Thinking about an electric car?

7 min to readElectric vehicles
Thinking about going electric? That's great news. We believe these vehicles have a lot to offer - and many drivers could benefit from them. However, we also understand you have to make sure they're right for your situation, so we've answered some of the most common questions to help you decide.
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Are electric cars better for the environment?

Research {1} suggests that pure-electric (BEV) cars are always better for the environment - particularly in the UK, as so much of our power is generated from renewable sources. If you use a sustainable energy supplier, you could be cutting your CO2 emissions by as much as 70%. Even with a non-sustainable supplier, they could go down by 30%. It's also worth keeping in mind that when you buy a traditional car, its emissions per mile are fixed, but with an electric car they will fall every year as the grid gets cleaner.


How many electric cars are on the roads in the UK?£

SMMT figures {2} show that new registrations of electric vehicles and alternative fuels year-to-date had grown to more than 62,308 vehicles by the end of May 2019.

What electric cars are available?

There has also been a significant increase {3} in the number of pure-electric and plug-in hybrid models available in the UK with most manufacturers in the UK offering an EV as part of their model line-up.

What's the difference between each type of electric vehicle?

BEV (Battery-Electric Vehicle)

A vehicle powered solely by a battery charged from mains electricity. Currently typical pure-electric cars have a range in excess of 80 miles with many of the newest travelling up to 300 miles. As with conventional motoring, driving style, speed and air conditioning/heating use can reduce the range available. Current models include Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, Renault Zoe and Kia Soul, Hyundai Kona, Jaguar iPace

PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid EV)

A vehicle with a plug-in battery and an internal combustion engine ICE) powered by petrol or diesel. Typical PHEVs will have a pure-electric range of up to 30 miles. The benefit of these vehicles is that once the electric battery is depleted, journeys can still continue in hybrid mode. This gives a range in excess of 300 miles. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, BMW 330e, Audi e-tron and VW Golf GTE are all current examples of such technology.

E-REV (Extended Range EV)

These are a version of plug-in hybrids, with the vehicle powered by a battery with a petrol or diesel powered generator on board. With an E-REV the propulsion technology is always electric and range can be between 150-300 miles. The BMW i3 range-extender is an example.

Aren't electric cars a bit boring?

There are sensible electric cars, much like there are sensible diesel and petrol cars. However, electric motors provide instant torque and fast acceleration, so even a 'normal' car could be a bit more exciting than you expect. Then, there are things like Tesla's Insane and Ludicrous Modes {4} which can leave traditional cars standing.

But what if I want a traditional 'everyday' car?

We have those as well, such as the compact Renault ZOE or the stylish Hyundai Ioniq - and there are likely to be lots more on the way.


How far can you go in an electric vehicle?

All the latest generation electric vehicles can go at least 100 miles between charges, which is much more than the average daily journey which is on average only 15 miles! {5}

Don't pure electric vehicles (PEVs) take ages to charge?

Well, yes and no. When you're charging at home it can take a long time - but most people have lots of time. You can just put them on charge in the evening (much like a mobile phone, in fact) so you know your vehicle will be ready the next day. And it saves you a trip to the petrol station. You may even benefit from night-time electricity rates.

How quickly can an electric vehicle charge from empty to full?

Depending on the size of the battery and the speed of the charging point, the time it takes to charge an electric vehicle can be as little as 30 minutes or up to 12 hours. A typical electric car (60kWh battery) takes just under 8 hours to charge from empty-to-full {6} with a 7kW charging point.

The higher the number of kilowatt hours the more energy the battery can store and therefore the further the car can go.

Is it easy to find charging points?

Yes, you can see them on Google Maps or Zap-Map {7} (which also provides details of the charging method and payment options).

Will I have to sign up to several charging networks?

It's up to you, of course, but you may want to sign up to more than one, depending on what's available on the routes you usually drive.

Can I still have an electric car if I don't have off-road parking?

Yes, you can. There are over 20,000 {8} charging points across the UK and many more on the way. This is, in part, thanks to legislation that says there must be public charging points at motorway services and large petrol stations.

Is charging my car at work a benefit in kind?

The Government has made clear that it isn't.

Driving Experience

Is it stressful to drive an electric vehicle?

There are two answers to this question. First, there's the concept of 'range anxiety', where you worry that your battery could run low and there's no charging around. However, the infrastructure is coming on in leaps and bounds - and with careful planning you can do a lot to avoid this problem anyway. Beyond this, there is research that suggests the smooth and silent drive of an electric vehicle can be relaxing, in which case, they're less stressful than traditional cars.

Are electric vehicles safe to drive?

They're considered to be safer than traditional cars, as they don't contain fuel that can catch fire and their smaller engines mean there is more room for a crumple zone.


What is regenerative braking? (Regen-braking)

When you want to slow down in an electric vehicle, you don't have to put your foot on the brake (unless you need to). Instead, the car uses its momentum to charge the battery, which also slows it down. Use your regen braking to slow down over the longest distance possible, look as far down the road as possible and anticipate

Can you get manual electric vehicles?

No, they're all automatic, so there's no need to worry about the gears and clutch.

What happens to electric vehicle batteries?

There's currently a lot of development {9} in this area into the best way to recycle electric vehicle batteries - as they contain valuable materials. Options include recycling to place materials back into the production cycle -or using them to store home energy.


Are electric vehicles expensive?

They tend to be more expensive to buy, in terms of the price you pay. Over the entire time you own them, though, the picture is less clear. They tend to need less maintenance (there are no oil changes for example), there's no road tax and their running costs are significantly cheaper. If you live in London, it gets even better, as you don't have to pay the congestion charge or Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charge either.

Overall, research {10} suggests that in the UK the whole life costs of electric vehicles are roughly cost-comparative with diesel and petrol cars.

Are there any incentives to buy an electric vehicle?

You can get a plug-in car grant from the Government that is currently worth £3,500, plus £500 towards the cost of installing some types of higher-powered charging wallboxes at home {11}. Some local authorities also offer funding towards installing on-street charging points.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

A full charge in a pure electric vehicle will give a typical range of 100 miles and will cost £2 to £4 {12}. Driving 100 miles in a petrol or diesel car will cost around £13 to £16 in fuel, which is around four times the cost of the electric car. The cost savings will be greatest when owners have access to an off-peak overnight electricity tariff.

Is it better to buy or lease an electric car?

As you might expect, this is a personal decision and it depends on your situation, so we can't tell you which is the right option for you. However, we believe there are good reasons to opt for a lease when you're thinking of choosing an electric car.

The key point to remember is that electric vehicle technology is developing very quickly, so new and improved models are hitting the market all the time. If you buy, your money is tied up in a car that could quickly become outdated. Or, given the generally higher cost of electric cars, you may have to go for a second-hand vehicle that is a generation or two old, so it doesn't have the latest developments, such as a greater range.

With a lease, you can get a cutting-edge vehicle for a modest deposit and an affordable monthly cost - and you'll only have it for a fixed period before you'll be able to upgrade, without any concerns about selling it. Effectively, you're paying the cost of using the vehicle, rather than the price of owning it.

Sources and further reading:

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Published at 5 August 2020
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5 August 2020
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