Where do you start with choosing an electric car? Is going electric right for everyone? We answer all the frequently asked questions about picking your first EV.
An electric car is amazingly smooth and quiet to drive. They are easy to drive - thanks to one-pedal driving and gearless motors. They can be quite good fun, too, because there is an instant response when you touch the accelerator, making even the most budget EV extremely quick off the mark.
Who should think about an electric car?
There are electric cars in all shapes and sizes. Over the last 12 months, the EV market has fast been filling up with more family-friendly estates and SUVs. There's an electric car for (almost) everyone. Explore all the cars that match your requirements with our quick electric car finder tool
Consider an electric car if...
✔ You drive less than 150 miles per day
✔ You have a garage or driveway
✔ You're a company car driver
✔ You do most of your driving in towns, cities or rural areas
✔ You want to lower your carbon footprint
✔ You have solar or are considering solar on your roof
Electric cars aren't so good for...
✘ Regular journeys of several hundred miles
✘ People who aren't prepared to make a single stop on a long journey
✘ Towing (unless budget is no object)
✘ People without off-street parking
✘ Lowest purchase prices
Why not opt for a hybrid?
Plug-in hybrids might seem like the perfect compromise, but they stop you from achieving 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 in the long run.
A fully electric car gives you:
- lower cost per mile
- much lower CO2 per mile (zero from the exhaust, and some depending on the sources of the electricity that you power it with)
- lower maintenance costs (fewer moving parts)
- future-proofs you against possible emissions zones and changes to road tax for hybrids
- higher resale value
A typical electric car driver with off-street parking does almost all charging at home, usually overnight. For your longer journeys, you'll need to do a little bit of planning and charging on the road. But week-in-week-out you'll be saving a fortune (and valuable time) by steering clear of a petrol station.
Three things to look for in an electric car
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.
A petrol or diesel stops to fill up at a petrol station when it is getting close to empty. Your EV will be topped up regularly, maybe every night, at home without you really thinking about it. In this way, it's more like charging a phone than filling up like you did with your old car.
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.
Like buying any car, the price you pay is determined by a multitude of factors. With an EV there is also the added element that most models are available with a few different battery size options.
If you had unlimited budget, there is probably an EV with a battery big enough to cover even your longest journey. Having said this, you probably don't need the extra weight and expense of a large battery, and there are plenty of other options out there which will fit 99% of your journeys very well.
What's your perfect EV range?Check your journeys
Why should heating be in your top three? A new petrol car uses only around 35% of its fuel to move forward, much of the other 65% is lost as heat. EVs on the other hand don’t pump out waste heat and instead you have to dip into the battery (and your range) to heat the cab.
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 certainly worth checking out the app 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! A heat pump is nifty gadget that make heating your car far more efficient, so usually worth the extra investment if you hope to drive to the limits of your range regularly.
How an EV could change your driving:
You plan ahead on longer journeys - meaning you’ll have a quick look at a route to reassure yourself about the charging options
You may drive slower on longer motorway journeys. You will discover that this really impact how quickly you get there: driving for 50 miles at 75mph only saves you 6 minutes compared to cruising along at 65mph. A long car trip on a motorway is when mild speeding helps the least. For the maths behind this read more here.
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 restricted supply of EVs while there is increasing 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 make the decision 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.