Electric Vehicles: Frequently Asked Questions
Choosing an electric vehicle (EV) can seem like a step into the unknown, but it doesn't have to be daunting. We've brought together answers to some common questions around EVs.
THE ROAD TO ZERO
What grants are available for EVs?
The Plug-in Car Grant is still available for wheelchair-accessible vehicles, offering up to £2,500 towards the pre-conversion cost for models with a RRP of up to £35,000, and grants for commercial vehicles are unchanged.
Vans with CO2 emissions under 50g/km and an electric range of at least 60 miles are also eligible for a grant covering 35% of the purchase price. Funding is capped at £2,500 for small vans, or £5,000 for large vans .
Electric cars with a list price of less than £32,000 were eligible for grant funding covering up to 35% of the list price (capped at £1,500) but this was removed on 14 June 2022.
Will I be able to drive a petrol or diesel car after 2030?
Yes. The UK Government is banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans in 2030, and hybrids will follow five years later . There are no plans to ban the use of vehicles sold beforehand, but it is possible in the longer term that future clean air zones could restrict their access to city centres or charge for entry.
Can the grid cope with everyone charging their electric cars?
Absolutely. National Grid ESO says peak demand was at its highest in 2002, and it has fallen 16% since as appliances become more efficient and homes and businesses add solar panels . With smarter chargepoints enabling sessions to be scheduled to avoid demand spikes, and energy to be returned to the grid, it's only projecting a 10% rise in peak demand once everyone switches to electric vehicles. That's still lower than in 2002.
Is manufacturing an electric vehicle bad for the environment?
Electric vehicles do require more energy to build than their combustion engine counterparts. But that's only half of the story.
According to a recent Volkswagen Group study, manufacturing the ID.3 electric hatchback (including processing raw materials) produces almost twice as much CO2 as the equivalent petrol or diesel Golf. However, it adds, even without factoring in the carbon-neutral factory where the ID.3 is built, lifecycle CO2 emissions comfortably undercut both versions of the Golf .
This isn't an unusual scenario. New research suggests whole-life CO2 emissions for an electric car are lower than a petrol equivalent in almost every country across the world .
Meanwhile, vehicle manufacturers are shifting factories to renewable energy, creating local supply chains to avoid long-distance shipping and CO2 emissions for electricity production are falling too. The average carbon intensity of the UK grid was two thirds lower in 2020 than in 2013 , and the ambition is net zero emissions by 2025 . All of these steps help to extend the environmental benefits compared to a petrol or diesel car.
Can electric vehicle batteries be recycled?
Batteries can have a second life as static energy storage after being used in an electric vehicle, and they can be recycled at the end of their lifespan. However, this isn't always happening.
The European Commission is considering setting targets for recycled content in new battery packs, warning that lithium - which is cheaper to produce from new than to recover from end-of-life batteries - is too often wasted .
Battery manufacturers are already preparing for an influx of recyclable materials as larger numbers of electric vehicles reach the end of their life. Northvolt, which will soon supply BMW and Volkswagen Group recently opened a pilot recycling plant in Sweden, ahead of a full-scale facility due to launch this year. By 2030, it's targeting a 50% share of recycled content in new cells .
CHARGING AT HOME
Can I charge an electric vehicle from a three-pin plug socket?
One of the biggest advantages of an electric vehicle is they can be plugged in almost anywhere with an electricity supply. Most plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles are supplied with a cable fitted with a three-pin plug, and this is compatible with any household socket.
However, a dedicated chargepoint offers up to three times faster charging, it's weatherproof and removes the need to trail cables through windows or add an outdoor plug socket.
How much does it cost to install a home charging point?
There are hundreds of chargepoint options eligible for the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme, which covers up to 75% of the unit and installation costs (to a maximum £350 including VAT) . Funding is available for drivers living in flats and apartment blocks, but single occupant properties (such as houses and bungalows) are no longer eligible .
Pricing starts from a few hundred pounds including installation, and increases with features such as faster charging speeds, remote control via a smartphone app, or designer units with premium materials. Most properties won't require additional electrical work, though some may require a longer cable to the driveway or upgrades to the main board. Those costs should be identified during the application process.
How long does it take to charge an electric car at home?
The majority of electric vehicle charging takes place at home. It takes a couple of minutes to plug in and, if it's left charging overnight, you'll wake up to a full 'tank' in the morning. Charging speeds depend on the power supply, and what the vehicle is capable of taking on.
- A 7.4kW (32-amp) charging point will restore around 30 miles per hour
- A 3.7kW (16-amp) charging point will restore around 15 miles per hour
- Using a three-pin socket (10-amp) will restore around 10 miles per hour
How much will electric vehicle charging add to my electricity bills?
Based on the national average flat-rate unit cost for energy , a typical electric family car covering 10,000 miles per year would cost around £44 per month in electricity if it was only charged at home. On a dual-rate tariff, with cheaper rates for off-peak charging, this could be as low as £26 per month.
For comparison, using the latest fuel prices from The AA , an equivalent  petrol car would cost around £124, while a diesel car would cost £112. In other words, any increase in utility bills is offset by the cheaper cost of 'fuel' for an electric car.
Will my electricity supplier be able to stop me from charging?
Not unless you opt in. From 30 June 2022, all new home chargepoints - even if they aren't grant funded - will have to include additional features creating the foundations of a smarter energy system . The idea is to avoid overloading the grid by letting everyone plug in at once.
New chargepoints must be able to measure, record and transmit usage, and be capable of pausing or slowing the rate of charging when grid demand is at its highest if drivers opt into a tariff which includes this. As a nudge towards smarter driver behaviour, they will also be supplied preset to charge outside peak hours (8-11am and 4-10pm on weekdays) and can, at random, defer charging sessions by ten minutes to avoid demand spikes outside those periods.
However, drivers are always in control. Users can choose not to accept factory presets, set their own schedules based on cheaper overnight tariffs and override deferred charging sessions if they need to top up straight away.
What if I don't have off-street parking?
You're not alone - one in four UK cars is parked on the street overnight  and the Government is paying attention. Launched in 2017, the On-Street Residential Charging Scheme (ORCS)  provides funding for local authorities to roll out infrastructure for areas without driveways or garages. More than 4,000 units have already been funded by the scheme, and residents can lobby councils to apply.
Can I run a charging cable across a pavement?
There is no law against running charging cables across a pavement, but local rules vary. Section 178 of the Highways Act 1980 says you cannot run cables over, across or along a pavement or highway without permission from the council responsible for it . Some local councils have opted to allow residents to do so , others view it as a trip hazard and will ask for it to be removed .
The Association of British Insurers says insurance policies also don't necessarily cover damage to the cable or injuries if someone trips over it. Some specialist providers do offer this , but - if you have to run a cable over the pavement - it's worth adding a brightly coloured cover to protect it and make it obvious to pedestrians.
Are charging cables easy to steal?
Cable thefts are reportedly on the rise in the UK, as they are worth around £200 and can be sold online . However, it's not easy to steal them. Most new hybrid and electric cars use the same 'type 2' connector, which locks to both the vehicle and the charging point while it's in use . It's usually impossible to remove without the vehicle's key.
Is it safe to plug in an electric car while it's raining?
Yes. Electric vehicle charging connectors are weatherproof, and the chargepoint will only start to supply current once it's detected that it's locked to the car .
How do I claim expenses for the electricity used at home?
HMRC has an Advisory Electric Rate of 5p per mile which drivers can reclaim if they are using an electric car or van for business journeys , but this doesn't always cover costs. To simplify this process, Centrica  and NewMotion  offer automated systems to reimburse drivers via payroll for the full cost of charging at home or on the road.
How long does it take to charge an electric vehicle on the road?
It depends where you plug in. Chargepoints are typically installed based on the sort of stops drivers make at those locations. The most common types are as follows:
- Slow chargers tend to be where drivers stop for several hours, such as shops, hotels and city centre car parks. These add up to 30 miles of range per hour of charging, depending on the vehicle.
- Rapid chargers are usually located at service stations and rest areas close to motorways and A-roads. They're designed for a short refill while drivers take a break, usually adding around 100 miles of range in half an hour. Some of the latest 'ultra-rapid' chargers can add 120 miles in ten minutes  for compatible vehicles, though not many offer this yet.
Does the UK have enough chargepoints?
The UK has one of the world's most advanced chargepoint networks, and it's growing all the time. There are almost 30,000 units in the UK, many of which can charge more than one vehicle at the same time . Most major routes are also well served by 'rapid' chargers, which are located at service stations and rest stops near motorways and A-roads. In England, the average distance between rapid chargers is just 25 miles .
Aren't there lots of different charging connectors?
No. The European Commission set the Type 2 connector as the standard for Europe in 2013 . Most manufacturers now use this for their vehicles, and charging points typically have a Type 2 socket as well. Similar to a USB port, this means vehicles can be plugged in regardless of what socket they have on board.
Rapid chargers are slightly different, as these have thicker and often water-cooled cables which are tethered to the unit itself. Again, there is a European standard (the Combined Charging System ) used by most new cars, but chargepoints are usually fitted with several connectors compatible with the three most common standards.
Do you need lots of apps and membership cards?
Fewer than you would have a few years ago. All new rapid chargers should already offer payment via contactless credit or debit card , and a lot of slower units offer one-off payments without registering an account.
However, this is usually the most expensive way to charge. Many networks offer discounts for account holders, and store payment details to make it quicker to start a charging session. Some memberships and fuel card providers also offer 'roaming' capability, which enables drivers to access and multiple networks with a single account. A few also offer international roaming .
Will I need a different charging cable if I go abroad?
Only if you're charging from a domestic plug socket. Travel adaptors to convert a three-pin plug are not suitable for the sustained high currents needed for electric vehicle charging. However, the Type 2 connector is standard across Europe, so public chargepoints at destinations and rest areas will have the same socket or leads as in the UK.
DRIVING AN ELECTRIC CAR
How far can I travel in an electric car?
It depends on the vehicle. Many new cars, including the Hyundai Kona Electric, Polestar 2 and Tesla Model 3, can travel in excess of 250 miles between charging stops. However, city-based electric cars, such as the Fiat 500, Mini Electric or Honda e, might only offer a range of around 100 miles.
The other component of long-distance touring is faster charging. The Highway Code advises a 15-minute break after two hours of driving  - in an electric car, that time could be used for a top-up while you rest. Unlike a petrol or diesel car, you don't need to wait with the vehicle while it's filling up.
How much range does an electric car lose in winter?
Electric vehicle range can drop off in colder weather, partly due to the battery but also caused by the increased energy used to heat the cabin. Research by the American Automobile Association found electric vehicles lost an average 41% of their range at -6°C with the air conditioning running. Warm weather has a similar effect - driving range was 17% lower than the published figures at 29°C, where the climate control was cooling the cabin .
Of course, air conditioning also reduces the efficiency of a petrol or diesel engine. The advantage with an electric car is it can warm or cool the cabin while it's still plugged in, drawing energy from the charging point rather than depleting the battery.
What happens when an electric car runs out of range?
Eventually, as in a petrol or diesel car, you'll come to a stop. Electric vehicles provide plenty of warning when the range is running low, and some will limit power or shut off systems such as the air conditioning to extend the range. Range gauges are typically on the cautious side to reduce the risk of this happening.
The RAC is rolling out an on-board charging system on its latest vans  which will enable them to be topped up at the roadside. However, with rapid chargers every 25 miles in the UK, it's more likely that vehicle will be towed to the nearest service station for a faster top-up.
Can an electric vehicle tow a trailer?
Only a handful of electric vehicles are legally allowed to tow a trailer. Maximum towing weights are set during a process called Type Approval, which takes place before a new vehicle is put on sale. However, it's an optional value and vehicles which are deemed unlikely to tow - including high-performance petrol cars and shorter-range electric vehicles - aren't always approved to do so. If they are sold without a towing capacity, then it is illegal to use them for pulling a trailer .
How often do you need to service an electric car, and what does it cost?
Service intervals for an electric vehicle are similar to an equivalent petrol or diesel model, but the process is very different. An electric motor has only a handful of moving parts, doesn't require oil or filter changes and it also helps to slow the car, extending the life of the mechanical brakes. According to The AA, servicing costs for a Nissan LEAF are 36% lower over a three-year lifespan than a Ford Focus .
Can all garages work on an electric vehicle?
No. Electric vehicles contain numerous high-voltage systems which require specialist qualifications to work on . However, as this technology is becoming more common, an ever-expanding number of independent main dealership workshops are putting staff through the required training.
How long will an electric vehicle battery last?
Batteries are designed to last the typical lifespan of whatever product they are fitted to. So while a mobile phone or laptop battery might show signs of degradation after a couple of years, an electric vehicle battery should have retained most of its capacity over a ten-year lifespan .
This is reflected in vehicle warranties which are typically longer than you'd get with a petrol or diesel engine. For example, Tesla offers an eight-year warranty on all of its battery packs, guaranteeing it will have retained at least 70% of its battery capacity over that timescale .
Is there a risk of battery fires?
Electric vehicles can catch fire when they are over-charged or damaged during a crash, but the risk is much lower than for their petrol or diesel counterparts.
Tesla claims one vehicle fire for every 205 million miles travelled in its cars, which is ten times less than the overall average . Even during a round of crash testing which was far in excess of regulatory requirements, German agency DEKRA reported none of the vehicles caught fire or posed an electrocution risk to first responders . If they do catch fire, vehicles are typically soaked in (or submerged in) large quantities of water to cool the battery .
Like to find out more?
If you have any other questions that you think should be included in our FAQ about owning or operating an electric car or commercial vehicles get in touch by email firstname.lastname@example.org
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