A beginners guide to choosing your first electric car


New technology is advancing rapidly and nowhere is this more apparent than in motor vehicles.  Due to stricter emissions regimes, manufacturers are developing alternatives to internal combustion engine power trains.

Where Tesla started the industry is now keen to follow in an electric gold-rush.

If you are looking at your first electric vehicle then read on as we have all the information you will need to make your decision.

Types of Electric Vehicles

There are different technologies available in the market including:

  • Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PHEV) – Vehicles which have an internal combustion engine as well as an electrical unit.  The vehicle can be plugged into a charge point to charge its electrical batteries and is supplemented by regenerative breaking which also provides charge.  An example of this power train can be found in the BMW 530e.
  • Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) – Vehicles which have an internal combustion engine as well as an electrical unit.  Power for the batteries comes from regenerative breaking.  An example is the original Toyota Prius
  • Electric Vehicle (EV) – Vehicles which operate on an electrically powered motor only.  Examples include the Tesla Model 3 and the Renault Zoe.

Is it right for you?

Fully electric vehicles may not suit everyone.  Range on some models is less than a conventionally fueled vehicles so it is important to understand how the vehicle will be used.  Electric vehicles lend themselves to being more suitable in urban environments but advances in battery technology has provided ever longer vehicle range.

The Tesla Model 3 standard model has a range of 254 miles with the long-range version up to 348 miles between charges (Source: https://www.tesla.com/en_gb/model3)

Luckily there are some solutions for drivers who are unsure about their driving patterns.  CleanCar (www.cleancar.io) offer a GPS Dongle solution whereby drivers can plug a device into the vehicle for a period of time.  Once the test period has elapsed the driver sends the device back for analysis and a suitability report is generated to analyse if the drivers behaviours and patterns would suit an electric vehicle.

This method is very useful as it looks at actual rather than perceived driving patterns.  It also identifies those journeys which may be unsuitable for EV use.

It is also useful to remember that vehicles can be hired for one off journeys which might not suit EV use!

Choice

There is an ever-increasing array of electric vehicles in the marketplace catering for most requirements.  Examples of current electric vehicles include:

  • Nissan Leaf
  • BMW I3
  • Volkswagen e-Up
  • Renault Zoe
  • Tesla Model
  • Jaguar I Pace
  • Hyundai Kona Electric

The vehicles have a variety of different characteristics to suit different tastes.

For an up to date review of the best vehicles available we suggest you visit https://www.carmagazine.co.uk/electric/best-electric-cars-and-evs/.

Lead times

Demand for electric vehicles is currently very strong.  Expect a long lead time from order to delivery date.  As volumes start to pick up with an increased number of models then we would expect lead times to shorten but for now you may have to wait for over six months before your new vehicle arrives.

On the plus side this gives you a chance to think about how you will charge the vehicle.

Charging

Once you have decided that an electric vehicle is for you then it is important to think about how you will charge the vehicle.  This is likely to fall into three areas: home, work and public charging.

Home

Although some electric vehicles can be charged using a standard socket it is generally recommended that you fit a standalone electric charging unit in your home (dependent on having the space and off-road parking).  There are a wide range of charging options available and a good site to compare options is Rightcharge (www.rightcharge.co.uk).

Grants are available to subsidise the installation of home charging units and further details can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/government-grants-for-low-emission-vehicles#electric-vehicle-homecharge-scheme

Work

The workplace can be a useful place to recharge your batteries.  Companies are now starting to offer charging facilities so it is worthwhile checking with your employer the availability of such facilities.

Public

If you can’t charge at home or work then there are more than 15,000 charge points are available in the UK with more are being added every week.  A great source of information on charge point locations, specifications and availability can be found at ZapMap (www.zap-map.com).

It is important to note that different charging providers require you to sign up with their services which can be a pain as unfortunately there is not a universal offering.

Further information can be found at https://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/transport/electric-cars-and-vehicles/charging-electric-vehicles.

Electricity Tariffs

Some companies offer special tariffs for EV drivers.  It is best to charge your vehicle during off peak hours where the electricity is cheapest.

For more information please see www.zap-map.com/charge-points/ev-energy-tariffs.

The Costs

Purchase – Purchase costs of a new EV will vary depending on the model.  EV’s are generally more expensive than the Petrol or Diesel equivalent however we expect differentials to narrow as EV’s become more mainstream.

Maintenance Costs – Maintenance costs for electric vehicles are likely to be 20%-35% lower than the equivalent petrol or diesel vehicle.

Cost Per Mile – The cost for charging your EV from a home charge unit will be around 3-4 pence per mile.  This compares favourably with the equivalent ICE vehicle which would normally be in the 11-15 pence per mile range.

Tax – Electric vehicles benefit from zero vehicle excise duty.  For company car users pure EV drivers will pay no company car tax in 2020-21, 1% in 2021-22 and 2% in 2022-23.

Grants – Government grants are available for both the purchase of the vehicle and for home chargepoint installation.  Further information can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/plug-in-car-van-grants

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/government-grants-for-low-emission-vehicles#electric-vehicle-homecharge-scheme

Other Considerations

If you are purchasing an EV it is worth noting that the second-hand market for EV’s is relatively immature due to the low volumes in circulation.  This can lead to volatile prices for resale values.

One way of avoiding the volatility would be to look at leasing your EV.   Octopus EV for example, offer a bundled service which can include the car, charge point and electricity tariff (www.octopusev.com).

Driving an electric vehicle can offer a different experience to that of a petrol or diesel.  Although we find this to be a better experience it may not be to everyone’s taste so make sure you try before you buy!

 


Useful Sources of Information

Grants

https://www.gov.uk/plug-in-car-van-grants

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/government-grants-for-low-emission-vehicles#electric-vehicle-homecharge-scheme

General Guides

https://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/transport/electric-cars-and-vehicles/electric-vehicles

https://www.exchangeandmart.co.uk/electric-cars-guide

Chargepoints

https://chargeplacescotland.org/

https://www.plugshare.com/

https://openchargemap.org/site

Vehicle Guides

https://www.carwow.co.uk/electric-cars