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As we move towards a battery electric future, one of the attractions has been potentially lower daily running costs. A report by charging payment... Charging Analysis

There is an odd narrative that is being promoted at present, that running an electric vehicle is no longer cheaper on a day-to-day basis than a diesel or petrol model. Indeed, if recent reports are to be believed, the rising cost of topping up with electricity, along with photos of Christmas holiday queues at charging stations, will see many consumers turning back to fossil fuels. For the vast majority of battery electric vehicle users, this simply isn’t the case, electric vehicles are here to stay and, if you charge wisely, there are running cost savings to be made.

“The claims that the cost of running an EV is now matching, or costs more than, petrol or diesel, are just not accurate when you look at how people actually charge,” said Ashley Tate, CEO of EV charging payment provider Mina.

“Our data shows that home is by far the main source of electricity for most drivers, with 92% of all charging undertaken there. Home charging is still incredibly good value and our data shows that there is scope for more savings, because the 30p per kWh average suggests not enough drivers are accessing the much lower EV-specific or off-peak tariffs available.”

Mina’s recently launched EV Report – Autumn 2022, shows that, despite stories to the contrary, charging costs rose only marginally over the last three months. Motorists charging at home have seen just a 4p per kWh average rise since the summer. Of course, those topping up batteries using public charging facilities saw a far higher increase in costs, as the price per kWh rose by an average of 14p over the same period and far more in some isolated cases.

“Even with the onset of winter affecting battery efficiency and the electricity price rises, the increasing number of new, more efficient vehicles and drivers getting smarter about how they use and charge them, has seen real-life, on-the-road costs rise only marginally. It doesn’t play to the vocal number of EV critics, but this is the reality,” said Tate.

Mina’s report is based on more than 60,000 charging sessions, recorded through the Mina Homecharge employee payment system and through its Chargepass public charging station payment offer. The figures include both car and van drivers, which is important, as there is a difference between the two.

For instance, the average pence per mile (ppm) cost to charge a car, on home or public charging, is 9ppm, which is up 1p from last summer. The average cost to charge a van, on both public and private charging, is 13ppm, which is up 2p. This difference is in part due to the higher miles/kWh capability of most cars, compared to vans.

However, Mina says that at that rate, an electric van driver, covering 1,000 miles a month would spend £130. A diesel van offering 40mpg covering the same 1,000 miles, would cost £213 at £1.88 per litre. That’s £83 more, or £996 per year.

Tariff choice

Whatever the vehicle, Mina claims that there are ways to reduce the charging bill, particularly if home charging is a possibility. The company is currently recording more than 811 different electricity tariffs through its Homecharge system, costing anywhere from 5p to 63p per kWh. This demonstrates that there are plenty of offers out there if EV users look for them.

Many domestic energy suppliers now offer EV-specific tariffs, using smart charging technology to ensure that vehicles are charged using off-peak electricity, at a lower cost. If a driver is charging a 60kW van battery on a standard domestic rate of 30p/kWh, the total cost will be £18 each time it is topped up. On an EV-specific reduced rate of 5p/kWh, that drops to just £2.40 for a charge.

Planned charging

Where things can start to become expensive, is when companies are using public charging extensively, if drivers have no opportunity to charge at home or in a depot/office car park. While the average cost to charge a van at home is 13ppm, that rises to an average of 28ppm on public chargers and can go higher.

Mina’s research shows that the peak plug-in times for public charging are between 7-8am and then 8-9am. The next peak, though to a lesser extent, is between 11-12 o’clock. That means that electric van users are stopping to charge while grabbing a coffee and a bacon roll before starting work, then catching a quick plug-in session over lunch.

While this may be working at present, as the number of electric vehicles increases, this will increasingly lead to waiting times at charging stations, which could affect working shifts for van drivers. Companies that regularly need a mid-shift boost, may need to plan charging stops for later in the day, when availability will be higher.

“Charging is going to become part of the working day for many and it needs to be integrated into workflows and schedules,” said Tate. “In order to do this effectively, you need to know when drivers have to stop. Once you’ve got this, you can make big improvements in productivity.”

The average van charging time on a public charger is now 57 minutes, 10 minutes longer than last summer. It should be noted that drivers often try to reach a 100% charge, which takes far longer than an 80% top-up, as to protect the battery the charging slows down for the final 20%. It may in fact be more productive to charge to 80% and then top-up again briefly later in the day if required.

Manufacturers are delivering increasingly extended driving ranges, mainly through the use of larger batteries, though they in turn take longer to charge. To make the most efficient, productive use of electric vans, operators are going to have to factor in charging, both time and cost, into the equation.