This section of the FAQs addresses your frequently asked questions about electric vehicles (EVs) including how they drive and charge and what models are available. Related EV and charging issues are covered in our other FAQs pages.
What is an electric vehicle?
An electric vehicle (EV) is one that uses an electric motor for drive, powered by a battery and typically 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.
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 car with an automatic transmission, and are very easy to drive. But better than an automatic, they have lots of ‘torque’ from a standing start, which means that they are very responsive with even standard EV models having quick acceleration.
How far can a typical EV travel on a single charge?
Most new EVs have a real-world range of somewhere between 80-250 miles, depending on the model. Small, city-focused cars sit at the lower end of the range spectrum, with many family models easily able to cover 110-180 miles on a single charge, though there are an increasing number that can cover 200-250 miles. 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?
If you are thinking of buying a pure-EV, there are three issues that need to be considered that will determine whether this type of EV is the right vehicle for you: your access to a private off-street charging point, your daily mileage and your overall budget. Read on to see whether a pure-EV is suitable for your vehicle and travel requirements.
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 and/or heating. 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 to cold conditions.
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 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.
How much does a journey in an EV cost?
The answer is typically ‘less than in a petrol or diesel car’ as fuel costs for a petrol or diesel car are usually in the range 10-15 p/mile, and only 3-4 p/mile for a home-charged pure-EV. Because of the variety of models available, each will have different costs per trip, depending on where it is charged, and how efficient the EV is compared to other electric models.
How much does it cost to tax an EV?
Many pure EV models are not currently charged Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). However, a new pure-EV costing more than £40,000 will be subject to the £310 Premium Rate for years 2-6; as will PHEVs, which cost the flat rate of £120 (Standard Rate minus £10 Alternative Fuel Discount) for sub-£40,000 models. First year rates are usually zero, and BIK rates are much lower than petrol or diesel models.
How do I charge my EV?
There are a three main types of EV charge point (slow, fast and rapid) as well as a number of charging connectors, some of which are suitable for a particular EV. Check out Zap-Map’s EV Charging Guides for a comprehensive ‘how to’ guide for all the main EV models.