With new electric models due to be launched in 2022, the number of EVs on UK roads is set to grow significantly over the next few years. Plus, as a result of reducing battery production costs and growing competition between manufacturers, the price of EVs is also falling. Buying an electric car is now a real option for a large number of UK car buyers.
Who should buy an electric car?
The average range of an electric car is now between 180 and 200 miles, while some vehicles can go for over 300 miles on a single charge.
With this in mind, plus the growing number of public charging devices installed across the UK (30,000 devices as of March 2022), EVs are suitable for almost everyone. If you regularly drive more than 250 miles, you’ll need to plan your journey using Zap-Map’s route planner.
However, if you’re still unsure about making the switch, it’s a great idea to go for a test drive in an EV. Indeed, most drivers getting behind the wheel of an electric car are quickly persuaded by the driving experience. The performance, refinement and ease of driving sway a great number of potential buyers, making it an essential part of the buying experience.
Access to charging points
The majority of EV charging is conducted overnight, when electricity is cheapest. It also means that your vehicle is fully charged each morning and ready to drive. While you’ll ideally have off-street parking that allows you to charge your EV at home, this is not essential for running an electric car.
Recent years have seen strong and continued growth in the provision of low-powered chargers on residential streets, which are ideal for overnight charging. Also known as ‘base’ charging, these slow on-street chargers act as a replacement for home chargers.
There are other alternatives too. For instance, you might find it helpful to look into peer-to-peer charging networks, such as Zap-Home, where other EV owners share their home charger – some for free, others for a small fee.
What’s more, if you are able to charge your car at your workplace, you may find that’s sufficient for your needs, alongside the occasional top-up on the public charging network.
Although slow charging at home can be carried out using a standard 3-pin socket, because of the higher current demands of EVs and the longer amount of time spent charging, it is strongly recommended that those who need to charge regularly at home or the workplace get a dedicated EV charging unit installed by an accredited installer.
Note that, for any type of EV charging, it is not advisable under any circumstances to trail an electric cable across pavements or other public areas to connect a car parked on-street with your household electricity supply. Doing so will be a safety hazard and will possibly invalidate your house, car, and public liability insurances.
Regular commuting trips are especially well suited to electric cars, with around two-thirds of these less than 10 miles. They also tend to be routine journeys for which the driver knows what to expect in regards to distance, route, congestion, road conditions, parking, and local charging locations. However, if you regularly drive more than 250 miles, you’ll need to plan your journey using Zap-Map’s route planner.
Whatever your situation, if you are thinking of buying an electric car, it’s important to understand what you’re using it for. Is it a vehicle to pootle around town in, for example, or is it the new family workhorse?
Once you have an idea of how you’ll use your EV, you can start to look into the logistics in more detail. Can you charge at home or at your workplace? Perhaps you can charge while at the gym, or there might be a charger within walking distance from your home. It is certainly worth downloading Zap-Map to see how many charge points are in your area, or on your regular journeys. You may well be pleasantly surprised.
What’s more, research has also made useful observations regarding the way in which electric cars are used within multi-car owning households. While manufacturers initially thought that electric vehicles would be bought to replace a second or third car, research shows that once an electric car is purchased by a household, it tends to be preferred for all short local trips, with the other car only being used for longer journeys. Of course, even this is now changing, with some households now exclusively driving electric vehicles.
Car buying budget
Overall, EVs of all types tend to be more expensive to buy than their conventional equivalents, although this is changing. In part, this has been because most EVs are bought as new models rather than second-hand vehicles, and also because manufacturers look to recoup their investment in developing electric powertrains. That said, a few car makers have set prices at the similar levels to some conventional models – and the gap in pricing is undoubtedly coming down.
What’s more, getting hold of an affordable electric car that meets your needs is becoming a lot easier than you might expect. Many people rent, lease or even subscribe to an EV, with a growing number of dedicated electric providers now operating. Your company might also offer an electric car salary sacrifice scheme, which can be a particularly cost-effective way to drive an EV. There are of course EV-specific car clubs and other car-sharing initiatives popping up across the country too.
Given that EVs have been available since 2011, increasing numbers of used electric vehicles are coming on to the market, making them more affordable for drivers not in the new car market. Despite this, prices are still not as low as used petrol and diesel cars. Since there is plenty of demand, EVs tend to keep their value, and the vehicles coming on to the used car market are not particularly old.
As the EV market develops, battery costs – and vehicle prices – continue to drop. The last five years alone has seen battery production costs fall by almost 80%. The battery is one of the largest and most expensive elements of an EV, and with production costs dropping, the time when an EV costs the same as a comparable conventional model (or even less) is predicted by some in the industry to be only a few years away.
Another potential cost for EV buyers is the installation a home or workplace charge point. Typically a dedicated slow (3 kW) or fast (7 kW) unit costs under £1,000 to install by a qualified electrician. For buyers of plug-in grant eligible cars, the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme, which offers a grant towards the installation of a charge point, will typically reduce the total cost to around £300-£400.
Plug-in Car and Van Grants
To counter the higher purchase prices of most EVs compared to conventionally-powered models, the UK Government offers a range of grants, including the Plug-in Car Grant and Plug-in Van Grant.
Current Plug-in Car Grant levels provide up to £1,500 off the cost of a new Category 1 model – essentially pure-electric models or range-extended EVs meeting the criteria. This funding is available for models costing up to £32,000.
- Category 1: CO2 emissions <50g/km and a zero emission range of at least 70 miles
- Category 2: CO2 emissions <50g/km and a zero emission range between 10 and 69 miles
- Category 3: CO2 emissions of 50-75g/km and a zero emission range of at least 20 miles
Prior to the current PiCG funding available, Category 1 models received up to £2,500 with a price cap of £35,000.
Before that, Category 1 models received up to £3,000 with a price cap of £50,000. Category 2 & 3 vehicles have not received any support since October 2018. Before that, grants provided £4,500 off the cost of a newly bought EV, while Category 2 & 3 models received up to £2,500, provided the pre-grant OTR cost was not higher than £60,000. The initial grant provided up to £5,000 off any qualifying pure-electric of plug-in hybrid car.
Grant rates for the Plug-in Van Grant are now £5,000 for large vans and £2,500 for small vans, with a limit of 1,000 per customer per year.
Previously, Plug-in Van Grants covered 35% of the purchase price for small vans, up to a maximum of £3,000. They also payed for 35% of the purchase price for large vans, up to a maximum of £6,000. Before that, Plug-in Van Grants covered up to 20% of the van’s cost to a maximum of £8,000.
Both private buyers and fleets are eligible to receive the grant, which is administered by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) – no application forms are required as the dealership completes all the necessary paperwork on the buyer’s behalf and the grant is automatically deducted from the vehicle price at the point of purchase.
For more information, visit the Office for Low Emission Vehicles website.