In the autumn 2017 budget, the government dangled more carrots to entice drivers to switch to electric cars. It promised not to tax those who charge their cars for free at work. It also said there would be £400m for additional charging points and revealed increases in Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax) for new diesel cars.
The incentives are intended to accelerate the drive toward electric cars that emit no emissions. Even so, most drivers still have practical questions over the suitability of battery powered vehicles and, importantly, their running costs.
One of the most significant running costs of any car is the price of servicing. And manufacturers of electric models often highlight how much cheaper they are to maintain than a comparably priced diesel car. But are there really savings to be made? And how often do they need to be serviced? We investigate.
Servicing costs: do electric cars all cost the same to maintain?
Just as you’d pay less to have a Ford Fiesta serviced than you would a BMW 5 Series, there are big differences between the servicing costs of electric cars.
That comes down to the hourly labour rates charged by different brands, the complexity of the vehicle and the list of jobs that need to be performed during the scheduled service.
How often do electric cars need servicing?
Electric cars currently fall into one of two camps. They will either need servicing once a year, or they have to be checked every other year.
Take four of the most popular models. The Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe must be inspected once a year, or at 18,000 miles (whichever comes first). Meanwhile the BMW i3 and VW e-Golf don’t have to be seen for two years or 18,000 miles.
That’s assuming that nothing goes wrong with the battery powered models.
Comparing servicing costs for electric and diesel cars
Electric car servicing is significantly more affordable than a hybrid or conventional motor. There are fewer moving parts, no need for costly engine oil changes and less wear and tear on expensive items such as brakes.
According to GreenCarGuide, the expected cost of servicing a Zoe at a Renault dealer, for its first three years and 30,000 miles, is £683, including tyres and brakes.
You may think that sounds expensive. Compared with a similar-size Renault Clio it becomes clear drivers switching to an electric car can enjoy savings. A Clio 1.5 diesel would be around £1500, more than twice as expensive.
A BMW i3 would be around £600, or £704 for the version with the range extender engine, whereas a BMW 320d EfficientDynamics automatic Touring would cost just over £1000.
It’s much the same story with Volkswagen. The electric e-Golf is estimated to cost £424 in maintenance over three years, whereas a Golf 2.0 TDI GTD BlueLine auto would be £1250.
Are more drivers buying plug-in cars?
By the end of November, sales of pure electric cars had reached 12,633. That’s an increase of almost 39 per cent over 2016. Plug-in hybrids, which feature both an electric motor that can power the car in isolation, and a combustion engine, have been bought by 30,204 drivers. It’s a year-on-year rise of nearly 21 per cent.
Read more: Why electric cars cost more to insure