With every day that passes, electric vehicles only become more popular. Every mainstream manufacturer is bringing an electric vehicle to market or expanding their existing offerings, with a wide variety of shapes and sizes available to buyers.
To help you understand the basics before jumping into buying one, we’ve put together a guide that explains everything you need to know about electric vehicles, whatever the shape, size or price.
Electric vehicles are currently eligible for a grant that lops £2,500 off the purchase price for anything up to £35,000. (This is now only available for fully electric vehicles, not hybrids.) Usually, the advertised price includes the discount, but when you’re searching for a new EV just check that’s the case.
It’s also worth remembering you could get a £350 grant towards the cost of installing a home charger too, with some manufacturers offering further incentives.
Range is perhaps the most important consideration for those buying an EV. It’s the estimated distance the car can travel on a single charge. The Tesla Model S Long Range offers one of the biggest ranges at the moment at up to 412 miles between charges. Even less expensive models are capable of over 200 miles these days, though.
Much like petrol and diesel MPG figures, though, these range numbers should be taken with a pinch of salt, and vary depending on how you use the car. That figure is probably achievable driving at lower speeds around town where you’re regularly stopping and topping up the battery through regen, but it will drain more quickly at consistent motorway speeds.
To a certain extent, an electric vehicle’s range is dictated by the size of its batteries, which are best thought of like a conventional car’s fuel tank. They are measured in kWh, and the larger the number, the more range the car will be able to offer.
Again, it varies massively depending on use, but a city EV with a 35kWh battery should be able to return about 99 miles per charge, while a larger 65kWh battery could deliver about 155 miles.
Charging your EV is just like refuelling at a petrol station – you plug the charger into a dock and let it fill the batteries. There are essentially three types of charger to consider.
Rapid chargers, as the name suggests, top the car up quickly. Most of the fastest chargers at the moment can deliver about 100kW of power, but 350kW chargers are imminent and can top the batteries up impressively quickly.
Fast chargers tend to deliver between 7kW and 22kW. You’ll find these at public stations, but rapid chargers are quickly becoming more desirable. If you install a home charger, this will likely be around 7kW.
Finally, there’s three-pin charging. It’s usually not advised, delivering a maximum of about 6kW, with an electric car likely needing to be left overnight to get a meaningful battery top up.
Maximum charge rates
Just because you’ve hooked your car up to a rapid charger, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use the full 100kW-plus charge speed. Electric vehicles have a maximum charge rate, which dictates the maximum charge it can accept regardless of the charger’s capabilities. This is because fast charging generates a lot of heat in the batteries, so requires complex heat dissipation technology that’s expensive to implement.
When buying an EV, check out the maximum charge rate. If you only expect to charge at a home wallbox it’s not so important, but if you travel long distances and use public chargers a lot, it can be hugely beneficial to pick a car with a high charge speed.
One of the bonuses of owning an electric vehicle is the tax breaks. All fully electric vehicles are exempt from vehicle excise duty.