• Electric cars
  • Oct 16, 2020

Where do you start with choosing an EV? With so many new models around, what’s the best electric car for you? Here we uncover the three big differences to choosing a petrol car…

An electric car is amazingly smooth and easy to drive, but also quite good fun, too. This doesn’t mean that going electric is for everyone yet.

Who should think about an electric car?

There are certainly electric cars in all shapes and sizes, but is there an EV to fit anyone? The EV market has been filling up with more family-friendly estates and SUVs – and next year we’re looking forward to a few more small and budget EVs too.

An electric car is a no-brainer if…
✔ You drive less than 100 miles most days
✔ You have a garage or driveway
✔ You’re a company car driver
✔ You want to lower your carbon footprint
✔ You have solar or are considering solar on your roof

Think a bit more about going electric if…
✘ You do journeys of several hundred miles every month
✘ You aren’t prepared to make a single stop on a long journey
✘ You need to tow (unless budget is no object)
✘ You don’t have off-street parking

Three tips for choosing the best electric car

1.Check out the real-world range

Charging an EV: more like topping up your phone than filling at a petrol station

Range is how far your EV will go on one charge. Range is determined mostly by the size of the battery. Electric car batteries don’t go as far as their petrol equivalents on each ‘full tank’.  But then you won’t be refilling that tank in the same way. Most of the time you’ll top up at home overnight without really thinking about it.

The first rule is to ignore the manufacturers figures on range.  All car companies show you the WLTP range. WLTP stands for world harmonized light-duty vehicles test procedure, and is a global, harmonized standard for determining the levels of pollutants, CO2 and fuel consumption.  You are never going to drive your car like the test, so better to look to the real-world range, which is much closer to the distance you’ll actually be able to travel between charges. New electric models offer a real-world range of over 160 miles. The rule of thumb is that your overall range will be roughly 80% of the WLTP.

However, range does depend on outside temperature and speed. In winter, your range is quite a bit lower than in summer. Typically, an EV will cover around 20 percent fewer miles in cold weather versus summer. Factors such as how fast you drive and your use of heating will affect range too. Winter is not all bad for EV drivers, as you can see in our top tips for driving an EV in the winter.

2. Don’t just look at the price, consider the cost of ownership

Most EV models are available with a few different battery size options. Do you need the need the extra weight and expense of the largest battery just to cover a trip that you make once a year? The small battery can save you thousands and could fit 99% of your journeys very well.

What’s your perfect EV range?

Check your journeys

3. Optional heating options are worth every penny

Surprised to see heating in our top three considerations? Well, a petrol car loses as much as 65% of its fuel as heat. With an EV there’s no waste heat. Instead you may have to dip into the battery (and your range) to keep warm.

To reduce battery use when out and about, preheating your car while still plugged in is highly recommended.  This can be easily done using the car “control” app – so, as a side note, it’s certainly worth checking out how easy the manufacturer’s app is to use as part of the car selection process.

Our advice is to get all the heating options available. Heated seats (and steering wheels) are an efficient way of keeping you warm in the car, so should be considered essential if you drive in the UK.

Could a plug-in hybrid be best for me?

If you’re new to electric cars, a plug-in hybrid (or PHEV) might seem like the perfect compromise. The problem is that they are a compromise, and a PHEV misses out on some of the key benefits of going electric. There’s plenty of evidence that they aren’t as green as the official tests suggest, and they cost more to run. All in all, they don’t work out financially or environmentally in the long run.

A fully electric car gives you:

  • lower cost per mile
  • much lower CO2 per mile (zero from the exhaust, and low depending on the source of electricity)
  • lower maintenance costs (fewer moving parts)
  • future-proofing against possible emissions zones and changes to road tax for hybrids

A typical electric car driver with off-street parking does almost all charging at home, usually overnight. Week-in-week-out you’ll be saving a fortune (and valuable time) by steering clear of a petrol station or charging station.

Could an EV change you?

If you normally set off with just a post code, you may find there’s a bit more planning ahead on longer journeys in an EV.  With our longer journey top tips and a quick look at a route it won’t take long to switch to electric.

You may drive slower. Especially on the motorway. Even when you don’t need the full range, as you are likely to be more in touch with the efficiency of your car and more interested in getting the most from every kWh. You will also discover that this doesn’t make much difference to how quickly you get there: driving over the speed limit at 75mph for 50 miles only saves you 6 minutes compared to cruising at 65mph. A long car trip on a motorway is when this kind of mild speeding helps the least in any car. Read more on the maths behind speeding.

Evolution of electric cars from the 1890s, to the G-Wiz, early Renault Zoe to the 2021 Megane

Will I lose money buying an electric car?

The resale values of electric cars are on the up. Electric cars are worth considerably more than their petrol counterparts after the typical ownership period of three years and 30,000 miles of driving.

Values are protected by a relatively restricted supply of EVs compared to rising demand. Chris Plumb, the Cap hpi car resale expert’s resident EV guru, told This is Money: ‘Limited new car production over the past few years, can translate into reduced volumes entering the used car market, which helps to protect values. Also, we have seen healthy growth in demand for used electric vehicles from consumers.’

Will prices of electric cars fall further?

Yes. This is because batteries are expected to fall further in price. Electric cars are expected to reach price parity with petrol cars as early as 2024.

However, if you switched to electric today, the chances are you will have paid back the extra cost of going electric, and paid back the carbon embodied in your electric car before this parity is hit. Cheaper fuel, lower running costs, government grants and incentives all help make an electric car pay its way.

Check your EV payback

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