Electric Vehicle FAQs
What is an electric vehicle?
An electric vehicle (EV) is one that uses an electric motor to drive the vehicle, typically powered by a battery and able to be recharged by plugging it in to an external power source.
There are three core types of EV – pure electric, plug-in hybrid, and range-extended.
A pure-electric model, also known as a battery-electric vehicle (BEV), relies solely on the electric motor for drive and the battery to be recharged by plugging the car into an external socket.
A plug-in hybrid (PHEV) can be driven using an electric motor, internal combustion engine, or a combination of both. As such, its battery is smaller, but it can still be recharged from an external source.
Range-extended EVs sit half way between pure EVs and PHEVs. They are only driven by an electric motor powered by a battery. However, they also feature a compact internal combustion engine that can be used as a form or on-board generator. The engine never powers the wheels directly, but can top up the battery’s charge while on the go.
There is another type of electric vehicle starting to make its mark on the market – powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. This fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) works in a similar way to a range-extended EV, but instead of an engine on-board to top up the vehicle’s battery, a fuel cell stack performs the same function.
Do EVs drive differently to conventional vehicles?
Driving an electric car certainly feels different the first time round. Most notably an electric car is almost silent, with noise from the motor only noticeable at speed, and traditional wind and tyre noise created.
Other than that, EVs drive in a similar way to conventional petrol or diesel model fitted with an automatic transmission. They are very easy to drive, with the most noticeable difference being the torque available to the driver, which is much higher at low speeds than in an internal combustion model. This makes EVs quicker from a standstill.
How far can a typical EV travel on a single charge?
Most new EVs have a real-world range of around 80-160 miles, depending on the model. Small, city-focused cars sit at the lower end of the range spectrum, with most family models easily able to cover 110-160 miles on a single charge. Premium models, like the Tesla range or Jaguar I-Pace, can cover 250-300+ miles on a full battery.
Depending on the model, PHEVs are able to drive 15-40 miles in electric only mode. However, when the conventional petrol or diesel engine is used, PHEVs have a range that can easily exceed 500 miles when using both fuels.
Range-extended EVs tend to offer the same amount of range as a pure-EV on electric power, but then can call on a small combustion engine to extend the range. This typically adds another 100 miles or so, with an overall range (using both fuels) of 200-250 miles.
How do I know an electric car is right for me?
There are three key issues that help determine whether a battery electric car is right for you: Do you have access to off-street parking? Is your typical daily mileage under 120 miles? Are you looking to buy a new car?
Access to off-street parking is not as essential as it once was – thanks mainly to increases both in EV range and improved public charging infrastructure. However, the majority of EV charging is done at home, so off-street parking is a significant factor in whether an EV would prove a convenient model for you.
There are options to ask your local council for on-street charging provision otherwise, and PHEVs and range-extended EVs aren’t as reliant on having access to a home charge point. Also, workplace EV charging is on the rise and will prove beneficial to many.
Because of the relatively shorter range (in comparison to a conventionally-powered car) an EV is more likely to suit drivers that cover between 80-120 miles a day – the distance available on a single charge. Considering the vast majority of trips are comfortably within this distance, an EV could suit a large number of potential buyers.
Those that need to regularly cover more than 100 miles or so a day could be better off looking at PHEVs or extended-range models, though there is a often time in a day’s driving to charge an EV at some point.
Prices for EVs remain higher than conventionally powered counterparts, but costs are coming down steadily. The number of EVs on the used car market is increasing too, now that the market has established itself and batteries have proven to be reliable.
How can I get more range out of my EV?
Range can be affected by a number of factors. These include internal factors like the use of air conditioning. Driving style can have a great impact too, with higher speeds and aggressive acceleration significantly decreasing the range available.
Making good use of regenerative braking can reduce the rate at which your battery’s charge will drop too, and the outside temperature has an impact too – with batteries preferring warm conditions to cold ones.
Are EVs really more environmentally friendly?
Electric vehicles are zero-emission at point of use. However, emissions are produced during the generation of electricity – the amount depending on the method of generation. Therefore, the emissions need to be considered on a life cycle basis so as to include power station emissions.
For climate change gases (such as CO2), electric cars charged using average UK ‘mains’ electricity show a significant reduction in emissions – the figures suggest a reduction of around 40% compared to an average small petrol car (tailpipe 120 g/km CO2). This is improving all the time too, as the UK’s electricity mix is increasingly made up of a greater ratio of renewable energy.
Are EVs as safe to drive as other vehicles?
According to the results of crash testing conducted for all cars and vans, yes. EVs have to adhere to the same safety regulations as conventional vehicles – note however that quadricycles like the Renault Twizy are not covered by the same testing regimes.
Many of the UK’s best-selling EVs – including the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe, Tesla Model S, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and BMW 3 Series – have been awarded five stars by independent safety body EuroNCAP.
However, it should be said that there have been a small number of fires from lithium batteries, most notably involving the Tesla Model S in the United States. However, Tesla has published in-depth data to show that the incidences of fires is no greater than for conventional cars (which may be reported less frequently).
What models are available?
Most mainstream manufacturers offer electric models as part of their line-ups, with more being released all the time. Zap-Map keeps an up to date list of all the models currently available in the UK.
EV Charging FAQs
What is an EV charge point?
A charging point is a piece of electrical equipment that can be used to recharge an electric vehicle. Charge points can essentially be grouped into three types, determined by their power in kW – providing a measure of how quickly they can charge an EV. These are: slow, fast, and rapid.
Slow points tend to be used at home, though there are some available as public charge points. With a power rating at up to 3 kW, a full charge will take eight hours or more for a full charge of a typical EV, and two to four for an average PHEV (depending on model).
It is worth noting that most PHEVs will not be able to charge at higher speeds than those offered by a slow charger, though drivers can still plug them in to faster chargers – the on-board charger will then restrict the power drawn to whatever the vehicle can accept.
Fast units are the most common type of public charge point, providing between 7 and 22 kW in power. This will fully recharge an EV in a 3-5 hours, and provide a quick top-up in less than that.
Rapid charge points are the quickest way to recharge an EV, with times for a 0-80% charge between 20-45 minutes depending on model. There are two main types of rapid charging – AC and DC, with power ratings of 42 kW and 50 kW respectively.
Tesla owners are able to access the Supercharger network, which is rated at 120 kW, keeping recharging times down to the 30-40 minute mark, despite having batteries with around twice the capacity of mainstream models.
A new generation of ultra-rapid chargers is set to start appearing in the UK too. These will allow compatible EVs to charge at up to 150 kW, with units future-proofed by being able to be upgraded to charge at up to 350 kW in the future.
How long does it take to charge an EV?
The speed with which an EV can be fully recharged is dependent on three factors; the charger type (max power available), the model specification, and the battery capacity of the EV.
in the section above, we have gone through the core charger types and speeds. Charging times will vary from model to model, and even each time you plug-in since the starting start of charge is likely to vary.
As such, Zap-Map has created two tools which allow you to calculate likely charging times and costs – both using a home charge point, and when charging on the public network. Users can select an EV and tailor the factors to produce personalised results.
Where can I charge my EV?
Most EV owners charge their vehicles at home or the workplace the majority of the time. At home it’s advisable to get a specialised unit installed which you can get from a variety of suppliers. There are often government subsidies and grants available (depending on circumstances). Chargemaster, Rolec, and Pod Point for example all offer home EV charging units.
Another option is to use a public charging point for additional backup and/or to increase journey distances. Public charging networks are constantly expanding and offer an alternative to charging at work or home for EV users.
Some points are completely free to use once an RFID card has been obtained or an account has been set up on a smartphone app. Others incorporate the cost of use into a subscription, while others still can operate on a pay-as-you-go basis – either via an app or by using a contactless credit or debit card.
Visit our Public Charging Networks page to find out more information, with guides available for each of the UK’s main public networks.
Do you need special equipment to charge an EV from home?
No, but it is advisable. You can use a household 3-pin socket to charge an EV. However, Zap-Map strongly recommends getting a specialist unit installed for safety reasons: 3-pin sockets are not designed for continuous high power EV charging and can overheat. Using a specially designed charger and cable, monitors the continuity of the earth conductor. If this conductor breaks the charger will not operate for safety reasons, protecting your home wiring from damage. Dedicated units are also able to charge an EV more quickly at higher power, and are often installed in locations where cables won’t be a trip hazard.
How do I access public charging points?
In most cases, to access a public charging point you will either need to sign up to a network, or join a pay-as-you-go scheme.
Each network has its own way of accessing its points; some you can access via an RFID card obtained by registering on the network’s website, and some are accessible by using a smartphone app.
For a full listing of networks, accessibility options, and costs take a look around Zap-Map’s public networks page.
Is my EV compatible with every charger type?
It’s very unlikely. What charger you can use depends on your vehicle’s specifications (including the vehicle inlet sockets and on-board charger) and whether you have the right connecting cable.
The easiest way to find out which types of charging point your EV is compatible with is by using Zap-Map’s Connector Selector.
Where can I find charge points near me?
How many charge points are there in the UK?
The number is continually rising; go to Zap-Map’s stats page for the latest figures.
EV Costs FAQs
Are EVs expensive to buy?
Generally electric vehicles are more expensive to buy than their petrol or diesel equivalents – typically between £2,000 to £4,000 for new cars depending on manufacturer and model. The price gap is constantly shrinking though, and should continue to do so as battery costs (the main reason for the higher prices) gradually fall because of increased manufacturing volume and competition.
Are EVs eligible for Government grants?
Most EVs are currently eligible for the Plug-in Car or Van Grant which is worth, for cars, 25% of the cost of the vehicle up to a maximum of £4,500 for BEVs and £2,500 for PHEVs; and for vans, 20% of the cost of the vehicle up to a maximum of £8,000.
To be eligible under the grant scheme vehicles must be new and satisfy demanding criteria including:
- Category 1: CO2 emissions <50 g/km and a zero emission range of at least 70 miles
- Category 2: CO2 emissions <50 g/km and a zero emission range between 10 and 69 miles
- Category 3: CO2 emissions of 50-75 g/km and a zero emission range of at least 20 miles
There is a £60,000 price cap on Category 2 and 3 eligible vehicles to focus grant funds on more affordable models.
For more information, visit the Office for Low Emission Vehicles website.
How do I claim the Plug-in Car or Van Grant?
EV buyers do not need to apply for the Plug-in Grant as the subsidy is already included in the vehicle’s On The Road (OTR) price when purchased – or is reflected in reduced leasing costs. All the paperwork is completed by the dealership or leasing company.
How much does it cost to run an EV?
While EVs may be more expensive to buy or lease than conventional models, electric cars and vans offer the potential for significantly reduced running costs in terms of fuel, maintenance, and tax.
To start with, all pure-electric and range-extended EVs are currently exempt from First Year and Standard Rate Vehicle Excise Duty (VED or ‘car tax’). Pure-electric models are charged no First Year Rate, while models with CO2 emissions of 50 g/km CO2 or less – which include extended-range EVs and many PHEVs – are charged £10 for the First Year Rate, but then receive the £10 Alternative Fuel Discount (AFD) cancelling the charge out.
Pure-electric models are charged nothing for the Standard Rate going forward, but are subject to the £310 Premium Rate for years 2-6 should they cost £40,000 or more. Any model with official CO2 emissions, no matter how low they are, are charged a Standard Rate of £140 – or Premium Rate for £40,000+ models – though still receive the £10 AFD reducing it to £130 per year (or £440 if a Premium Rate model).
It’s not just VED where cost savings are found, and in fact fuel costs will represent the greatest savings. Per mile fuel costs are much lower than petrol or diesel vehicles due to the competitive price of electricity (fuel duty is zero-rated) and to the high efficiency of the vehicles themselves.
In most cases for cars and small vans, fuel costs can be as low as 3p per mile for home charging (depending on your supplier and tariff). Compared to an average fuel cost of around 12p per mile, fuel savings can be considerable.
If using a public charging point, rather than home or workplace charging, costs depend greatly on the network. Even so it is a lot cheaper than running a conventional vehicle.
Do I have to pay the Congestion Charge?
In the majority of cases, no. All pure-electric models are exempt from the London Congestion Charge, and most PHEVs are too.
To qualify for the 100% Ultra Low Emission Discount, a vehicle must only emit up to 75 g/km CO2 and meet at least the Euro 5 emissions standards. Cars meeting these criteria will need to be registered for an annual fee of £10, but then have free access to the Congestion Charge Zone.
Considering standard charges at £11.50 per day – or £10.50 with Auto Pay – EV drivers in and around London, entering the Congestion Charge Zone most working days of the year, this can amount to a saving of more than £2,500 per year.
Will I benefit from using an EV as a company car?
In terms of costs, yes – definitely. EVs are rewarded with lower BIK (benefit-in-kind) rates – pure-electric models and PHEV with emissions up to 50 g/km CO2 are rated at 13% for the 2018/19. PHEVs with emissions over 50 g/km CO2 are likely to be rated at 16% for the current financial year.
From FY 2021/22, electric vehicle BIK rates will be set not only on CO2 emissions, but also official electric driving range, with BIK rates set to go as low as 2% for the greenest cars on the road.
Compare that to a current BIK rate of 24% for a 99 g/km CO2 diesel (and 28% in two years time), and the savings for running an EV as a company car could be significant.
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