Electric Cars: Everything You Need to Know

With COP26 now a memory, but climate change still at the forefront of our minds, many will be looking to make a positive change when it comes to getting a new car that is better for the environment. But with changes to low emission zones and so many options to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start or even if an electric vehicle is the right choice for you.

In this blog, we’ll break down everything you need to know about electric cars so you can make an informed decision.


Electric Cars: The Future?

It will come as no surprise that in recent years the popularity of electric cars has continued to grow. In fact, electric vehicles enjoyed a record year last year, despite the effects of a global pandemic: the market was 28.7% below pre-Covid-19 levels with overall 1.65 million new cars registered (up 1% on 2020).

So, what does this mean? Overall, 18.5% of all new cars registered last year can be plugged in. The growth of the electric vehicle market shows no signs of slowing down, especially as the UK prepares for the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales.

Because of this drastic shift, by the end of this year, it’s projected that electric vehicles will outsell diesel and mild hybrid diesel cars. However, petrol vehicles are set to remain the most popular for car buyers as the convenience of ‘plugging in’ still has a way to catch up yet.


Electric Cars: Quick Facts

  • A typical electric car will take eight hours to charge from empty at a ‘fast’ 7kW charge point
  • Many electric cars are compatible with ‘rapid’ 40kW chargers, which adds 100 miles in around 35 minutes
  • A typical electric car can travel between 100-200 miles on a single charge, whilst premium models like the Tesla can cover 300 miles before asking for a charge
  • There are 16,395 public electric vehicle charging points available across the UK
  • Scotland has the highest number of EV charging devices per 100,000 of the population: 47. Whilst, England as 36, Wales 29, and Northern Ireland 17

What’s the difference between electric and plug-in vehicles?

Electric cars are battery-powered vehicles that run on electricity 100% of the time and do not have a combustion engine like traditional vehicles. Instead, they use an electric motor and a rechargeable battery. Sometimes referred to as EVs or ‘electric vehicles’, not all these vehicles run purely on electricity. Some electric vehicles are hybrids, using a petrol or diesel engine alongside an electric motor and plug-in battery.

In fact, there are different electric vehicle categories, which include:

  • Electric vehicles (EVs)

    – these are pure electric vehicles powered by an electric battery only and have a range of 200 to 200 miles

  • Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs)

    – unlike electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids are powered by a combination of electricity and fuel (either petrol or diesel). They typically have a smaller battery compared to EVs which gives them a maximum range of 15 to 30 miles. When the electric battery is drained or empty, the combustion engine powers the vehicle until the battery is charged again.

  • Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs)

    – Hybrid vehicles can only be driven a few miles on pure electricity, as they have no plug, it recovers energy by braking and uses it to recharge its battery on the move.

For more information on the different types of electric vehicles, check out the RAC’s handy guide here.

How do electric cars work?

Unlike their petrol and diesel cousins, electric vehicles are not powered by an internal combustion engine. Instead, the wheels are driven by one or more electric motors powered by a battery that is recharged via a plug on a car (unless it is a HEV).

The range of an electric vehicle depends on the driving and life style of the owner. Weather conditions can also impact the range of an electric car, along with the use of the heating and air conditioning. All factors to consider if you think an electric car is right for you.

What’s it like driving an electric car?

The first thing you’ll notice when driving any electric vehicle is the silence. With no gearbox, the acceleration is smooth, seamless, and silent. Apart from the faint hum when accelerating, the only noises come from the wind and the tyres. Gears are automatic, while regenerative breaks slow the car when you lift off the accelerator to top-up the batteries. But don’t be fooled, because electric vehicles derive maximum torque from standstill, even basic models are surprisingly quick off the mark.

How much does an electric car cost?

Electric vehicles generally have a higher purchase cost than their petrol and diesel counterparts, but the running cost is lower as fuel, tax and maintenance costs are all generally significantly cheaper.

As with conventional cars, buying second-hand is a much cheaper option, however you could face a vehicle with a deteriorated battery life and buying a nearly new battery is tantamount to a write off. Unlike diesel and petrol cars, you won’t be spoilt for chose when it comes to pure electric second-hand cars for sale.

The Nissan Leaf is the most common used electric vehicle, although the Renault Zoe is also a cheap second-hand option. However, do bear in mind that the list prices are unlikely to include the cost of battery leasing, although some Leaf or Zoe owners may have bought the battery outright. Read more about electric battery lease below.

Another thing to bear in mind is that the plug-in car grant (PICG) is funded by the Government and is automatically deducted from the advertised price of the car. Meaning, if you are going to buy a new electric car in the UK you will automatically qualify for a £1,500 discount if the car is priced under £32,000.

How much does an electric car cost to run?

Although fuel costs are much lower for electric vehicles, the cost to charge them depends on the size of the battery and where you’re charging it.

For example, charging a 40kWh battery from zero to 100% at home on household tariff, of 15p/kWh would cost £6.60, while charging the same amount at a motorway service station would typically cost twice that amount. However, many supermarkets, cinemas, and even some carparks are offering free charging for electric vehicles. In fact, some companies are making a point to have charge points so that office workers can drive their electric vehicles to work.

There are also incentives to help mitigate the costs associated with electric vehicles. An example of this is many thinking that it will cost a fortune to install a home charge point, but in fact the typical cost is around £800. There is also the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme, with OLEV currently offering a grant of up to 75% of this cost, capped at a maximum of £350.

There are further incentives when it comes to electric vehicles like, paying zero road tax (unless the car has a list price of more that £40,000), very low (and soon to be zero) company car tax, VAT on domestic electricity is only 5%, pay reduced or zero parking charges in many places, planned ‘green licence plate’ initiatives which would allow electric vehicles to use bus lanes, to name a few!


Electric car battery lease & life

Until a few years ago, leasing electric vehicle batteries was the most common option. This was mainly done to de-risk the process of electric vehicle purchase, since if the battery failed or suffered a major loss of performance, it would be replaced under the lease agreement. Leasing batteries also helps keep purchase prices down.

Today most electric vehicles are owned, not leased batteries. The Renault Zoe is an exception in as much as it’s still sold new with the choice of an owned or leased battery. Most new electric vehicles in the UK now come with owned batteries.

You can expect an average electric car battery to last for around 10 years, however battery capacity will decline with age and use; potentially to around 60% of its original figure after a decade of typical use. This would mean that electric vehicles with a 100-mile range after 10 years would only be capable of 60 miles on a full charge.

The cost of replacing batteries is not economical as the car gets older, which means that the life span of an electric vehicle is shorter than that of its petrol or diesel counterparts. However, as electric car and battery technology improves, there is hope for them to last longer – making them a more economical and ecologically friendly choice.

Should I buy an electric car?

When making a big purchase like a new car, it’s worth bearing in mind that all new cars and vans sold in the UK must be fully electric by 2035. Currently, the government is on course to ban the sale of new cars and vans powered entirely by petrol and diesel by 2030.

Charging infrastructure in the UK is rapidly growing with new charging points being added daily. As of 7th January 2022, there are 28,749 electric vehicle chargers in the UK, providing 48,547 electric car charging connectors. This means that at the moment, electric vehicles are best suited to city-dwellers or those in the suburbs that commute less than 100 miles a day because the existing charging infrastructure is far more developed in cities.

Recharging an electric car’s battery can take up to eight or nine hours to fully charge from a 7kW wall box charger. However, most electric vehicles have a ‘rapid charge’ function that uses a higher voltage to charge the batter to 80% capacity in around 40 minutes. It’s also worth bearing in mind that without garage, driveway, or dedicated parking space, an electric vehicle will not be the right choice for you, as ideally you will need a space to charge your vehicle overnight.

Finally, budget is also a key consideration. If you have less than £5,000 to spend an electric vehicle isn’t really an option. However, as the government moves toward significant changes and there is a market shift, more options to suit all prices ranges are sure to follow.

Ready to start your car finance journey? Get in touch with your expert team today who will be happy to discuss the best finance option that suits your individual needs and will get you back on the road. Call us now on 0141 212 0036.