Car insurance

Electric cars are only cost-effective after five years – even with a £6,000 subsidy


It takes almost five years to recover the higher purchase price of an electric car in savings from lower running costs, even with a proposed new subsidy, new research has found.

Last week it emerged that the Prime Minister is mulling a plan to give petrol and diesel car drivers up to £6,000 if they make the switch to an electric vehicle.

But even with this incentive, it would take on average four years and nine months for drivers to get a financial benefit from switching, according to research by price comparison website GoCompare. On running costs alone, electric vehicles work out £680.55 cheaper per year.

The biggest stumbling block is the price of a new electric car. For example, a brand new Ford Fiesta – the most popular car in Britain – costs £15,770. An electric alternative such as the Reanult Zoe – one of the cheapest electric vehicles on the market – is £25,000, leaving drivers £9,320 out of pocket, or £3,320 worse off after the £6,000 subsidy.

Insurance is also more expensive: on average, petrol and diesel owners pay £774.48 per year, while for electric cars it is £836.52.

However, fuel costs are significantly cheaper. If a typical petrol car can do 36 miles per gallon, it would cost £869.79 to drive the 6,600 miles that Britons drive on average per year. An electric car with a 60 kilowatt engine and 200 mile range, such as the Zoe, would cost just £277.20, a saving of £529.59 on fuel each year.

The costs of an electric vs petrol car

Drivers of electric cars valued at less than £40,000 do not have to pay road tax, so in this comparison between a Fiesta and a Zoe, this would save a further £150 per year.

In total, taking into account the higher insurance but lower fuel and road tax costs, electric vehicles work out £680.55 cheaper per year, not including other potential benefits such as not having to pay the congestion charge in London.

Providing nothing went wrong with either vehicle, the average driver would be financially better off in an electric vehicle after four years and nine months.

A spokesman for Go Compare said: “While electric vehicles usually cost more from the outset, and insurance is typically more due to the new technology involved, they are likely to cost less over the course of owning the car as electricity is a cheaper running cost than petrol or diesel and the cars require generally less maintenance.”

However, others are less convinced. While people want to buy electric cars, the cost and lack of infrastructure, such as charging points, remain a concern.

Ian Plummer of Auto Trader, an online car sales website, said: “When taking all factors into account, electric vehicles can reach a price parity with their combustion engine equivalents within a few years, but that won’t convince buyers who’ve consistently shown that they prioritise their own pocket over the planet.”

He said the Government needs to go further. In France, a similar scheme offers drivers a subsidy of up to €13,000 (£11,660). “This significantly changed the cost equation buyers weigh up as they consider an electric vehicle over a petrol or diesel equivalent,” he said.

The new electric car subsidy measures, which are expected to be announced next month, are in an effort to reach the Government’s target to ban petrol, diesel and hybrid cars by 2035.


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