Electric vehicles (EVs) vs petrol and diesel cars: What you need to know.

See how electric cars are becoming more cost competitive.

Flash charging an EV car.

Why compare electric and petrol cars?

As the planet gets warmer, we’re all thinking about what we can do to make a difference in our daily lives and hit our climate goals. One of the ways we can cut CO2 emissions (also called greenhouse gas emissions), without changing our day to day too much, is by switching from a petrol car to an electric vehicle.

This is because an EV, as the name implies, runs on electricity rather than using fossil fuels. And if you get the right energy tariff then often it’s renewable energy you’re using to fill the kWh in your EV battery.

However, there’s often confusion around the benefits of switching to an electric vehicle. For example will you save money in the long run or where can you get a home charger installed and what will the impact be?

We’re here to help you get the answers you need and help compare electric cars to petrol and diesel vehicles.

What’s the main difference between an electric and petrol car?

Petrol cars are driven by an internal combustion engine which sends power to the wheels through a gearbox, whereas electric cars have one or more electric motors that are powered by a rechargeable battery.

Talking of the gearbox, electric cars tend to only have one automatic gear whilst petrol cars can have multiple gears. The higher gear, the faster you drive.

EV myths vs EV reality - Stuck in the slow lane.

Come for the ride as we bust some of the most common myths around EVs, like electric car top speeds. Rather than being slow compared to their petrol and diesel counterparts, blink and you may miss the fastest electric car whizz by.

Are electric cars cheaper than petrol cars?

According to a recent survey by the Dutch automotive lease provider, Leaseplan, they found that owning a fully electric vehicle in many European countries is less expensive than petrol or diesel models.

To do this Leaseplan looked at the total cost of owning and operating a car (TCO) over the first four years of ownership assuming an annual mileage of 30,000 kilometers (or approximately 18,641 miles), including:

  • Energy and fuel costs.

  • Vehicle depreciation.

  • Car and road tax.

  • Interest.

  • Car insurance.

  • Vehicle maintenance.

The key findings were that:

  • Electric vehicles in nearly every segment (compact, small, SUV etc) and nearly every European country are now the same price or cheaper than petrol or diesel equivalents.

  • Despite energy prices going up with recent events, fuel costs remain significantly lower for electric cars than petrol or diesel vehicles.

  • Fuel costs represent 15% of the total cost of ownership for an EV, whilst this is 23% for a petrol car and 28% for diesel cars.

  • There are more EV models on the market than ever before.

BEVs have a higher initial investment but lower running costs. TCO breakdown for BHEV, PHEV, petrol and diesel cards.

Is the cost of electric car vs petrol cheaper to run?

The survey done by Leaseplan found that the total operating costs of an EV are now approximately the same as owning a diesel or petrol car. It also showed that hybrid cars generally remain more expensive than anything else.

For example, for a compact car (C1 & SUV-c1) such as a Kira Niro vs a Renault Megane, the TCO for each is:

  • BEV (battery electric vehicle) - €919

  • Diesel - €941

  • Petrol - €954

  • Plug-in Hybrid - €1,084

This remains similar for mid-sized vehicles such as the Hyundai Ioniq and BMW 3 series.

However, for subcompact cars, diesel and petrol cars such as the Volkswagen Polo or Peugeot 208 are cheaper than similar EV vehicles.

Can electric vehicles be cheaper over their lifetime than petrol or diesel cars?

According to a report by Direct Line, the lifetime costs of running an electric car have fallen below those of comparable petrol models. Which means that it could now be cheaper to own and drive an electric car.

Whilst the up-front cost of an electric car is still more, around £5,000 at at the time of the report, they are a lot cheaper to run due to fuel savings, less tax and lower maintenance costs.

The study also found:

  • On average, over the course of its life, an electric vehicle will cost its owner £3,752 a year compared to £3,858 for a petrol car. This includes lease or purchase costs. This means an annual saving of £107.

  • If you remove the sale or lease costs, then the annual running costs of an electric vehicle average £1,742, or £33.50. Whereas a petrol car comes in, at £2,205 per year or £42.40 per week, so a saving of £463 per year.

  • Annual tax and maintenance costs (including MOTs and servicing) for electric vehicles are 49% lower than for petrol models.

  • The cost of fuelling an electric car costs 58% less than petrol car over the course of a year.

If you’re looking ahead, the research revealed that electric vehicles hold their value better than the petrol equivalents. Analysis of second-hand car data showed that a year-old electric vehicle only loses 12% of its value, compared to a 24% for petrol models.

Overall it seems that whilst buying an electric vehicle can be more expensive up front, the overall cost of the car over its lifetime will be less than if you go petrol.

So why switch to an electric vehicle?

In case you missed it, from 2035 the UK government is ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars (previously the ban was from 2030, but pushed back to 2035 by the government in 2023). This is designed to reduce our carbon emissions and help hit our goal of ending the UK’s contribution to climate change. It also means that more and more cars are going to be electric. Not quite the flying cars of the future we were promised, but it’s a positive start.

By ending the UK's contribution to climate change in 2050, carbon emissions will reduce by the equivalent of taking 4 million cars off the road.

How do I keep my car charged and on the road?

Well it means saying goodbye to that petrol forecourt and hello to charging points, and a lot of them nationally. The government announced it’s investing £1.3 billion to accelerate the roll-out of charge points for electric vehicles in homes and on motorways and streets across the UK.

Currently, when you’re on a motorway or major A road you’re never more than 25 miles away from a rapid charge point, and that’s only going to improve.

We’re also doing our bit too. We’ve already built more than 3,000 charging points across Europe, and now we’re bringing our network of Ultra Fast Charging (UFC) stations to the UK. It means you can charge your car for 10 minutes and it’ll go 100 miles. Perfect for that daily commute.

Want to know more about EV batteries?

We’ve put together a useful guide so you can understand how we use kilo-watt hours (kWh) to measure battery capacity, their average lifespan and how you can extend it.

Electric car batteries are one of the more expensive parts of an EV as they use rare and expensive materials, however as their costs come down they make electric cars more cost effective.

Interested in getting an energy tariff for your EVs?

Check out Next Drive, our electric vehicle tariff which offers renewable energy to fuel your electric cars.