Frequently asked questions
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.