Icon

The Ultimate Electric Car Guide

Image
Icon

1. What are the benefits of switching to electric?

More and more people are going electric, and we’re seeing charging stations pop up all over the country. Electric cars are going mainstream, and if you’re thinking about changing your vehicle, now’s a great time to look at electric.

Why go electric?

  • Cheaper to run – lower running costs than petrol or diesel
  • Clean – they’re better for the environment, with no tailpipe emissions
  • Smoother – quieter and more comfortable to drive
  • Versatile – there are loads of different models and types of electric car now
  • Well-supported – you can get government grants to buy and install a home charger if you rent or live in a flat

The downsides? Well, electric cars are often more expensive to buy than petrol or diesel cars, especially for smaller and cheaper vehicles (though electric is still cheaper to run). And the range is often a bit shorter than petrol or diesel cars, though it’s simple to top up your battery whenever you need to.

image of car

*Courtesy of EVclicks.co.uk 

Cost icon

2. What do you need to know before you buy an electric car?

Are electric cars worth it in the long term?

Yes – they’re cheaper than petrol or diesel for tax, maintenance and fuelling costs, and these savings add up the longer you keep the car.

According to the Electric Car Cost Index published by LV= in April 2022, you can save over £1,000 a year on running costs – and even more if you drive in areas with congestion charges.

They can cost a bit more to buy than an equivalent petrol or diesel car, though. For a family car like the Hyundai KONA, the petrol version costs about £7,000 less than the electric KONA.

The gap’s smaller with premium cars. A petrol BMW 320i M Sport (with Pro Package) starts from a similar price to an electric Tesla Model 3.

What’s it like to drive an electric car?

It’s pretty much the same as driving a petrol or diesel car. They’re easier to drive than a manual, and most drivers quickly get the hang of things.

Here’s what to expect.

  • It’s just like an automatic: there’s no gearstick, just a selector to choose between park, drive and reverse. Press the accelerator to speed up, press the brake to slow down.
  • It’s quiet. You’ll soon get used to a silent start instead of your engine chugging to life.
  • It’s nippy. They accelerate quickly because you get power straight away. It takes a bit of time to get used to, so some cars have ‘chill’ or ‘eco’ modes you can start with.
  • It doesn’t coast. When you slow down they use technology called ‘regenerative braking’ to turn your speed into battery power. It makes things much more efficient and saves brake wear, but it feels a bit different.
man at a charging port 

Do you need a special licence for electric cars?

No – you can just use a normal UK driving licence.

Are electric cars safe?

Yes they are – they need to go through stringent safety assessments before they go to market.

Batteries have loads of safety tech built into them. A battery is made up of lots of individually protected cells, so even if you damage one, it’s hard to damage them all at the same time. So they’re extremely unlikely to catch fire, especially compared with a petrol or diesel fuel tank.

There are also sensors that check battery health. If they spot a possible fault, they’ll give you plenty of warning so you can get it checked out.

And how do they cope with water? Well, battery packs are incredibly well sealed and fully weatherproof, so you don’t need to worry about your battery struggling with car washes, puddles or standing water.

Plenty of electric cars get top-mark 5-star safety ratings from Euro NCAP too, which means they’re some of the safest cars on the road.

Are electric cars less reliable than petrol or diesel cars?

No – they’re very reliable. They don’t have as many moving parts as petrol or diesel cars, so there’s no clutch, gearbox, spark plugs or exhaust to go wrong. They also generate less vibration, which reduces the wear on other parts and keeps maintenance costs down.

The motors and batteries can drive for hundreds of thousands of miles too, while a traditional petrol or diesel car is probably nearing the end of its life at around 150,000-200,000 miles.

Should I buy an electric car now or wait?

While technology’s always improving, now’s a great time to get started with electric cars. Cars using modern lithium-ion batteries have been on the road for over a decade, which has given manufacturers more than enough time to get over the teething troubles. 

 

What should I look for when buying an electric car?

Just like buying any car, it’s worth doing your homework. When you’re trying to work out what’s right for you, there are plenty of questions you should ask:

What’s the real-world range? How big is the battery? Can I use all public chargers? What do I want to find out on a test drive? And can I test the exact model I want to buy?

It’s also worth talking to other owners. Check social media for local and regional electric car driver groups and see if they’re planning any get-togethers. There are also some bigger events like Fully Charged LIVE where you can see and test drive loads of different cars.

How do you service an electric car?

Just like a petrol or diesel, you can either use your local dealer or a mobile service. If you’d prefer to use an independent local garage, many electric-friendly garages are registered with the Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Repair Alliance (HEVRA).

Lightbulb icon

3. How do you charge electric cars?

What sort of electric car chargers are there?

There are two main types: standard chargers and rapid chargers.

Standard chargers are the most common. They’re the sort you’ll have fitted at your home, or you’ll find in supermarkets and car parks. They’re great when you’re parking up for a while: you just plug in and charge up while you’re getting on with things. You’ll need to bring your own charging cable, which should come with your car - although home chargers usually come with a charging cable attached, or ‘tethered’.

Rapid chargers are seriously fast, and you’ll often find them at fuel stations and motorway services. They’re a bit more expensive to use, but they can give you up to 80% charge in 30-40 minutes.

How many different electric car charging plug types are there?

For standard and rapid chargers, there are different plug types, which can have different power ratings. The higher the power rating, the faster your car will top up (as long as your car can handle the speed).

Standard chargers

Type 1

These 5-pin sockets were the first common connections for electric car chargers. They’re rare on new cars, but you’ll still find them on older models. 

Type 2

These 7-pin sockets are the most common. They’re included on almost all new cars, and have a locking mechanism built in.

Rapid chargers

CCS (Combined Charging System)
This 9-pin connector is the most common rapid-charger format, and it’s what you’ll see on most cars.

CHAdeMO

This 4-pin connector is much less common, but you’ll see it on some older cars like the Nissan LEAF.

graphic of Type 1 connector (with 5 pins) and Type 2 connector (with 7 pins)

graphic of CCS connector (with 9 pins) and CHAdeMO connector (with 4 pins)

How fast are electric car chargers?

Different chargers have different power ratings, measured in kilowatts (kW). The higher the rating, the faster the charger.

Your car’s onboard charger also has a kilowatt rating – and you can’t charge faster than this. So for example, if your car has a 100kW onboard charger and you plug it into a 150kW rapid charger, you’ll only charge at 100kW. 

According to Pod Point this is how much range you can get from an hour’s charging for a Hyundai KONA Electric 64 kWh:
 
ChargerLocationRange per hour of charging
3.6kWHome / work15 miles
7kWHome / work / public chargers28 miles
50kWPublic rapid chargers99 miles (based on 30 mins charging in the 20-80% battery band)
150kWPublic rapid charger153 miles (based on 30 mins charging in the 20-80% battery band)

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

This depends on how much you’re paying for electricity. If you’re really lucky your employer might even pay for the electricity from a work charger!

For most of us, though, it’s cheapest to charge at home. These prices are for the Octopus Go tariff – a renewable energy tariff with off-peak costs between 00:30 and 04:30 every night (as at April 2022 prices). It’s likely these costs will increase later in 2022.

The public charger costs are for July 2022 from Osprey Charging:

 
Price per kWPrice per mileProvider
Charge at home – off-peak7.5p2p*Octopus Go
Charge at home - standard tariff37p10p*Octopus Go
Public chargers away from home66p17p*Osprey Charging

*Based on 4 miles per kWh and rounded to the nearest 1p

In comparison, petrol and diesel cars work out more expensive. If you can do 50mpg and you’re paying £1.90/litre (July 2022), you’ll pay about 17p for every mile you drive.

 

How do I charge an electric car at home?

The simplest way is to install a wall-mounted charge point, or ‘smart charger’. Some of them come with a cable already attached so you can just park up and plug in. The box is about the size of a shoebox, and you’ll need a qualified electrician to fit it. You can also get government grants for installing it if you rent or live in a flat.

If neither of these work for you, you could find a community charge point or charge at work (plenty of employers offer charging points now). It’s also worth thinking about where you park during the week: is there a charger at the supermarket or your gym? Some may even be free to use.

How do I charge an electric car on a journey?

The first step? Find your charger on a charge point app or map. Most motorway service stations have chargers now, so you can plug in while you’re taking a break.

The app should tell you whether it’s a standard charger or rapid charger, and what sort of plug it needs. If you’re staying somewhere for a few hours a standard charger might do the job. If you’re using a rapid charger, you can add a lot of power in the time it takes for a coffee and comfort break.

How does my driving style affect range?

Just like a petrol or diesel car, smoother driving is more efficient. If you accelerate hard and brake a lot you’ll use more power than if you accelerate gently and let the car’s regenerative braking slow you down. Higher speeds also use more power, so driving faster is less efficient.

Other things have an effect too. Batteries are less efficient when they’re colder, and hilly journeys use more energy than flat ones.

Are electric cars only suitable for urban driving?

While electric cars are well suited to town and city driving, they’re also great for cross-country journeys.

More than half of electric cars can travel over 200 miles on a full charge and over a third can do more than 250 miles. The average daily journey in the UK is under 30 miles, so electric cars are ideal for most journeys. Some parts of the country have more chargers than others, though, so you should check there’s somewhere to top up before you hit the road.

Girl at an electric car port

 

Heart shape icon

4. Is going electric right for you?

 

What are the steps I need to take towards buying an electric car?

There are three big questions you need to ask yourself before you go for it. They’ll help you work out if electric is right for you, how you’d charge your car and how you’d use it.

1. How will I charge an electric car?

If you have a drive or garage, you can install a home smart charger. It’s the fastest, cheapest, safest, and easiest way of charging up.

If not, hunt out your nearest public charger. There are about 30,000 in the UK, and you can find your nearest on a charge point map or app. They’re getting more and more common at supermarkets, petrol stations and in public car parks, and there are also community schemes to let people share their own points with other drivers. Lots of employers also provide charge points, so you might be able to charge at work.

2. How will I use an electric car?

We all use our cars a bit differently, so think about how far you drive each day – and how many people you take.

In the UK, the average commute is 23 miles a day there-and-back. Even old second-hand models can cover that easily, and most new cars can do 200+ miles on a full charge. But the further a car’s range, the bigger the battery you need. And bigger batteries are more expensive and heavier – so do your sums first and you might be fine spending less on a shorter-range model.

Most electric cars can fit four or five people comfortably. But you can also find smaller and larger cars. Electric superminis like the Fiat 500 are spacious in the front and smaller in the back, while bigger family wagons like the Citroen ë-Spacetourer can fit up to nine people.

3. How much should I spend on an electric car?

Electric cars can cost more than similar petrol or diesel cars, but the difference gets less with more expensive vehicles.

For a supermini you can expect to pay a few thousand pounds extra over a petrol or diesel car, but when you get up to luxury cars like a Tesla, there’s not much difference over a fossil fuel equivalent.

There’s a big difference in running costs, though, and they’re almost half that of petrol and diesel cars. With an electric car you can easily save £1,000 a year on fuel, tax, tax and maintenance. And if you pay to drive in congestion zones or clean air zones, you can save much more.

Once you know if an electric car’s right for you, it’s time to start thinking about what sort of car you want to drive.

If you’re still not sure, take our quiz to find out if an electric car is right for you.

electric charging bays

Cost icon

5. How much does an electric car cost to buy?

Like petrol and diesel cars, you can choose a price to fit your budget.

For a second-hand car like a Nissan LEAF or Renault ZOE, prices start at about £7,000 on Autotrader (April 2022).

If you’re buying new, you can buy a small city car like a Vauxhall Corsa-e for about £27,000(April 2022).

There are plenty of larger options too, with the Skoda Enyaq iV 80 starting from about £41,000.

How do I buy an electric car?

There are three main ways to buy an electric car: buy it outright, lease it or get it on finance with an option to buy it later.

Buying an electric car outright

This is the most straightforward option: hand over the cash and you own the car. No interest to pay, and no monthly payments. You can buy new or second hand, and most new cars come with a warranty. If you want to spread the cost, you can buy with a loan or on finance, but you’ll normally have to pay interest.

What are the benefits of buying an electric car outright?

  • Nothing more to pay – no monthly payments and no interest
  • Buy new or second hand
  • It’s your car, and you can do what you like with it

Leasing an electric car

This means renting or hiring a car. You’ll need to take some credit and affordability checks first. Then you just pay a deposit, then make a regular payment each month until the contract ends and you give your car back. It’s perfect for drivers who like getting a new car, but you’ll need to look after it carefully and give it back in good condition (there’s an agreement about what ‘fair wear and tear’ means).

What are the benefits of leasing an electric car?

  • Get a brand-new car every few years
  • No extra charge for servicing and maintenance with service contract
  • Fixed monthly payments

Finance it then buy later – or give it back

A Personal Contract Purchase (or PCP) lets you finance the car and then, when your contract’s up, you can choose to buy it for a lump sum, hand it back or use its value for a new PCP deal. It helps spread the cost and means you don’t need to pay the full price all at once – though you’ll end up paying more than the sticker price.

What are the benefits of PCP for an electric car?

  • Spread the cost of buying a car
  • At the end of the contract, you can either buy the car for a lump sum or just hand it back
 

What  grants are available?

To encourage people to go electric, there are some government incentives to help bring the cost down:

Plug-in vehicle grant

There are some government incentives to help bring the cost down for some types of electric vehicle.

From the 14 June 2022, the following low emission vehicles may be eligible for a plug-in grant: wheelchair accessible vehicles, mopeds, motorcycles, taxis, trucks and vans. The value of the grant will vary depending on the vehicle type.

See the full list of eligible plug-in vehicles

Electric vehicle charge point grant

You may be eligible for up to £350 off the cost and installation of a home charger if you rent your property or live in a flat. Installing a charge point in a flat or rented accommodation.  

Salary sacrifice schemes

This means paying for a car lease straight from your salary before you pay tax. If your employer offers it, you can really bring the cost down. Salary sacrifice schemes

Interest-free loans in Scotland

In Scotland, you can get an interest-free loan of up to £28,000 for a new electric car, or £20,000 if you go used. You can spread the cost without paying interest. Interest-free loans in Scotland.

Company car benefits

If you run your own business, there’s a very low benefit-in-kind on electric cars. It’s 2% for the financial year 2022-23. Company car tax guide.

Steering wheel icon

6. How much does it cost to run an electric car?

Electric cars are cheaper to run than petrol or diesel, whether you’re talking about tax, maintenance or fuel. On average, electric car drivers save about £1,000 a year. That’s a big difference.

How much does it cost to maintain, service and repair an electric car?

Electric cars rarely break down – like most new cars. Brake pads don’t wear down as quickly as petrol or diesel cars. Tyres can wear slightly faster than petrol or diesel because of the higher torque. And service costs can be cheaper because there aren’t as many moving parts. Drivers often find that the difference gets bigger as a car gets older, because electric cars don’t have as many parts wearing out.

How much is electric car tax?

Because there aren’t any emissions at the tailpipe, vehicle excise duty on electric cars is currently zero: you don’t pay a penny. Vehicles exempt from car tax.

How much is an electric car battery?

With modern cars, the battery cost is part of the vehicle. On some of the earliest electric cars you used to lease the batteries, but now it’s part of the sticker price. They’re designed to last and are often covered by extensive manufacturer warranties.

How much does it cost to install an electric charger at home?

Prices vary depending on the charger you choose and who installs it. You can get an Indra Smart Pro Charger for £1149 including installation and VAT
– and you might be eligible for a £350 grant if you rent or live in a flat.

 

Is an electric car right for me?

Take our quiz to see if an electric car is right for you.
Take our quiz
2.33.1216