Plug in your car… but only Britain’s wealthiest motorists can charge cheaply | Electric, hybrid and low-emission cars

Nearly 10million households in England and Wales stand to lose £950 in savings a year from owning an electric car, according to a study warning that the wealthiest households stand to benefit the most.

About a third of households do not have access to off-street parking or a personal garage, so they will miss out on the reduced costs of charging cars using cheaper electricity at night.

Switching to these fares and moving away from fossil-fuel cars could drop weekly fuel costs from £21 to less than £3 for those who can access it. However, while 76% of the wealthiest households have access to off-street parking, the same is true for only 56% of the poorest fifth of households. The findings emerge in an upcoming study by the Resolution Foundation think tank examining Britain’s plans to achieve net zero emissions and the impact on living standards. The shift to electric vehicles has the potential to reduce fuel costs, but it reveals the remaining barriers to ensuring everyone can access them.

Battery electric vehicle (BEV) purchases have already exceeded forecasts, accounting for one in five new vehicles purchased so far this year. It is even double the most ambitious projections produced by the Committee on Climate Change, which advises the government on green policies.

Operating costs are one of their main attractions. Even public charging stations cost around 25% less than the average cost of filling up a gasoline car at the pump. However, the type of home a person has will impact charging costs. “If not taken into account, these large cost differences risk creating a ‘billing divide’ – with most of the savings likely to be accumulated by the wealthiest households, potentially worsening inequality,” the report concludes.

It finds that for households with off-street parking at home, low-cost overnight charging could drop annual running costs to £139, or £389 for those not using off-peak rates the cheapest. However, those who have no choice but to use the public network of charging stations face annual fuel costs of £712, five times more than the cheapest off-peak tariff. The equivalent cost of refueling a petrol car is around £1,100 per year. Some 9.8 million homes in England and Wales do not have access to a garage or off-street parking.

Non-owners are less likely to have access to off-street parking. Only 51% of private tenants, 38% of housing association tenants and 26% of community tenants have access to it, compared to 81% of landlords.

Jonny Marshall, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, called on ministers to prioritize reducing the cost of public charging and encouraging the installation of home charging stations in rental accommodation. “Britain’s electric car revolution needs to be more than just buying new cars,” he said. “The government can address this ‘charging divide’ by taking action to reduce the price disparity across the charging network and prevent those without access to home charging from paying a much higher rate.”

This follows calls from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) last year for the government to intervene in the electric car charger market to prevent “charging deserts”. He said locations outside London remained underserved. Expanding electric car use is a key part of the government’s plans to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

A DfT spokesperson said: ‘We are providing over £1.3billion to support the deployment of charging stations in homes, businesses and residential streets, and today a driver is no never more than 25 miles from a fast-charging station anywhere along the great road in England. Has roads and highways. Our Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy will soon be released, outlining our vision to create a world-leading charging infrastructure network. »

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