Charging and maintaining your EV: The costs and the requirements

EV Charging | 10 May 2024

Switching to an EV is like stepping into a brighter future — cleaner, greener, and full of new possibilities. 

If you’ve recently taken the plunge, or are thinking about it, you’ve probably got a few questions about how you’ll maintain and charge your new electric ride — in a cost-efficient way.

That’s what we’re here for. In this article, we’ll cover:

  • Different types of EVs
  • The main differences between EVs and ICEVs
  • EV servicing and maintenance needs
  • The costs of charging and maintaining your EV

Let’s get to it. 

EV, BEV, PHEV…. All the jargon explained

It takes some time to get used to all the acronyms thrown around when talking about electric vehicles. So let’s make sure we’re on the same page. 

Here are the key terms to know:

  • Internal combustion engine (ICE) — A type of engine used in traditional petrol or diesel powered vehicles.
  • Internal combustion engine vehicle (ICEV) — A vehicle that uses ICE. ICEVs typically run on fuels derived from fossil fuels (petrol and diesel), although they can also use alternative fuels, such as natural gas, propane, biodiesel, and ethanol.
  • Electric vehicle (EV) — A blanket term used to describe all types of EVs, BEVs as well as PHEVs. It can sometimes be used to refer to BEVs as opposed to hybrid vehicles or PHEVs.
  • Plug-in vehicle (PiV) — A term used to refer to both BEVs and PHEVs.
  • Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) — Purely electric vehicle, powered by an electric motor and battery. It doesn’t have an internal combustion engine.
  • Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) — Also known as a hybrid vehicle, this EV runs on both electricity and petrol. It has a battery pack that can be charged by plugging it into an external source of electricity or using its onboard internal combustion engine-powered generator.
  • Hybrid Vehicle (HV) — This is a vehicle that is entirely gasoline-fueled but doesn’t rely solely on its gasoline engine. HV has an electric battery, smaller than that of a PHEV. The car charges it when you brake and then uses that energy to drive. An alternative type of hybrid is where the electric motor propels the car and the engine simply generates electricity.

You may have also heard of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV) or Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV). These are EVs that run on a combination of hydrogen (stored in a fuel cell) and oxygen.

The key difference between a FCEV and an ICEV is that the latter generates (and wastes) heat and produces emissions as it burns the fuel. 

A fuel cell, on the other hand, performs a chemical reaction to produce electricity, using oxygen and compressed hydrogen. FCEVs only emit water vapour as exhaust. 

Due to limitations of hydrogen infrastructure and the size of the hydrogen storage tanks, most manufacturers today focus on BEVs. That’s what we’ll be doing, too.

Got more EV related terms you’re unsure about? 

Turn to our EV jargon buster

Whether it’s amperes, battery range, kWh, or the difference between slow, fast, and rapid charging, you’ll find your answers here.

How electric cars work

An EV has multiple lithium-ion cells (batteries) that supply the power needed to drive, run air conditioning, and essentially bring your EV to life. 

Charging an EV’s battery is much like charging your smartphone. You plug it in and the battery draws energy from the grid until fully charged. 

During the process, electricity from the grid is converted into chemical energy and stored in the battery. The battery’s management system prevents overheating and ensures energy is distributed efficiently. This is crucial not just for safety, but also extending the battery’s lifespan.

How far a full battery will take you depends on the battery range, measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Just like with smartphones, these too differ from one EV model to another. Most modern EVs will be able to serve your day-to-day needs with ease. 

The average car in the UK drives 142 miles per week. Newer EV models can handle that with ease. The 51 kWh Vauxhall Corsa Electric, for example, has an advertised range of 195 miles, more than enough for a week’s worth of school runs and trips to the shops. 

Electric motor vs gas engine — key differences

ELECTRIC MOTOR GAS ENGINE 
Energy source

  • Runs on electricity stored in its batteries
  • Requires electrical charging stations: can take a few hours to change
 

  • Runs on combustion of fossil fuels like gasoline or diesel
  • Requires gas stations for quick refuelling
Efficiency

  • Converts up to 90% of electrical energy into motion
 

  • Converts only 20-230% of fuel energy into motion
Emissions

  • No direct emissions
 

  • Emits greenhouse gases and pollutants
Torque and power 

  • Instant torque and smooth acceleration
 

  • Torque and power aren’t instant and vary with engine speed
 

 

Good to know: Towing

One key difference between an EV and an ICEV is towing. An EV cannot be towed with a tow rope like your typical gas guzzler. That is due to its unique setup, the way electric motor and wheels are connected, and the fact that an EV’s battery should not be positioned at an angle. 

Before trying to tow an EV, make sure to always check its user manual first. You’ll also need to find the right kind of towing vehicle.

Keeping your EV healthy: Servicing and maintenance

It is true that ICEVs are much higher maintenance than EVs. Just compare the engines. An ICE car has a gearbox with around 2000 moving parts. An electric motor is built with only 20. 

That of course doesn’t mean you can get an EV and forget about maintenance altogether. Maintaining your EV will still require both servicing and MOT tests. 

Servicing

A service or periodic maintenance helps keep a car in good working condition. You’re not legally required to get your EV serviced, although it would be wise to do so. It will also help you pass the MOT test. 

Here’s what to keep an eye on:

  • Electric motor and batteries: They’ll need maintenance, though very little. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the recommended frequency. Be sure to check to what level it’s recommended to keep your EV’s battery charged. In many cases, between 25% and 75% will make batteries last longer.
  • Brakes, discs, and pads: Thanks to regenerative braking technology, brakes will last considerably longer than in an ICEV. They will, however, need replacing periodically, as will the car’s discs and pads.
  • Tyres: These too will need replacing from time to time as the EV’s weight and regenerative braking technology will cause tyres to wear over time. In the UK, the minimum legal limit for tyre tread depth (measured across the central three quarters of the tread around the tyre’s complete circumference) is 1.6 mm. Your EV’s tyres should be replaced once the tread depth reaches 3 mm. 
  • Steering and suspension: The EV batteries’ weight means that steering components can loosen; bushes, springs, and dampers can wear over time. Regular check-ups of the suspension and steering systems are a good idea if you want to keep your EV riding as smoothly as on the first day. 
  • Software: Just like your phone or PC, an EV’s software needs regular updates, too. These will help boost the car’s performance and battery life, add new features, and fix any bugs. The good news — software updates don’t generally require a visit to the service centre, just a stable wifi connection as the software will update automatically.

Finally, it’s advisable to have a regular check of all systems and mechanical parts to make sure your EV operates at optimal performance. That includes air conditioning pumps, cabin filters, and wiper blades.

The ideal cadence for servicing will be specific to each model, so your best bet is following the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

MOT

A MOT test is a legal requirement. It will cover:

  • Tyres
  • Brakes 
  • Electrics
  • Headlights
  • Horn
  • Mirrors
  • Seatbelts 
  • And more 

The first one is due once your EV turns three years old. Following that, you should take a MOT test every year. Failure to do so can result in:

  • A fine of up to £1,000
  • Invalidated car insurance
  • Your EV being impounded
  • Penalty points on your driver’s licence

Most test centres today accept EVs for a MOT test, though it’s still worth confirming before jumping in the car.

If you’re not sure when your first (or next) MOT is due, this MOT history checker will have the answer. 

The cost of charging and maintaining your EV

MOT and servicing costs

Overall, the cost of maintaining and servicing an EV is considerably lower than maintaining an ICEV.

A MOT will cost you no more than £54.85 — that’s the legally allowed maximum.

Servicing costs, on the other hand, will vary, depending on your EV’s:

  • Make and model
  • Mileage
  • Age

If you live in an area with harsher weather conditions, this may increase your servicing costs. The reason is quite simple — more extreme temperatures and weather-related road conditions, such as road salt in snowy winters, can have a negative impact on the EV’s battery and mechanics.

It may be a good idea to get a maintenance and repair deal or subscription with your local auto dealer. RAC’s All Wheels Up and EV Boost are another good option. 

Whichever you get, a maintenance subscription will keep your expenses in check and provide a service to call when you need your EV repaired or towed.

Charging on the go

For a while, every potential EV driver worried about finding themselves stranded on the roadside with a flat battery and no chargepoint for miles.

That’s a non-issue today. The charger network in the UK has grown to over 45,000 public chargepoints across over 26,000 locations. To put that into perspective, there are just above 8,000 petrol stations in the country.

The best part — 3,568 of these public chargepoints offer charging your EV for free. The majority of those are located in:

  • Scotland (1060)
  • The South East (489)
  • Greater London (355)

The fastest and easiest way to find a free EV chargepoint near you is by using Zapmap. There you to search by:

  • Network operator (such as Tesla, Shell, Zap)
  • Access (public, restricted, open 24/7)
  • Payment options (free, credit card, or Zap-Pay)
  • Type of location (dealership, health services, park, etc.)
  • Connector types (DC (rapid charge) or AC (slow/fast charge))

To find a free EV charging station, just select “free” under payment options.

While technically free, some of these free charging points may be limited to: 

  • Customers: Stores and attraction sites, for example, often require you to show a ticket or proof of purchase to park and charge your EV.
  • Set period of time: Some EV chargepoints have a set time limit for use.
  • Restricted locations: The free chargepoint you’ve found may be located in a restricted area, such as a parking space that requires a permit or payment to access.
  • Specific app or payment options: It’s also worth checking if you need a specific RFID card or app to start and pay for a charge.

The main difference between public chargepoints is the charging speed available. There are:

  • Standard chargepoints, the kind you’ll generally find in public car parks that put out between 3.5kW and 7kW of power. You’ll need about four to eight hours to fully charge a car (depending on the size of the battery). One hour of charging will usually give you a 10-25 mile top-up. 
  • Fast chargepoints, more common in shopping centres and supermarket car parks, can put out up to 22kW. That means two to four hours to fully charge a car. One hour of charging will give you up to 75 miles driving. 
  • Rapid chargepoints — you’re in luck if you find one of these. A rapid chargepoint can give you an 80% recharge in 25-40 minutes.
  • Ultra rapid chargepoints can put out over 50kW, some can even hit 150 kW. That’s 200 miles’ charge in just 30 minutes. While rare today (and too powerful for many EV models in the market), ultra rapid chargers are where the future’s at. 

Free chargepoints are a great extra, but unlikely to serve your daily needs. According to RAC data, the average cost to charge a 64kWh EV from 0% to 80% is £36.56 using a rapid charger and £38.30 using an ultra rapid charger. 

That means using only public chargepoints would be just as wallet-friendly as eating at a restaurant every night. A more convenient and affordable solution? Charging at home.

Charging at home

Get home charging set up and you’ll no longer need to journey to public chargepoints, search for free charging stations, or wait in lines. You get a full battery whenever you need it — faster and for less.

Good to know:

If you own or rent a flat, you may be eligible for a home EV charger installation grant which lets you save £350 or 75% off the cost to buy and install a home EV charger. 

For a complete overview of eligibility criteria and grant application process, turn to our Complete guide to the home EV charger installation grant

The exact amount you’ll pay depends on your electricity tariff and the size of the EV’s battery. Zapmap’s home charging calculator is a good place to start. 

A standard Mini Electric, for example, would cost 6.8p per mile to charge (by comparison, a typical petrol or diesel car costs around 16p per mile). Nissan Leaf would take 7.2 per mile to charge, while the top selling Volkswagen ID.3 would cost only 7p per mile.

These are of course indicative prices. If you’ve chosen a tariff that fits your needs and charge your EV during off-peak hours (like the night-time), your costs could be even lower.

 

Your complete guide to buying & installing a home EV charger 

Charging at home with solar

This guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the power of solar. Solar charging is by far the most cost-effective way to power your EV (and indeed your entire home). What’s more, it frees you from worries about fluctuating energy costs.

With solar panels powering your home charger, you’re essentially powering up your EV for free, particularly in the summer. In winter, you might need to use a mix of solar and grid electricity. Even so, you’de be making considerable cost savings compared to charging 100% off the grid or at public chargepoints.

To give you an idea, here’s how much a VW Golf ID3 120kW 163PS costs to run at summer 2023 prices — if you don’t have solar.

Electricity Cost per mile driven Cost per 1,000 miles driven
At home EV Tariff £0.0185 £18.51
At home standard £0.0716 £71.56
Public slow charging £0.0864 £86.37
Public Fast Charging £0.1357 £135.73

 

Guide to buying solar for your EV

One final note:

As you’re looking at ways to lower your energy bills, there’s one more tip we want to share — adding a smart home energy management system (HEMS) to your home setup. 

HEMS analyses how, when, and how much energy you consume. It monitors what devices you’ve got on at any given time to make sure you’re never consuming too much electricity, particularly at peak hours when the prices are at their highest. Got the washing and dishwasher on? HEMS will automatically switch off EV charging until the chores are done. 

A smart HEMS like the Powerverse platform will also help you identify the most wallet-friendly energy tariffs on the market, set your EV to charge at the cheapest times, and even provide personalised recommendations for improved energy and cost efficiency. 

You could see your bills can go down by £1,000 each year.

About Powerverse

We’re experts in EV charging technology and sustainable home energy. If you’re ready to embrace clean, green, low-cost driving, talk to us about home EV chargepoints, smart energy systems, solar panels, and home batteries.

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