Is an Electric Car Cheaper to Run than Petrol or Diesel?

Electric cars are quickly becoming an appealing alternative to traditional fossil fuel-powered vehicles, but how do the running costs stack up?

In the battle of electric vs petrol vs diesel, we’ve calculated the exact cost of three different journeys, with help from the incredibly useful Journey Cost Calculator on ZapMap.

If you just want the simple answer… electric cars are much cheaper to run based on fuel costs alone. And when you factor in maintenance costs, electric starts looking like an even more attractive option – brake systems tend to last longer than on conventional vehicles, and electric vehicles (EVs) have fewer fluids to change, and far fewer moving parts.

Electric vs petrol vs diesel: Journey costs compared

In 2018, the Volkswagen Golf was the second-best-selling car of the year, and the Golf has cemented its place as a firm favourite in the hatchback segment with motorists of all ages.

Such is the variety in the Golf range now, that Volkswagen actually produce a version with each of the three primary fuel types – petrol, diesel, and electric.

So what better car to use as a benchmark for fuel costs across petrol, diesel and electric? We’ve chosen three models with similar performance – the key stats are summarised in the table below:

e-Golf Golf 1.5 TSI Golf 2.0 TDI
Fuel type Electric Petrol Diesel
Power 136PS 130PS 133PS
0-60mph 9.6 seconds 9.1 seconds 8.7 seconds
Top speed 93mph 130mph 133mph
Price/unit 14.4p/kWh 121.03p/litre 130.32p/litre
ZapMap cost/mile 3.7p 14.0p 13.0p

Please note: The price per unit of fuel is based on UK average at the time of writing; any significant changes in fuel price will have a direct impact on cost per mile, and overall journey cost.

Popping to the supermarket: A cost comparison

A survey carried out by Banner Homes suggested that the perfect distance between a house and the supermarket is two miles. So how much will driving two miles to the supermarket actually cost you?

Well, jump in the petrol Golf, and your dash to the supermarket will set you back 42p, while the diesel Golf will cost 39p. Choose the e-Golf, however, and the journey costs just 11p.

On the face of it, the savings aren’t huge, but over repeated journeys this quickly adds up.  If you visit the supermarket twice a week, and drive there and back, the picture becomes a bit more convincing. Under those circumstances, the petrol Golf would cost £87.36 across a full year, and the diesel Golf £81.12 a year, while trips in the electric Golf would cost just £23.09. That’s a saving of around £60 over the traditional fuel cars.

e-Golf Golf 1.5 TSI Golf 2.0 TDI
Cost per journey £0.11 £0.42 £0.39
Cost per year £23.09 £87.36 £81.12

How much could I save commuting in an electric car?

According to the Office for National Statistics, the average commute in the UK is 9.32 miles in one direction. So let’s look at the cost of that average commute for each vehicle.

Travelling 9.32 miles in the petrol Golf costs you £1.30, while the cost in the diesel Golf is £1.21. The same journey in the e-Golf will set you back just 34p, however. And don’t forget, that’s just one journey in one direction.

Assuming you commute in both directions every working day, that’s 18.64 miles every day for 232 days (52 working weeks of five days, less the UK statutory entitlement of 28 holiday days each year).

On that basis, commuting in the petrol Golf costs £605.43 a year, the diesel Golf £562.18, and the electric Golf a penny over £160.

That’s a huge saving of more than four hundred pounds every year simply by switching to electric.

e-Golf Golf 1.5 TSI Golf 2.0 TDI
Cost per journey £0.34 £1.30 £1.21
Cost per year £160.01 £605.43 £562.18

Car journey costs for a staycation

According to research by, Brits going on a staycation are, on average, prepared to travel 225 miles to their destination.

It might be a journey that you only make once a year, but a round trip of 450 miles is a fairly substantial distance, and any opportunity to shave a bit off the cost is one worth making the most of.

Choose a petrol Golf, and the round trip will cost £63 on the nose. In the diesel, it’ll be £58.50. Go for the electric Golf, though, and it’ll be just £16.65. That’s a saving of well over £40 – enough for a meal out with your partner, for example.

e-Golf Golf 1.5 TSI Golf 2.0 TDI
Cost per journey £8.33 £31.50 £29.25
Round trip £16.65 £63.00 £58.50

How much cheaper is an electric car to run over a full year?

In the National Travel Survey 2017, the average annual mileage for cars in the UK was estimated to be 7,800 miles.

On the strength of the examples above, there are clearly significant savings to be made by switching to electric – so let’s look at the numbers over 12 months.

Cover 7,800 miles a year in the petrol Golf, and you can expect to part with £1,092.00 for the privilege. In the diesel Golf, the cost will be £1,014.00.

Choose the electric e-Golf, though, and the cost tumbles to £288.60 – a saving of £803.40 over the petrol model, and £725.40 over the diesel.

e-Golf Golf 1.5 TSI Golf 2.0 TDI
Cost per year £288.60 £1,092.00 £1,014.00

In each case, the lower cost of making journeys in the electric Golf is plain to see. With a massive saving of over £800 for choosing electric over petrol, it’s almost a no-brainer.

All that’s left for you to do now is decide which electric car suits you and your lifestyle best! Or see our electric cars available to buy right now!

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