Public EV charging rates vary by up to £30 for the same charge

Electric car charging costs vary by as much as £30 for the same level of charge at public facilities, according to new research.

The most expensive sites in the UK charge up to four times more than the cheapest services, with factors including provider, location, speed and extra fees all contributing to the differences.

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A study of public charging services by What Car? found that BP’s Pulse PAYG (7.4kW) was the cheapest overall provider while the Source London Flexi service was the most expensive - costing more than £31 more.

The test compared the fees for a 10-80 per cent charge on a BMW iX3 with an 80kWh battery, enough to give around 154 miles of real-world use.

Rates vary dramatically depending on the provider and speed of connection (Photo: Shutterstock)Rates vary dramatically depending on the provider and speed of connection (Photo: Shutterstock)
Rates vary dramatically depending on the provider and speed of connection (Photo: Shutterstock)

On the BP rate, the charge cost a total of £9.32, with no subscription or connection fee and a unit price of 18p per kWh. While other providers offered lower unit prices, connection or subscription fees pushed their overall charges up.

At the other end of the spectrum, Source London Flexi (7.4kW) was the most expensive charge in the study, with a full daytime charge costing up to £40.66, despite providing the same 7.4kW charging speed as BP Pulse PAYG. Only available in certain London boroughs, the cost includes a £10 one-off charge and a 7.3p per minute tariff. However, overnight (8pm-7am) the network stops charging a fee after four hours, cutting the intial iX3 charge to £27.52

Source London defended its prices, pointing out that the £10 charge was a one-off payment that regular users would recoup and that the highest rate is only charged in Camden, Kensington/Chelsea and Westminster, with lower rates in other parts of London. It also pointed out that its rates include free on-street parking in central London, and customers parking on-street overnight would save money thanks to this and the fee-capping feature.

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The cheapest BP Pulse service offered the lowest speed of charging - equivalent to a home wallbox. However, the next cheapest tariff, from Pod Point, offered up to 50kW charging for 23p per kWh - equating to a total cost of £11.91. Several other subscription-free services charged 30p per kWh while BP Pulse’s 50kW subscription service charged just 15p per kWh but carried a £7.85 per month fee.

Ionity’s 350kW chargers can complete the BMW charge in 35 minutes, compared with more than seven hours using a 7.4kW charger. At a unit price of 69p per kWh, the charge cost £35.74 - the third most expensive rate after Source London’s 7.4kW and 22kW rates. In comparison, the cost of charging the iX3 at home is around £7.25.

What Car? editor Steve Huntingford said: “Unlike petrol and diesel prices, which are relatively stable across the country, tariffs for the UK’s public charging network can vary wildly due to different electricity and subscription fees. Our research highlights the importance of doing your research before you leave home to find the most cost-effective way to make your journey.”

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