The price of charging an electric car using a public rapid charger has jumped by almost £10 since May because of soaring energy costs after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The increased price of wholesale gas and electricity has pushed up the price to charge an average family-size car by 42% to above £32, according to analysis by the RAC. That was £9.60 more than in May, and £13.59 more than a year earlier.
The UK plans to ban the sale of new fossil fuel cars after 2035, but many in the industry have expressed concerns about barriers preventing some people from switching. The price and availability of public chargers are key concerns, particularly in cities.
The recent surge in electricity prices has diminished the cost advantage that electric cars have over polluting internal combustion engines, and particularly for people who rely solely on public chargers because they do not have private parking at home.
The RAC said the average cost per mile for someone limited only to rapid and ultra-rapid public chargers that are typically used at motorway services had risen to 18p, compared with 19p for petrol cars and 21p for diesel.
For those able to rely on home charging, the average cost per mile will be limited to 9p, after the Conservative government this month introduced price controls on energy. The energy price guarantee means drivers who can charge their cars at home will be protected from much of the price increase.
Simon Williams, the RAC’s electric vehicle spokesperson, said charging away from home was still cheaper than the equivalent refill for a petrol or diesel car, but “the gap is narrowing as a result of the enormous increases in the cost of electricity”.
“These figures very clearly show that it is drivers who use public rapid and ultra-rapid chargers the most who are being hit the hardest,” he said.
The RAC argues that users reliant on public chargers unfairly pay VAT of 20%, compared with only 5% VAT on home energy use.
Roger Atkins, the director of Electric Vehicles Outlook, a consultancy, said the imbalance in VAT rates for public and non-public charging was “disgraceful” and was an immediate lever the Treasury could pull to support the transition to electric vehicles.
“You don’t charge publicly out of choice, in truth,” he said. “You charge publicly out of necessity.”
The average price per kilowatt hour (kWh) of a UK rapid charger is 63.29p, the RAC said, but some companies charge significantly more. The US carmaker Tesla, which has the largest rapid charger network after opening part of it to all brands of car in May, charges 77p/kWh for non-Tesla drivers, according to the data company ZapMap. InstaVolt, with the second largest rapid network, charges 66p/kWh.
Osprey, Britain’s eighth largest operator of rapid chargers, prompted anger from customers this month after it said it would increase prices on its rapid chargers to £1 per kilowatt hour – a 50% increase on its previous 66p rate.
The hike made Osprey easily the most expensive of the large rapid charger networks. Its chief executive, Ian Johnston, said the company had been forced into the increase by “extraordinary” circumstances with “sky-high energy prices”.
After the government revealed help for businesses’ energy bills last week, Osprey said it expected to cut its prices once it had established what it would pay with its energy provider. Osprey declined to comment further.