A Beginners’ guide to choosing your first electric vehicle

New technology is advancing rapidly, and nowhere is this more apparent than with the mass-market introduction of the electric vehicle.  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. The introduction of new models every month means the market is constantly evolving, covering a range of requirements. In addition, bigger and more powerful batteries are bridging the range gap to fossil-fuelled vehicles.

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

Types of Electric Vehicles

There are different technologies available in the market, including:

Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

A type of vehicle that has an internal combustion engine as well as an electrical unit. The vehicle is plugged into a charge point to charge its electrical batteries. Regenerative braking supplements the vehicle charge.  When the vehicle operates at low speeds in an urban environment, it can run on electrical power only.  Depending on the engine model, the power will come from the ICE (Internal combustion engine) or combined ICE/Electric power at higher speeds.  For example, you can find this power train in the BMW 530e.

Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)

Vehicles that have an internal combustion engine as well as an electrical power unit. Power for the batteries comes from regenerative braking or by drawing power from the petrol or diesel engine. When in urban environments, the vehicle uses electric power. Alternatively, it supplements the ICE at higher speeds. An example is the original Toyota Prius.

Mild Hybrid

Vehicles have a small electrical motor to support the ICE engine. As the battery is small, it generally will not power the vehicle by itself but support the main ICE power unit to make it more fuel-efficient.  An example of this type of vehicle is the Kia Sportage ECO Dynamics+.

Electric Vehicle (BEV)

Vehicles that operate on an electrically powered motor only without an internal combustion engine.  Examples include the Tesla Model 3 and the Renault Zoe.

Is an electric vehicle right for you?

Fully electric vehicles may not suit everyone.

The range on some models is less than an ICE vehicle. Therefore, understanding how you plan to use your vehicles is vital before making a decision.

EV’s lend themselves to being more suitable in urban environments with low mileage, low speed, stop-start driving.  However, advances in the size and efficiency of battery technology have provided longer potential ranges.

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)

In addition to the increased vehicle range, the supporting charging infrastructure is steadily improving. For example, Tesla operates a network of fast-charging stations, and other charge point providers are installing units at existing refuelling sites up and down the UK. As a result, it is possible to conduct long journeys without worrying about running out of charge.

For drivers who are unsure about their driving patterns, some helpful technology-based solutions are entering the market. For example, 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. A suitability report studies whether the driver’s behaviours and patterns will suit an EV.

This method is handy as it looks at actual driving patterns.  It also identifies those journeys which may be unsuitable for EV use.

It is possible to hire vehicles for one-off journeys, which may not suit EV use.

What vehicles are available?

Electric vehicle choice is constantly evolving and improving. From hatchbacks to large SUVs, there is an option for you. There are even electric pickup trucks to come in 2022!

The vehicles below are just some options available:

Peugeot e-208

Price: £28,260 (inc PiCG)

WLTP range: Up to 225 miles

Buying your first EV

Fiat 500 electric

Price: £19,211 (inc PiCG)

WLTP range: Up to 118 miles

Buying your first EV

BMW i4 M50

Price: £51,905 (inc PiCG)

WLTP range: Up to 318 miles

Buying your first EV

Hyundai IONIQ electric

Price: £37,600 (inc PiCG)

WLTP range: Up to 194 miles

MG5 EV

Price: £27,945 (inc PiCG)

WLTP range: Up to 250 miles

Porsche Taycan Turbo S Cross Turismo

Price: £140,360 (inc PiCG)

WLTP range: Up to 240 miles

Buying your first EV

Audi Q4 e-tron

Price: £40,750 (inc PiCG)

WLTP range: Up to 175 miles

Buying your first EV

Skoda Enyaq IV

Price: £40,000 (inc PiCG)

WLTP range: Up to 256 miles

Buying your first EV

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/.

Demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles is currently robust. As a result, expect a long lead time from order to delivery date. However, as volumes start to pick up with more models, we 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, it is crucial to think about charging the vehicle.

This is likely to fall into three areas: home, work and public charging.

Home Charging

Although charging EVs with a standard socket is possible in some cases, we recommend you fit a standalone charger in your home (dependent on having space and off-road parking).

Many charging options are available, and an excellent site to compare options is Rightcharge (www.rightcharge.co.uk).

Grants are available to subsidise the installation of home charging units. You can find further details at the bottom of the blog.

Workplace Charging

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

Public Charging

More than 15,000 charge points are available in the UK if you can’t charge at home or work. Plus, networks are adding points 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 there is no universal offering.

Electricity Tariffs

Some companies offer special tariffs for EV drivers.  Some of these tariffs take advantage of when electricity is at its cheapest during the night.  This helps reduce the cost of recharging the vehicle.

Electric vehicles will likely be able to store electricity on behalf of the national grid in the future. Able to supply the grid at peak hours and recharge during quieter times.  This V2G (Vehicle to Grid) technology may mean that electric vehicles can be run for free; by effectively being used as mobile storage units for the grid.  This will become of increased importance as the power from renewables increases, and the reliance on gas and coal-fired power stations diminishes over time.

One area which requires improvement is payment mechanisms for vehicle charging.  Different companies currently use different payment methods. Therefore, a universal payment must be put into place to simplify EV charging.

What charging infrastructure is available?

Ultra-rapid

  • Chargers provide power at 100kW or more
  • Charging time = 20 – 40 minutes (to 100%)
  • Public charge count = 1,395

Rapid

  • Chargers provide power at 50kW (DC)/43kW (AC)
  • Charging time = 20 – 60 minutes (to 80%)
  • Public charge count = 4,012

Fast

  • Chargers provide power at 7kW or 22kW
  • Charging time = 4 – 6 hours (7kW)/1 – 2 hours (22kW)
  • Public charge count = 16,734

Slow

  • Chargers provide power at 2.3 – 6kW
  • Charging time = 6 – 12 hours
  • Public charge count = 7,647

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

Maintenance costs for electric vehicles are likely to be 20%-35% lower than the equivalent petrol or diesel vehicle.  This is due to the relatively simplistic nature of the drive train and reduced brake wear due to the regenerative braking deployed on most vehicles.

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 typically be in the 11-15 pence per mile range. However, if you utilise the specialist tariffs available, the cost per mile can be reduced to 1-2 pence per mile!

As V2G technology becomes more mainstream, there will be an opportunity to make money from the vehicle as a storage facility, albeit this is not widely available.

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. However, when volumes for electric vehicles increase, the government will likely look to protect revenues by removing some of the tax incentives currently available.

Government Grants

Government grants are available for both the purchase of the vehicle and for home charge point installation. You can find further information at the bottom of the blog.

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 that can include the car, charge point and electricity tariff (www.octopusev.com).

Insurance can also be a relatively immature market, so it is worth looking at comparison sites like GoCompare.

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

For more help with choosing your electric vehicle or other fleet related advice then

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