extreme price changes onto customers, with some public EV charging costs getting increasingly close to the equivalent price per mile of running a petrol or diesel car. Thankfully many EV drivers can still charge their cars at home the majority of the time, where prices are increasing, but still very low compared to public rapid charging or the petrol pumps. By signing up to an EV tariff from providers such as Octopus or Bulb, EV owners can charge their car overnight for as little as 1-2p per mile.
It’s when you need to make a cross-country journey and rapidly recharge your EV half-way, that drivers are really starting to feel the higher costs of energy. However there are still large price differences between the various rapid charge point operators and savvy EV owners can often still save money by using a cheaper charging network.
As our chart above shows, one of the lowest rapid charging prices can be found at one of the cheapest supermarkets: Lidl (in partnership with PodPoint) rapid charging is currently only 26p per kWh and the company has over 230 charge points across the country in their store car parks. However many of these stores are not in the most accessible location for motorway drivers and usually only have one rapid charger per store. Tesco have a similar offer at 28p per kWh for rapid charging, but most of their charging network is actually much slower at only 7kW and so its often difficult to find a rapid charger at this price.
Some operators can keep their prices lower due to the fact they generate their own electricity. For instance Gridserve Electric Forecourts (of which there are currently only 2 in the UK) are powered by the companies solar farms and large batteries which means their rapid charging is still below average at 45p per kWh. Tesla have recently opened up some of their Supercharger sites in the UK to other EVs, this is great news as the UK has some serious demand for more ultra-rapid hubs. However while Tesla owners are only charged 28p per kWh, non-Tesla drivers will have to pay as much as 61p per kWh! The crown of most expensive public rapid charging still goes to VW-backed Ionity at 69p per kWh, who have consistently had the highest public charging costs of any major network.
While some of these operators (such as Tesla and Ionity) offer an alternative subscription model with lower prices per kWh, these do not always work out cheaper for occasional users of their networks. With prices as high as this, it’s no surprise that flat-fee charging apps such as Bonnet are gaining popularity. These apps offer one guaranteed fixed price across multiple charging networks from between 25p to 35p per kWh, depending on the amount each driver needs each month.
With no sign of UK energy costs reducing any time soon and charging prices increasing every few months, its likely that more innovative solutions for cheaper rapid charging will be needed in the coming years. We plan to keep tracking the costs of public rapid charging over the next few months, so let us know in the comments how you keep your charging costs down or contact us if there are other cheaper networks that we haven’t included yet.