Can a plug-in car really save you thousands every year?

Renault Zoe

Renault Zoe

vs Renault Clio

Renault Clio

For our entry-level example, we'll go for the Renault Zoe. At just £13,445 after the UK government's £5,000 plug-in car grant has been deducted, it's by far the cheapest full-sized electric car from a major manufacturer. For context, Volkswagen's e-up!, which is smaller car from the size segment below the Zoe, costs from £19,795.

The Zoe's pricing is possible thanks to Renault's policy of not actually selling the expensive battery with the car. Instead, you lease it separately. The reality is that most people now finance the purchase of new cars rather than buying them outright, so this is not an outlandish idea by any means.

The upshot is that with the Zoe, you must combine the battery lease with the monthly payments for the car itself. So, let's have a look at a typical Zoe offer from Renault and see how it compares to a plain combustion car.

Right now you can have a Zoe for a £599 deposit, plus 36 monthly payments of £89. The battery lease adds £70 on top for a monthly total of £159. There's also a finance fee of £99 and a £149 fee if you want the option of buying the car at the end of the three-year deal.

Choosing a combustion car that lines up precisely is open to some interpretation. But let's keep it in the family and go with Renault's own same-sized Clio. In Dynamique Nav 1.2 75 trim with a £700 deposit, you're looking at £179 per month and the same finance and option-to-purchase fees.

Question is, then, how do the costs compare beyond the monthly payments?

Much will depend on mileage. These aren't big, long-distance cars. Indeed, the Zoe will only do 130 miles on a charge. But let's be generous and say you'll do 7,500 miles a year.

The Clio is officially rated at 51mpg on the combined cycle, so let's call that 45mpg in the real world. At current fuel prices, you're looking at roughly £70 a month in fuel and just under £10 in road tax.

For the Zoe, charging will cost around from £15 to £20 depending on tariffs and there's no road tax. In other words, your monthly motoring costs on an assumption of 7,500 miles annual would be at least £80 cheaper. What's more, if you regularly enter the London Congestion Charge zone, the Zoe's free entry will save you even more.

Things obviously get more complicated when you factor things like initial dealer deposits, total amounts payable if you choose to buy at the end of term and all that jazz. But in terms of your monthly outgoings, a small plugin car has clear money-saving potential.


Technology and cars. Increasingly the twain shall meet. Which is handy, because Jeremy (Twitter) is addicted to both. Long-time tech journalist, former editor of iCar magazine and incumbent car guru for T3 magazine, Jeremy reckons in-car technology is about to go thermonuclear. No, not exploding cars. That would be silly. And dangerous. But rather an explosive period of unprecedented innovation. Enjoy the ride.