Diesel vs. electric cars

Diesel or electric cars - which is better?

While diesel cars are less expensive to buy upfront and have better torque, low running costs, less maintenance and better fuel economy make electric cars a smart purchase. With a network of charger stations that’s expanding every day, an electric car is increasingly looking like a more sensible purchase when compared to traditional combustion-engined transport.

Pros and Cons of diesel cars

Pros

  • Lower lifetime cost than gasoline

  • Longer lasting engine than petrol models

  • More efficient (by around 25% compared to petrol) making for cheaper refuelling cost

  • Less CO2 produced as a result of efficiency, leading to less road tax

  • Higher torque or pulling power (for better acceleration)

  • Lower depreciate than petrol or gasoline engines

  • Versatile engines which can handle various fuel types (e.g. biodiesels in future)

Cons

  • Pricier than gasoline, volatile fuel price

  • Less environmentally-friendly - emitting nitrous oxides, hydrocarbons, and particulates that are harmful to the environment

  • Higher insurance than for petrol engines

  • Higher repair costs than for petrol engines and electric motors

Pros and Cons of electric cars

Pros

  • Zero emissions (except for grid-supplied generation)

  • Lower lifetime cost than diesel or gasoline

  • Little noise pollution and calm, quiet driving experience

  • No road tax or congestion charges

  • Instant acceleration

  • High residual value

  • Government incentives and tax breaks applicable

  • Lower maintenance costs (especially in comparison to internal combustion engines)

  • Abundance of charging points - at work, home, on-street, supermarket etc.

Cons

  • Higher upfront purchase price

  • Limited range on a single charge on older models

  • Long recharge times when using slow chargers

Weighing up to pros and cons of different fuel types? Read our guide on how petrol, hybrid and electric vehicles compare.

Are electric cars cheaper than diesel?

Diesel cars might cost less to buy or lease, however, lower running costs make EVs a more affordable and cost-effective purchase over the long run. They’re also easier and cheaper to maintain due to their fewer moving parts.

Getting the car

Most diesel cars have a cheaper purchase price than electric vehicles, leading many to believe they’re a more affordable investment. However, EVs are less expensive to run, something we’ll touch on in a moment.

The batteries produced for an electric car are pricey, which is what results in the hike in price tag. Furthermore, EVs often feature more advanced technology, something that also drives production costs, and therefore price, up.

Running costs

As mentioned previously, the big advantage to going electric are running costs - EVs are more affordable to run due to lower prices for electricity.

In fact, diesel is one of the most expensive fuel types on the market. This is because diesel is taxed at a higher rate as it is considered a ‘dirtier’ kind fuel.

On the other hand, the widespread availability of electricity makes charging one of the cheapest ways to re-fuel. On average, it cost roughly £8.00 to charge a standard 200-miler plug-in at home, even less at a rapid charger, where you can top-up 100 miles of charge for around £6.50. Better yet, some chargers, such as those at workplaces, are completely free to use.

Filling a 50-litre diesel tank costs close to £60.00, whereas you could get a similar mileage with an EV for just £25.00.

All this makes running an EV much more cost effective than a vehicle with a diesel engine. And, between road tax and the various government grants available, there’s a lot more you stand to save as an EV owner.

The table below features models from the same popular brands and shows the difference in the running costs between diesel and electric models.

Diesel modelCost per mileElectric modelsCost per mile
Vauxhall Corsa Turbo D SE 8.1 p Vauxhall Corsa-E 4.6 p
Kia Sportage GDI 10.4 p Kia E-Niro 4.5 p
Audi Q5 TDI 14.0 p Audi E-Tron 6.9 p
*As calculated using Zap-map’s Journey Cost Calculator.

Maintenance

Traditional petrol and diesel vehicles contain over 100 moving parts. On the other hand, most EVs have a total of under 5 actual moving parts, making them much easier and less expensive to maintain. Regenerative braking also contributes to less wear and tear on the tyres and breaks of plug-in vehicles. Overall, this means that the cost of maintaining an EV over its lifetime will be much less than that of a conventional diesel car.

Are electric cars more efficient than diesel?

Environmental costs

It would make sense that an all-electric car would be better for the environment than a combustion-engined vehicle, and this is true. In fact, when it comes to comparing electric cars to diesel-powered vehicles, there’s almost no competition; an EV is significantly more eco-friendly.

Figures from the European Environment Agency reveal that diesel engines emit on average 121.5 g/km of CO2 emissions. This is nearly one 1.5 times more than the EU’s 2020-21 target for new cars, which is 95 g/km.

One area where EVs do lose out is in manufacturing, as there are higher emissions produced in the build and assembly of an electric vehicle. However, when compared over a lifetime, plug-ins emit about half the emissions that gasoline cars produce.

EVs are also much quieter than diesel cars, which on-road tend to be markedly louder than petrol cars. The near-silent effect of electric batteries and motors leads to less noise pollution and a calmer, more comfortable ride.

Keen to go electric? We can help. We’ve got some of the best electric and hybrid lease offers available on the market, featuring all the newest models from top brands.

Going electric might feel a bit daunting, but it’s also exciting. We’re here every step of the way to answer all your questions (including the ones you didn’t even know you have!) and help you pick the best model for your lifestyle.

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