March kicked off with an unwelcome, though entirely expected, arrival in my inbox. After a winter of volatile energy prices, our utility company set out our new gas and electricity rates from April, and it was wince-inducing. With a chargepoint on the driveway, higher energy costs mean pricier motoring, so does an electric car still make sense?
Energy price caps rarely come top of the news agenda, so the scale of recent coverage says a lot. Adjusted twice a year by UK regulator Ofgem, they strike a balance between enabling utility companies to cover their costs and preventing them from overcharging customers. This isn’t usually a problem, but for the last six months it’s left suppliers with no way of recouping wholesale gas prices which have been up to eight times higher than seasonal norms. Ouch.
To make matters worse, almost 40% of the UK’s electricity is generated from gas, so this has become more expensive too. The suppliers that haven’t folded recently have battened down the hatches, suspending new fixed-rate tariff offers to avoid locking themselves and their customers onto high energy costs. So while the price caps only apply to pre-payment or ‘default’ tariffs (the expensive ones that come in at the end of a contract), Ofgem says the latest set affects 22 million people in the UK. That’s twice as many as were affected by last autumn’s cap.
For electric vehicle drivers, the important figure behind the headlines is the unit cost. Ours has risen from 21.2p to 28.3p per kilowatt-hour of electricity, equating to a one-third increase in my ‘fuel’ costs. Based on my average winter efficiency (a worst-case scenario, as batteries don’t like cold weather and cabin heaters are energy hungry) I’m using around 9.8p of electricity per mile, versus 7.4p beforehand. If I use the published WLTP average (which I reckon is achievable during the summer) then it’s gone up from 5.9p to 7.9p per mile. Public charging networks have already upped their prices, so there’s no escape.
Of course, petrol and diesel drivers are also feeling the pinch. Pump prices are reaching record highs just as my inbox was ringing with warnings of rising utility bills, so it’s helpful to consider energy costs in context. At 153.4p per litre for diesel (UK government average for the last week of February), you’d need a 71.5mpg lifetime average to match the MG’s winter efficiency, while a petrol car (at 149.2p per litre) breaks even at 69.5mpg. Assuming all three meet their WLTP efficiency figures, the nearest equivalent petrol self-charging hybrid or diesel estate would cost around 50% more per mile than a pure electric alternative.
In other words, despite the steeper price hike for electric cars, and being locked into a tariff we can’t change, fuel costs are still comfortably in favour of plugging in. The last six months have shown it’s hard to predict what’s ahead, but I’ll be quietly hoping for some brighter news when the next price cap lands in my inbox during the summer.
Arrived 10th December 2021
Range 250 miles