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

BMW i8

BMW i8

vs Audi R8

Audi R8

Okay, this one is a little facetious. Nobody buys a £104,540 BMW i8 to save money. But it wouldn't exactly hurt if it did save you some cash.

At this end of the market, people do often buy outright. So let's compare that with the i8's most obvious alternative, the Audi R8. As it happens, the R8 has just been completely updated with a new model, which starts at £119,500. A bit more expensive, but if you can afford £104,540, you can probably afford £119,500.

Anyway, the latest R8 is rated officially at 24.8mpg (ouch) and slots into VED band M (double ouch). The i8, meanwhile, is good for a staggering 113mpg and slots into VED band A. The upshot of this is that the i8 gets free road tax where the R8 attracts £1,100 in year one and £505 annually thereafter.

Then there's fuel costs. For the i8, this is complicated. It'll do around 30 miles in pure EV mode and you could conceivably drive it around town without routinely using the petrol engine. But then it is a supercar so the whole point is to really drive it at least occasionally.

Long story short, we reckon the i8 will be about half the cost for fuel of an R8. So given an annual mileage of 7,500 miles, that's about £160 a month on fuel for the R8 and £80 for the i8's petrol and charging costs combined.

Do the maths and based on road tax and fuel alone, the i8 will save you about £2,000 in year one and £1,500 thereafter. If this was a company car calculation, the numbers could get really dramatic. The i8 could save you well over £15,000 a year in benefit-in-kind tax. Yes, really.

On the other hand, the R8 whacks out 540hp to the i8's mere 357hp of total system power from its combined petrol and electric motors. So, make no mistake, the R8 is far faster. But is that enough to justify what could be getting on for an extra £20,000 a year? You pays your money and you takes your choice…


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.