There’s no doubt that electric vehicles (EVs) are the future of motoring. It makes sense then, that you probably have quite a few questions of your own about them if you’re thinking of making the switch.
We’ve put more than 3,000 electric cars on the road since 2008, and here we tackle some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve been asked.
What is an electric car?
EVs have electric motors which are powered by batteries, rather than an internal combustion engine (ICE). Instead of filling up with petrol or diesel, batteries can be recharged with electricity. There are three main types of electric car:
Electric Vehicles… produce zero tailpipe emissions, are powered solely by one or more electric motors and are sometimes called BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles).
EVs plug into off-board sources of electricity and store the energy in a battery. Most BEVs will also recover some charge through regenerative braking whilst braking (and often when being driven downhill).
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles… These are powered by an ICE and by an electric motor that uses energy stored in a smaller battery than a pure electric vehicle – check the battery size because the electric range may vary greatly from 10 to 50 miles. Once the battery is empty you will be back to petrol.
PHEVs can be plugged into off-board sources of electricity to charge the battery, however the Government has dramatically reduced incentives for these, partly because people didn’t plug them in at all!
Hybrid Electric Vehicles… These are powered by an ICE that runs on conventional or alternative fuel and an electric motor that uses energy stored in a very small battery.
HEV batteries are charged by the combustion engine and through regenerative braking. HEVs are not plugged in to charge and simply improve the vehicle efficiency by recovering some energy.
How do electric cars work?
Without an internal combustion engine, EVs have far fewer parts and are therefore much simpler (and cheaper to maintain) than petrol or diesel cars. The electric motor sends power straight to the wheels, so all you have to do is hit the accelerator and you’re off. Make sure your battery’s charged and look forward to cruising down easy street in your clean, efficient, zero-emission EV.
Do electric cars have gears?
No. As they run directly from an electric motor, EVs don’t need a gearbox or clutch pedal. This means they’re even smoother than cars with an automatic gearbox, while you control your speed with the brake and accelerator.
Are all-electric cars automatic?
The simple answer is yes.
If you want to dive deeper the “technically correct” answer is: Electric cars use fixed-ratio transmission, so technically speaking they are neither manual nor automatic. Unlike ICEs, EVs always run at a high RPM (revolutions per minute) and offer a very wide power band compared to individual gears on a petrol or diesel car. This means you get lots of torque from a standing start, which produces great acceleration.
Are electric vehicles more efficient than petrol and diesel cars?
Looking at cost per mile, efficiency depends on where you charge and the cost of electricity. Most people charge at home at the moment and are achieving savings of 3-10 times cheaper than petrol/diesel (the higher numbers are achieved by accessing time of use tariffs which may offer very cheap electric. For example, if you schedule the car to charge during the middle of the night).
EVs are far more energy efficient than ICE vehicles as a lot of energy from petrol/diesel is lost as heat through the exhaust rather than for powering the vehicle. Reducing our energy consumption is going to be crucial in our efforts to combat global warming and climate change.
Do electric vehicles produce emissions?
Fully electric cars don’t produce any tailpipe emissions at all. They don’t have an exhaust and produce 0g/km of CO2 emissions. If everyone drove EVs in urban environments, we could reduce air pollution and benefit from breathing cleaner air. This is why we are seeing low and zero emission zones created across the UK (and the world) that favour EVs in order to bring pollution levels within recommended World Health Organisation and EU limits.
Where does the electricity used to charge EVs come from?
EVs are brilliant for efficiency and emissions, but the energy to charge them up must come from somewhere. In the past, this would have primarily come from fossil fuels such as coal. However, the UK has now almost phased out coal, with only 1.9% of our power coming from it at the start of 2020. This was 42% in 2012. The rise of wind and solar power have been the key to cutting our coal consumption so rapidly in the UK. In 2019 – renewable energy and nuclear combined accounted for over half of our electricity – and there are many more wind and solar projects in development. This will allow us to move further away from ‘dirty’ fuels such as coal and oil towards a cleaner decarbonised grid.
Are EVs better for the environment?
There’s no question that electric cars are better for the environment in terms of their greenhouse gas emissions when in operation. However, we must also take manufacturing into account when discussing whether EVs truly produce zero emissions, as well as the energy required to charge them up. It takes about 15,000 miles to offset the additional carbon footprint of manufacturing an EV vs a new petrol/diesel, however beyond this point EVs will generate 5-10 times less greenhouse gas emissions per year.
If you’re an EV driver and you want to minimise your emissions as low as possible – real-world miles per kWh is the new mpg! The more miles per kWh achieved, the more efficient and lower carbon the vehicle will be. You can check your driving stats in your EV or via your car app to see how many miles per kWh you are travelling. Keep it light on the accelerator and you’ll get even further on a single charge.
How far can an electric car go?
Huge advances in battery capabilities has led to a big increase in the typical range of electric cars. Most new EVs can cover 150+ miles per charge these days, even affordable electric models such as the ŠKODA CITIGOe offer around 130 miles of “real world” range. Cars such as Hyundai Kona and the Tesla Model S Long Range meanwhile are able to cover around 300 miles (‘real-world’ range) on a single charge.
How long do electric car batteries last?
Electric cars and vans usually have lithium-ion batteries, which are bigger and more powerful versions of the batteries you’ll find in your mobile phone or laptop.
These batteries do gradually degrade over time, however this is a slow process and is not something to worry about over a 2-5 year lease, or even over the lifetime of the car if you are purchasing second hand, as it is not anticipated that EV batteries will need replacing during the life of the car. We advise that you check the vehicle manual for advice to look after the battery.
The level of battery degradation depends on several things, including the number of miles you cover. Improving technology means new EVs are providing better performance even with up to 200,000 miles on the clock, while there are Teslas out there which have covered more than a million kilometres on their original battery!
Can electric car batteries be recycled?
Yes. Like all lithium-ion batteries, the battery in your EV can be recycled. This helps electric cars in their effort to offer even greater sustainability.
It is estimated that around 80% of batteries can be repurposed for other uses. The approximately 20% that are too degraded to be reused can be recycled. During the recycling process, 75% of materials in the battery can be extracted and reused which reduces the need to mine fresh minerals and therefore reduces the carbon footprint associated with that.
Mining of materials does have a detrimental environmental impact, so we are encouraged for example that Tesla has announced it is working to eliminate the need for cobalt, which has been linked to human right concerns in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Do electric cars need MOT and servicing?
Just like any other vehicle, EVs need to pass an MOT test after three years. They also need to be serviced, ensuring things like your brakes, lights, suspension and steering continue to perform as they should. Servicing costs in our experience are less than half as much for EVs thanks to the lack of moving parts compared to a combustion engine vehicle.
How do you charge an electric car?
Just like with any other electrical appliance, it really is as simple as plugging your car in to a charging point. As well as your home charging point, you can charge up at public charging stations. You can use Zap Map to locate charging points across the UK, while some workplaces also have them. The connector types vary a little, so Zap Map enables you to filter on the connector type to find charge points compatible with your EV.
Can you charge an electric car at home?
90% of people who own EVs primarily charge up at home – partly because this is very a convenient way to charge, and also because electricity is cheaper at home than at public charging units.
You’ll need a home charging point to top up at home. Charging at home is the best way to make your electric car as cost-effective as possible. There are currently government grants available which contribute £500 towards the cost of installing your home charger, while some manufacturers offer free installation too.
It is strongly recommended that you have your own charger at home as the public network can be patchy in some areas. We can supply electric cars to customers who are unable to have a charger at home but we always ensure that they understand the potential difficulties around charging solely from public charge points. This said, we have met people like Nissan LEAF driver Heather who can’t charge at home and happily charge at public charge points exclusively, though this tends to be the exception rather than the rule for electric motoring and won’t suit everyone.
How long does it take to charge an electric car?
To work out how long a full charge takes, all you have to do is divide the kWh of your battery by the kW of your charger. There are three levels of charging speed – slow, fast and rapid.
Slow chargers offer a maximum speed of 3kW (which is 3kWh of energy per hour), while fast chargers deliver between 7 and 22kW. Rapid chargers offer charging speeds of up to 120kWh per hour, allowing you to add 200 miles of range in just half an hour. Currently in the UK the majority of rapid chargers are 50kW, although 100kW+ chargers are now gradually being introduced.
How much does it cost to charge an electric car at home?
Multiplying the cost of energy (per kWh – this is on your electric bill) by your battery size will tell you how much a full charge is. There are EV energy tariffs available which cost less than 5p per kWh, cheaper than the more standard tariffs of 15p per kWh. It’s worth joining social media forums for your car type to share information as new tariffs will emerge soon!
If you have a Volkswagen e-Golf, which has a 33kWh battery, a full charge costs just £1.65 on the cheapest EV tariffs (5p x 33kWh = £1.65), or about £5 if you remain on a standard tariff. Considering the car has a range of 143 miles, that’s a huge saving on fuel prices.
Do electric vehicles pay road tax?
EVs are exempt from paying road tax. This is because the tax, also known as Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) is based on CO2 emissions. However, electric cars with a list price of over £40,000 incur a premium rate of £320 per annum for the first five years.
Do electric cars have to pay London congestion charge?
EVs do not pay the London congestion charge, while they’re also exempt from Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charges. They won’t attract company car tax during the 2020/21 financial year either, and you can also claim 4p per mile if you drive your company car on business.
How much are EVs to insure?
Typically the same as a like-for-like conventional vehicle. This is because they’re higher tech, but lower risk due to no combustible fuel.
Can I fit my dog in the boot/backseat?
This is a question we do get asked from time to time, and there are some DriveElectric team members that also have four legged family members to consider when choosing a new EV. After all, it would be “ruff” to leave them behind.
One point to bear in mind is that some EVs do have slightly less space available in the boot than their ICE counterparts. This is because EV battery packs are often placed under the floor of the vehicle, and sometimes a little boot space is sacrificed to accommodate this component. The Volkswagen e-Golf’s boot for example has less capacity than a “conventional” Golf because of the battery pack, so it’s worth doing your homework.
In contrast the Tesla Model X has a ‘frunk’ (front trunk/boot) where there is extra space due to the lack of combustion engine. While useful for storing some holiday bits and bobs, charging cables, or perhaps your lunch – this is not a place to put a pup. However there’s plenty of room inside this roomy SUV for all the family as this EV can seat up to 7 people.
If you are unsure if everyone is going to be comfortable in a particular electric car, then good places to look for advice are EV owners groups. There are lots of these on Facebook for most models, and members provide a wealth of knowledge to new and prospective owners.