In my post “A car for free” I outlined the maths that led to me buying a Leaf. I do a bit more than an average amount of miles per year. What if you don’t do many miles? Maybe you’re looking at swapping the second car in the family to electric. An EV should be ideal for lower mileage users since range is less likely to be an issue. 

If you cover only 4000 miles a year (that’s only 75 a week) then an EV will save you over £800 per year in running costs. You’ll pay almost £1100 to run the petrol, and only £249 for the EV.

Lets look at the costs of an EV compared to an economical petrol car, or “ICE” (short for Internal Combustion Engine). I’ve used the Nissan Leaf EV compared to a Golf 1.2 petrol. You can find either car, used, at 3 years old for around £9000. So the price of the car is no different. Performance, on paper at least, is similar. (But the petrol can’t match the instant EV acceleration response from the traffic lights). They are very similarly sized, including the boot volume. The Leaf has better levels of equipment. Since the EV is effectively an automatic, I’ve included costs for manual and auto gearboxes. Strictly speaking the auto is the fair comparison- but lets see how it works out. For short trips, the limited range of the Leaf shouldn’t be an issue (and there’s always Rapid charging if you need it).

For lower mileage drivers (up to 10,000 miles a year) some costs are annual no matter how many miles you do- these are fixed costs, for example servicing and road tax. This is where an EV wins hands-down! Other, variable, costs you rack up per mile as you use the car- like tyres for example.

Some areas are a clear win for the EV: road tax and servicing. EV’s don’t attract road tax, and servicing for all but the top-end cars (like Teslas) is cheap – because there’s precious little to service. The only item that may wear out faster on an EV is the tyres, because the high torque from a standstill, compared with the near-silent power delivery means you can use the acceleration anywhere at any time, without deafening (or poisoning) the locals!

Tax: EV £0, ICE £140  

EV saves £140


EV Average per year: £139 £129 (minor) £149 (major) every 18,000 miles or annually.

ICE  (manual) Average per year: £367 £ 164 minor, every 10,000 miles or 12 months, and £329 every 20,000 miles or 24 months. Cambelt and water pump, £484 every 4-5 years.

ICE (auto box) Average per year: £413  as above plus £184 for the auto box, every 40,000 miles.

EV saves £228 to 274

Sources: Nissan and VW websites


The AA, for example, say 20,000 miles for front tyres and double that for rears – I got 14,000 from my first set of Leaf front tyres, driving mostly on B-roads, and I’ve even seen demo Leafs well on their way to wearing out their second pair of fronts after only 6,000 miles!

EV 1.3 pence/mile (assuming life of 14,000 and 35,000 miles front and rear)

ICE 1.1 pence/mile (assuming 20,000 and 40,000 miles front and rear)

Over 4000 miles the ICE saves £8.

Fuel: In the case of a car only covering 4000 miles a lot of these are likely to be in town or with a cold engine, hence you’d expect to get low economy figures. The EV will also suffer from lower than average economy because more miles would be covered from cold, using a lot of cabin heating. The realmpg site gives 49mpg for the ICE, and I’ve assumed a pessimistic 3.5 miles/kWh for the EV. I’ve also assumed “normal rate” electricity at 15p/kWh; economy 7 rate would be half that price.

EV: £171 ICE: £444

EV saves £273

Overall, £140+413-8+273 = £818 saving per year!

Remember – even if you buy a “cheap” ICE car, the running costs of any ICE are significant, and likely to increase.


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