With the last full year of registrations showing an increase of 144%, the growth of Electric Vehicles (EVs) seems unstoppable.
The forecasts are equally positive, with 1 million EVs expected by 2025 and up to 11 million by 2040.
On the face of it, we seem to be heading towards a tipping point where electric vehicles are accepted as the norm, and isn't a question of if you will make the switch but when?
To help you make an informed decision, our brief guide to electric vehicles will walk you through the key things you’ll want to know.
What type of EV's are there?
- Pure Electric Vehicles (PEVs)
Works by using electricity stored in a battery pack which, when connected to an electric motor, turns the wheels and drives the car forward. This motor also acts as a generator which tops up the battery by regenerating electricity from the energy created when the vehicle slows down and the motor is put into reverse. When the battery runs low, it is recharged by connecting it to a wall socket or other charging unit.
- Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV)
Can be powered by an electric motor, an internal combustion engine, or a combination of the two.
Can I get a car I really want to drive?
From compact cars to executive vehicles, there are now well over 100 fully or partly electric vehicles available in the UK. Most manufacturers are committed to expanding their model range in the future and as the choice grows, the technology improves also. Electric vehicles are rapidly becoming a genuinely viable choice for most drivers.
What are they like to drive?
Driving an EV is much like driving a regular vehicle, albeit an automatic one. The most noticeable difference is the lack of noise, especially on a PEV or FCEV where there is no combustion engine to rumble away.
Acceleration and breaking are also slightly different as all of the available power is instantly available, and deceleration begins as soon as you remove your foot from the break. Other than that, with batteries usually placed low down in the car, the low centre of gravity makes for a smooth and comfortable ride.
Are they completely green?
The maximum benefit comes from driving a PEV or FCEV, but even partial use of electric power will reduce the environmental impact.
Electric Vehicles are unsurprisingly far more environmentally friendly than their diesel or petrol counterparts but that’s not the same as saying they are carbon neutral. Electricity needs to be generated and batteries need to be built and disposed of at the end of their life cycle. PHEVs use fossil fuels to either recharge the battery or to provide an alternative power source when needed.
To balance this, batteries can be recycled and many of public charging points use 100% renewable energy. And at home, if you use solar generated power, it is possible to drive a Pure Electric Vehicle with zero related emissions.
Can I go where I want, when I want?
Most EVs can cover a range of at least 100 miles, with newer models hitting the 300-mile mark.
One of the biggest concerns of non-electric car drivers is whether they will find themselves stranded, having run out of battery power on a long journey. Thankfully, this is one of the key areas which has improved significantly over recent years and ranges of 2-300 miles are becoming increasingly common.
Where can I charge and how long will it take?
Charge times can be as low as 30 minutes and there are now well over 24,000 charge-points in around 8,000 public locations across the country.
The most convenient place to recharge an electric vehicle is at home or work but shopping centres, service stations and public parking locations are increasingly being equipped with the necessary technology. To find one near you, or along one of your regular routes, a good source of up to date information is www.zap-map.com
Access to these public charging points is typically controlled using a card issued by one of the network providers or via a smartphone app. There is also a growing number of pay-as-you-go units paid for using a standard contactless credit or debit card.
Depending on your location and schedule, speed of charging is also an important factor to consider. There are four types of charging speeds:
- Slow – 3-5kW - Charging at home on a three-pin plug this is usually called slow charging. It can take 13 hours or more from empty to a full charge, but obviously, that depends on the model. The vast majority of electric cars will be supplied with a cable designed for a three-pin domestic plug socket, however, charging via a three-pin plug should be reserved for occasional and emergency use only. You can check manufacturers guidance for further details.
- Fast – 7-22kW - This category covers charging from 7kw through to around 22kw and tends to cover both home charging units and out of home charging points. Installing a 7kw home charger could cut your charge time by half!
- Rapid – 25-99kW - When you’re out on the road and need a top-up, a rapid charge is a great option. These charging points can top you up from empty to 80% full in around 30 minutes.
- Ultra Rapid and Supercharger – 100kW+Ultra Rapid is the next-generation of rapid charge. Supercharger is the name Tesla has given to its charging network. Only available to Tesla drivers, these chargers can deliver a 200-mile range in just half an hour.
Home charging units are typically designed for longer charge times of 4 or more hours. Depending on your situation there may be Government Grants available and many providers offer a fixed priced supply and install service for around £1,000.
Most EVs come with two charging cables, one for connecting to a three-pin plug and one suitable for the majority of public charging points. If your car is capable of rapid-charging, you can use the cable which is fixed to the charging unit.
Will I save money overall?
Next to vehicle finance, fuel is generally the largest running cost for most drivers and it is here that electric vehicles really come into their own.
Independent research puts charging costs at approximately 4p per mile, which is around a third of an economical petrol or diesel car.
If you were to solely charge the car at home then, depending on your tariff, a full charge would cost around £3.64*. Whilst in theory this could cut fuel costs by as much as a third, in practice some degree of public charging is inevitable and should therefore be factored in. Currently there are a large number of free public charging points available but a service station charge is likely to cost around £6.50 for thirty minutes.
There are also savings to be had in terms of congestion charging and ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zones) with cars emitting less than 75g/km qualifying for a 100% discount.
Additionally, with fewer moving parts, servicing an electric vehicle often works out cheaper than its conventional counterpart. However, insurance can be a slightly more expensive as insurers need to factor in the smaller number of specialist repair locations.
Finally, for company car drivers who incur a Benefit in Kind (BIK) charge, April 2020 saw the introduction of five new tax bands for ultra-low emission vehicles. These new rates will significantly incentivise cars with the lowest emissions and highest all-battery driving range. Find out more about getting a fully electric vehicle through our Electric Car Scheme.
*Research conducted by Pod Point
Still not sure?
Whether it is right for you is a personal decision, but it is one that should be explored. Read more here where you can download our useful guides to find out if you are ready to make the switch and what to expect when your new EV arrives.