New petrol and diesel cars will be banned from being sold from 2030, so many of us will be switching to electric cars (EVs) in the coming years.
If you’ve never driven one, it might seem a confusing new world to venture into, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Here we answer some of the main questions…
What are the benefits of electric cars?
There are a range of benefits to EVs. For starters, they’re often nicer to drive than conventional cars as they’re quieter and frequently deliver stronger performance thanks to their zippy electric motors.
There are, of course, environmental benefits, too, especially if you charge your car with renewable energy. EVs have zero emissions from their tailpipes when driven. EVs aren’t entirely ‘green’, as pollution is still generated in their manufacture, but over an EV’s lifetime they’re substantially better for the environment than a petrol or diesel model.
Also, EVs have low running costs. They’re exempt from road tax and many emissions-based road charges (London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone, for example). Charging costs are also fractional compared to fuelling a vehicle with petrol and diesel.
Why should I lease an electric vehicle?
Leasing an electric car is a great option as it avoids the steep upfront prices associated with some EVs and helps to spread the cost over a period of time. Currently, EVs generally have good residual values, too, which means they’ll be worth more to the leasing company when you hand them back, and can therefore be offered with lower monthly payments.
How do I charge an electric car?
If you have a drive or off-street parking you can do it from home, but you might want to look at installing a charging point. There are a number of companies who can do this for you, and there are government grants available to help reduce the cost to around £400, typically. Though you can charge your EV with a three-pin plug, many manufacturers only recommend doing so as a last resort. Many electricity suppliers offer special tariffs for electric car owners to help you take advantage of their cheaper rates – such as overnight when there's less demand on the grid.
If you need to recharge on a trip there are also public chargers – the ones you’ve probably seen in supermarket car parks and motorway service stations. Just be aware that charging speeds will vary. So if you’re wanting a quick charge, you’ll need to find a rapid charger, which offers a rate of charge at 50kW or above. Zap-Map is an ideal tool for finding your nearest public EV charger.
How long does it take to charge an electric car?
Charging times vary depending on the car, the size of its battery, the rate of charge the battery can accept and the speed of the charger.
On the move and using a rapid charger, most EVs can be charged to near full capacity in under an hour, although if you’re plugging in at home (where the rate will be slower) you might need to allow overnight for your vehicle’s battery to be fully replenished.
What are hybrids?
Hybrids combine a regular engine with an electric system and there are various types – mild hybrids, full hybrids and plug-in hybrids.
Mild hybrids typically combine a regular engine with an electric system and small battery, which allows the battery to be charged when coasting or braking, and it can then be used to provide additional electrical assistance when accelerating. As their name suggests, these aren’t powerful systems so they only bring slight efficiency benefits.
A full hybrid is a system favoured by brands such as Toyota, Lexus and Honda, among others. Also called ‘self-charging hybrids’, they combine an engine with electric motors. The motors can drive the car independently for short distances, or provide assistance to the engine, which also helps to charge the battery.
Plug-in hybrids combine an engine with a large battery so they can travel for a longer distance on electricity, typically around 25-30 miles, but on some models as much a 50 miles. Providing you mainly drive small distances and can charge the battery regularly, plug-in hybrids bring impressive efficiency benefits. These are also likely to continue on sale until 2035 due to their zero-emissions capability.