Electric cars have been growing in popularity for many years, with more manufacturers focusing on alternative fuelled vehicles making a strong commitment to reduce emissions across the globe. Further fuelled by the up-and-coming ban of all new petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles in the UK by 2030, the UK Government has increased its support and investment into charging infrastructure, making the switch to electric for many car buyers more accessible.
If you're thinking about buying an electric vehicle now or planning to in the future, then our guide will help answer your questions.
Positive Environmental Impact
A primary motive for buying an electric car comes in the form of the benefits it has on the world itself. There are a cluster of reasons why choosing one of these models will have a positive impact on the Earth. Some of the most prevalent include:
- Renewable energy - Electricity is a form of renewable energy. This means you won't be expending limited resources, like fossil fuels, to power your car.
- Eco-friendly materials - Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of EVs are manufactured using base materials which are themselves ecologically beneficial.
- Lower levels of pollution - Owing to the nature of electric engines, there are far fewer emissions. In fact, a pure EV has zero polluting elements coming from its exhaust.
- Recycled batteries - You'll be able to recycle the 'engine' (battery) of an electric car. This reduces the need for production - which in turn lowers the overall damage done to the environment.
But an EV doesn't just have an impact on global factors. You can also experience benefits to your health and that of those around you.
Health Benefits of Driving an Electric Car
Having evolved in a world where there were little to no carbon emissions for thousands of years, it's perhaps no surprise the past couple of centuries have had such a sudden impact on people's health.
The World Health Organisation report as many as 7 million people die prematurely every year as a result of air pollution. They broke down the averages for outdoor pollution-caused deaths:
Nitrous Oxide (NOx) is a gas emitted from cars powered by fossil fuels and is directly linked to respiratory issues. If fewer of these cars are on the road, there will be a reduction in the amount of NOx being pumped into the atmosphere.
Do electric cars get serviced? Yes, and they should be much cheaper and quicker than with a regular petrol/diesel car, owing to the fact they have far fewer parts. They should be checked out with the same regularity as a normal car (about once a year). You may not be able to get it out at your local garage, however - not all mechanics are trained to fix EVs.
You'll find charging an EV is considerably cheaper than refuelling in a more traditional manner. The average electricity fee is approx. 21p per kWh in the UK (consumer rate, as of February 2022). If your electric car has an empty battery and approximately 60kW capacity, charging your electric car would cost a total of 60kWh x 0.21 = £12.60. This equates to 6.3 pence per mile for an EV with a 200 mile range.
Thanks to the lower CO2 emissions and the fact there's very little overall pollution, electric vehicles are largely exempt from road taxes (VED - vehicle excise duty) at the time of writing.
Types of electric cars
There are three kinds of vehicles that run on electricity
- Firstly, the dual-engine hybrid, or Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV). This is still primarily powered by a traditional combustion engine that is linked to an electric motor. As you drive, the battery recharges when the vehicle slows down, called 'regenerative braking' or 'regen'.
- Secondly, there's the plug-in hybrid (PHEV). This is where the battery can be recharged by plugging it into some form of charging socket or wall charger, and also using regenerative braking.
- Thirdly, the 100% electric car (EV), with an exclusively electric motor (engine) and plug-in rechargeable battery.
Different brands and models
Manufacturers are really embracing the electric vehicle segment, with many offering more eco-friendly HEV or PHEV models, or full EV ranges. Almost every top manufacturer has at least one model on the market, giving you more choice than you might realise.
The difference between an electric car & diesel/petrol alternatives
When it comes to this comparison, the changes are a lot more noticeable. These apply to both the environmental impact and the design and build itself
- There are far fewer moving parts in an EV than a fossil-fuelled car. This is largely due to the fact a battery powers it. In a combustion engine, you'll find thousands of parts making up the overall unit, including the transmission, drive shafts and a series of belts and fluids.
- Electric cars tend to have a slightly shorter range than petrol or diesel. In fact, this is probably the main concern of most drivers with an EV. The fear, dubbed range anxiety, is being alleviated somewhat by constant improvements to battery life and improvements in charging infrastructure across the country.
- It takes a lot longer to charge an EV than it does to fill up a regular car with fuel. This is largely what contributes to range anxiety in the first place, as there's a concern a battery may die between destinations.
- Most notably, electric cars will emit a considerable amount less pollution.
Check out the table below for a comparison of some of the core factors of each:
|Nissan Leaf (standard model)||Toyota Yaris Hybrid (standard trim)||Ford Fiesta (standard trim)|
|Max driving range:||168 miles||545 miles||452 miles|
|Road tax:||£0 per year||£145 per year||£155 per year|
The overall package
What goes into owning an EV? From road tax to the different types of government grants available to you, this section tackles everything you need to keep in mind when it comes to the specifics of your vehicle.
Tax on Electric Cars
Thanks to the lower CO2 emissions and the fact there's very little overall pollution, electric vehicles are largely exempt from taxes at the time of writing. There are several different types of tax which conventional car owners may have to pay.
- Fuel Duty - This is the price applied to the combustible fuel which is found in petrol and diesel cars. This price will vary, dependent on the type of fuel used to power a vehicle. Electric cars will not incur a fee in this regard, as electricity is not charged in the same way.
- Vehicle Excise Duty (VED / Car Tax) - This tax relates to the levels of CO2 produced by your car. It's worked out based on a percentile to kg ratio. For this reason, EVs are exempt from payment. You'll also receive a slight discount if you drive a hybrid. This will be £10 less than whatever rate the band showed for CO2 emissions on a petrol or diesel option.
- Value Added Tax (VAT) - Everyone has to pay VAT, regardless of what kind of car they drive. As a flat rate, this sees a driver charged an additional 20% on top of the overall price of their purchase.
Government Plug-in Grants
Originally launched in 2011, the plug-in car grant scheme has provided over £800 million to support the early market for ultra-low emission vehicles. Over £450 million was spent on zero-emission vehicles.
Reviewed in March 2020, the government announced an additional £532 million for consumer incentives for ultra-low emission vehicles; £403 million for the plug-in car grant, extending it until 2022/23. The rest of the funding will be used to extend grants for vans, taxis and motorcycles.
Zero-emission cars priced below £50,000 will be eligible for a grant of up to £3,000.
Vans could be eligible for up to £8,000, large vans and trucks up to £20,000, taxis up to £7,500 and motorbikes up to £1,500.
The Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) which provides grant funding of up to 75% (maximum of £350) towards the cost of installing electric vehicle smart chargepoints at domestic properties across the UK will no longer be open to homeowners from April 2022.
However, the scheme remains open to homeowners who live in flats, and people in rented accommodation. Check out our Grants page for more information.
How charging your car works
Charging your electric car can be done at home, a place of work, or by using 'destination' chargers on your route. Each option typically gives different charge times and costs.
These options are termed 'charging modes' and are split in to 4 categories indicating the type of charger being used and its power output:
- Mode 2 (AC single phase supply) - 2.3kW max from a domestic 3-pin socket using a cable with an inbuilt protection device and power control that emulates basic Mode 3 charger signals. Typical charge times for a 60kW battery = 26 hours+
- Mode 3 (AC single phase supply) - 7.4kW - a typical dedicated home charging point (like those available from BG SyncEV), tethered or untethered with smart control and protection. Typical charge times for a 60kW battery = 8 hours approx.
- Mode 3 (AC three phase supply) - up-to 22kW - Limited to 3 Phase power supplies only (charging at work, or commercial premises), tethered or untethered with smart control and protection. Typical charge times for a 60kW battery = 3 hours approx.
- Mode 4 (DC current) - 22kW-100kW+ - Typically rapid and super-rapid destination chargers, found at motorway services, supermarkets, shopping malls. Typical charge times for a 60kW battery = < 60 minutes for super-rapid chargers.
It's impossible to provide a definitive figure when it comes to understanding the exact lifespan of an electric vehicle battery. There are a number of key factors which will decide how long a battery lasts:
- Temperatures (both external and internal)
- Overcharging or excessively high levels of voltage
- Deep discharges or low voltage
- High discharges or high currents
Effectively, much as you might discover with your smartphone, overcharging a battery will cause its lifespan to shorten. This happens as a result of Lithium batteries exceeding their terminal voltage capacity.
This capacity usually sits around the 3.9 to 4.2V mark. Exceeding this number will not only cause long term damage to a battery, but may even result in fires breaking out if it starts to overheat.
Individual manufacturers will offer different rates when it comes to battery life. The Nissan Leaf, for example, is guaranteed to go at least 100,000 miles or last for a total of 8 years.
What are the downsides of using an electric car?
As great as EVs are when it comes to the environment, there are nevertheless still a series of negatives which have to taken into account. These include:
- Long refuelling time - While the overall cost might be considerably cheaper, the amount of time you have to dedicate to charging your car will be a lot longer. If you're going to run out during your journey, you'll need to factor this into your plans.
- Range - On that note, the range of a car will play an important role when it comes to your choice. This inability to travel long distances without the constant need to recharge can be infuriating, and even lead to the aforementioned range anxiety which some EV drivers experience.
- Price - Despite grants from the government, the overall cost of an electric car can be considerably greater than that of a petrol or diesel car of the same size and power but may save you money in the long run.
- Consumer variance - Unlike a regular car, you have fewer options to choose between when it comes to the EV you want. But with more and more manufacturers releasing new hybrid and full electric models, the choice increases every year.
Keep these primary concerns in mind when weighing up whether or not to purchase an EV. Are you willing to put up with these faults to experience the benefits they offer?
Other considerations to make
With all of that in mind, there are still a host of other details which need to be taken into account. These won't be day-to-day concerns, but still provide some food for thought heading forwards.
- Space for a home charger - While you may have taken costs into account, you'll also need to consider if you have room for a charger at your property. If you don't own the land, you'll also have to make sure you've got permission to build. It could be the case that the landowner doesn't want a charging point added.
- Public chargers near you - If you live in an area where there are little to no charging units readily available, it might be difficult to maintain your car's battery on a regular basis. While certain pockets of the country (such as London and Newcastle) are densely populated with chargers, there are plenty of areas where which aren't.
- Resale value - If you're purchasing a used EV, it might be worth considering how old the car is and how long you're expecting to use it. Does it seem like there's going to be any resale value when it comes to passing the car on in a few years?
- The feel of the car - Make sure to test drive the car before you buy (especially if you haven't driven an electric car in the past). There's a marginal difference between these and petrol or diesel models, so try to get accustomed to it before making a purchase.