ZOE is Cheaper to Run than Equivalent Petrol Car

Zoe and Clio (Image: Renault)
Zoe and Clio (Image: Renault)

I have shown previously that the ZOE is cheaper to buy than the equivalent fossil fuel car, the petrol or diesel Clio (the Dynamique S Medianav TCE 90 and DCI 90 models respectively). Here I want to consider how they compare in running costs – this essentially means fuelling costs since both the ZOE and Clio, bought new, come with the Renault 4+ Package which covers warranty, servicing and roadside cover. Also, all three models are car tax band A (no cost).

The comparison therefore comes down to the liquid fuel costs for the Clio (petrol or diesel) versus the battery rental and electricity costs for the ZOE. The liquid fuel costs depend on the fuel consumption figures that the Clio models achieve. It is well known that they will not achieve the official NEDC ratings and it is better to use real world figures. Using a combination of figures for the petrol and diesel versions from the websites What Car (60mpg for diesel), Honest John (47.8 for petrol/64.8 for diesel) and SpiritMonitor.de (42 for petrol, 61.7 for diesel) – the last two sites as recommended by the AA – we get averaged figures of 45mpg for the petrol Clio and 62mpg for the diesel Clio. The average price of petrol and diesel in the UK this year has been £1.35 and £1.41 per litre (i.e. £6.14 per gallon and £6.41 per gallon) respectively so the fuel running costs for a Clio are approximately 13.5p/mile and 10.5p/mile for the petrol and diesel versions respectively.

For comparison let’s consider the fuel running costs for the ZOE, with my typical range of 80 miles per charge. A full charge is 22kWh and my electricity costs are 15.76p/kWh during the day and 6.57p/kWh at night (‘Economy 7’). So the cost for a ‘full tank’ is about £3.50 (day) or £1.50 (night), giving fuel running costs for a ZOE of approximately 4.5p/mile (day charging) or 2p/mile (night charging). For a summary, see Table 1.

 Clio TCE 90 PetrolClio DCI 90 DieselZOE (day charging)ZOE (night charging)
Fuel cost/mile13.510.54.52

Table 1: Fuel running costs - Clio vs ZOE

While these electricity costs are representative running costs for most electric cars, they are not for the ZOE since it has an additional monthly battery lease cost. This depends on the car’s annual mileage so the ZOE’s total running costs vary, and depend on the distance travelled in the year. For battery lease costs see Table 2 (source: Renault.co.uk) and note that excess mileage is charged at 4.5p/mile.

Annual Mileage36M+ Contract24 Months12 Months
Up to 7,500£70£80£90

Table 2: ZOE battery hire costs

Therefore to compare with the Clio we need to consider different scenarios, from low annual mileages to high annual mileages – and given none of the monthly battery lease costs are particularly low we can expect that for low mileages the Clio will win out (since its fuel costs for low mileages will be correspondingly small). The comparison therefore becomes an interesting and very specific one – are there specific mileages above which the ZOE is cheaper than the petrol and/or diesel versions of the Clio?

To do this comparison fairly we must consider the limited range of the ZOE on a single charge even though, because of fuel costs, the ZOE would be expected to be cheaper to run at high annual mileages. For a driver who regularly goes on long journeys the need to recharge about every 80 miles may make it impractical despite the significant cost savings. Therefore it is more useful to consider typical daily commuting distances rather than just total annual mileage.

Specifically, it can reasonably be assumed that no-one wants to charge during their daily commute so, allowing for some range contingency, we can deduce that the maximum practical daily commuting distance is 75 miles round-trip, or 75 miles each way (150 miles round-trip) if charging is available at work.

The comparison therefore comes down to determining the monthly costs for each vehicle at commuting distances of up to 150 miles per day. These results are shown in Table 3 for the ZOE, diesel Clio and petrol Clio (on the basis of 22 working days per month and the per mile costs detailed above).

Figure 1: ZOE and Clio monthly fuel costs (Image: T. Larkum)
Figure 1: ZOE and Clio monthly fuel costs – El. is electricity, Bat. Ex. is battery lease excess (Image: T. Larkum)

From these results we can extract some conclusions:

  • As expected, at very low mileages (less than 35 miles per day) a fossil fuel Clio is cheaper to run than a ZOE.
  • At mileages from 35 to 85 miles per day a petrol Clio is the most expensive to run, with diesel the cheapest and a ZOE in between.
  • At mileages above 90 miles per day the ZOE is cheaper than either a petrol or diesel Clio.

It is worth noting that the running costs of the diesel Clio and the ZOE are generally very similar so, given the sensitivity of the underlying data to variations in fuel prices, it is probably best to say that the running costs of the diesel Clio and the ZOE are about the same for most mileages, and they are both substantially less than a petrol Clio.

Personally I would summarise as follows:

The ZOE is cheaper to buy than an equivalent fossil fuel car and for the majority of commuters it is cheaper to run than an equivalent petrol car. Compared to an equivalent diesel car it is quieter, smoother, less smelly, and less polluting but costs about the same to run.

Home Forums ZOE is Cheaper to Run than Equivalent Petrol Car

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    Trevor Larkum

    I have shown previously that the ZOE is cheaper to buy than the equivalent fossil fuel car, the petrol or diesel Clio (the Dynamique S Medianav TCE 90
    [See the full post at: ZOE is Cheaper to Run than Equivalent Petrol Car]



    Very good article 🙂

    You might want to make it clearer, however, that you’ve used the 12 month battery lease costs in the comparison table. Taking a 3+ year lease (as most of us will have done) will reduce the monthly cost by about £20 and therefore easily beat the diesel clio.



    Ah, no, ignore me. I see what you’ve done. My numbers are different to yours because I took into account my annual holidays 🙂 With your standard 20 days a year holiday plus bank holidays you can reduce the mileage calculations for the lease and that’s why I’m only paying £103 instead of £129



    This is a really helpful piece of analysis. It confirms my hunch that the battery lease model is unsuitable for lower mileage users. That’s a bit ironic as it’s short journeys in combustion engined cars that are most polluting.


    Trevor Larkum

    Thanks for the feedback guys.



    Great piece of analysis, Trevor. It’s frustrating that low mileage users pay more, because that’s the category we fit into (sub 30 miles per day). Also, I don’t have economy 7, so pay more for electricity.

    The petrol car we traded in did not get such great mpg as you’ve quoted in your table for a new Clio, so that weighs a bit more in our favour.

    It seems Renault are over-charging for battery rental on lower mileages. That said, is it a coincidence that petrol prices are coming down just at a time when electric vehicle sales are taking off? <Put your own conspiracy theory in here>

    It would seem that charging away from home could turn out to be much cheaper, assuming those costs are recorded as membership (£10 per year for Chargemaster, free for Ecotricity) rather than KWh consumed.

    Overall it means we’ve bought on principle rather than because it makes financial sense. I mentioned all this to the wife, who’s only response was that she prefers the ZOE because she doesn’t have to go out of her way to get petrol any more, which is important to her and shows that sometimes consumer needs outweigh £ per month!




    I originally posted this in the old thread so copying it across to here

    Great analysis Trevor. I’m definitely a low mileage user (like Markd above) so our decision was not completely down to cost logic, but we’re also mostly charging at public charging points so we’re basically paying about £70 per month “fixed fuel charge” which is only slightly more than we paid for our previous car, a 1.6 petrol Skoda Roomster.

    What we’re all hoping/expecting is that ongoing maintenance costs etc. will also be less than an equivalent ICE car moving the cost equation further in our favour. I’ve definitely noticed the lack of brake dust on the wheels (a great benefit!) and of course there are no exhaust pipes, clutches, gearboxes and other ICE complexities.



    I’ve been thinking about this analysis on and off – if EV’s are to take off they should always be the lowest cost to run, regardless of mileage or battery lease payments.

    Trevor, how much cheaper would the battery lease payments have to be to make ZOE the cheapest to run in all cases?



    Trevor Larkum

    mark, sorry I didn’t respond at the time. I think the battery lease payments would just have to be reduced by the difference between the second-to-last and third-to-last columns at low mileages – say, about £20 per month.

    Meanwhile Renault has put up its own cost calculator. I haven’t had the time to investigate how it compares, but here’s the link if anyone’s interested in diving in:

    ZOE Cost Calculator


    Alex P.

    There is a relevant error in the article : it takes much more than the 22 kWh battery capacity to fully charge the vehicle, due to unavoidable charging losses. I’d bet that it takes at least 25 kWh to charge the battery from flat, particurally during these colder days

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