More and more people are opting for electric vehicles. There have been huge advances in this type of vehicle over the last number of years. If you’re thinking of going electric with your next vehicle, it’s good to know what the facts are before you start.
An electric vehicle (EV) is powered purely by a battery. You charge it by plugging it into a charging point, either at home, which you’ll need to install, or a publicly available point typically found at places of work, supermarkets, and some garages or motorway service stations. Driving ranges of EVs can be lower than petrol or diesel cars, although many now do more than 200 miles on a single charge. However, there are no exhaust emissions, so EVs are considered a very green type of transport.
A hybrid car has both a normal engine and a battery. Two types are available: plug-in hybrids and self-charging hybrids. The engine charges the battery as you drive on self-charging models, while plug-in models need a charging point. The electric battery is generally used for lower speed, shorter journeys, like driving around town, and the engine will take over for longer trips. Sometimes the electric motor will kick in to help the engine when you’re accelerating. Emissions are lower and fuel efficiency is usually better than you get with a normal car.
How long does it take to charge an electric car?
There are a few ways to charge an electric car, and how long they all take exactly depends on the size of the car’s battery. To do it at home, you’ll need a charging station fitted (it’s much quicker and safer than plugging into your regular electricity supply, although you can do this too). A 3kW unit will typically take around 8-12 hours to fully charge an electric car, while a 7kW unit will take 4-8 hours.
If you’re out and about, you can plug into a public charging station. Many of these are rapid chargers that can get your power levels up in around 20-40 minutes.
How much do electric cars cost to charge?
This depends on your electricity supplier, the vehicle you’re charging and when you do it. Unit costs are usually lower in the evening and night time, so it’s best to do your charging then. You might also want to consider switching to a renewable energy supplier to make running your car as green as possible. Some companies offer specific EV tariffs.
Public charging units usually require you to have a subscription to use them, but pay-as-you-go stations are available. Some supermarkets and public car parks offer free charging, as do lots of work places. Whatever you pay will almost always work out cheaper than petrol or diesel. Apps, such as Zap-Map and PlugShare, can help you find which chargers are local to you, how much they charge and how to pay.
How many miles can you do on a single charge?
Again, this depends on the vehicle. You’ll usually get a shorter range than with petrol or diesel, but things are getting better as technology improves. Many cars now do more than 200 miles on a single charge, including small city cars and premium SUVs
How do hybrid cars work?
These vehicles combine an electric battery with a normal diesel or petrol engine. The power for the battery is generated by the engine and a system called regenerative braking technology, which reuses the energy usually lost by braking, or they have a plug-in rechargeable battery. Power switches between the two automatically or you can choose to use battery only on a short drive.
How long do batteries last in a hybrid car?
You’ll get a lot less zero-emission range with a plug-in hybrid battery than with an all-electric vehicle, but you’ll have a greater range overall with a full tank of fuel as well. Self-charging hybrid batteries get powered up as you drive, so they’ll never run out of charge.
Do you pay vehicle tax on hybrid cars?
Yes. How much depends on the individual model, but as a rule, you can expect to pay £10 per year less than the petrol or diesel equivalent of your vehicle.
Test-driving an electric car
As with any car you’re thinking of buying, it’s essential to take an EV or hybrid out for a test drive beforehand. There are things you should do when you take any car out for a spin, as well as ones that only apply to electric vehicles.