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.  New models are being introduced every month covering a range of different requirements.  Bigger and more powerful batteries are bridging the range gap to fossil fuelled vehicles.

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.  When the vehicle is operating at low speeds in an urban environment it can operate on electrical power only.  At higher speeds, depending on engine mode, the power will come from the ICE (Internal combustion engine) or combined ICE/Electric power.  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 power unit.  Power for the batteries comes from regenerative breaking or by drawing power from the petrol or diesel engine.  The electric power is again deployed mainly in urban environments or is used to supplement 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 which 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.  Range on some models is less than a ICE vehicles so it is important to understand how the vehicle will be used and how often.  EV’s lend themselves to being more suitable in urban environments where there is low mileage, low speed, stop-start driving.  However, advances in the size and efficiency of battery technology has 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.  Tesla operate a network of fast charging stations and other charge point providers are installing units at existing refuelling sites up and down the UK.  This allows longer journeys to be conducted without worrying about running out of electricity.

For those drivers who are unsure about their driving patterns there are some useful technology based solutions entering the market.  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!

There is an ever-increasing selection catering for most requirements.  Examples of current examples 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/.

Demand for alternatively fuelled 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 Charging

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 at the bottom of the blog.

Workplace Charging

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 Charging

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.  Some of these tariffs take advantage of when electricity is at its cheapest which is during the night.  This helps reduce the cost of recharging the vehicle.

In the future it is likely that electric vehicles will be used to store electricity on behalf of the national grid, supplying to the grid at peak hours and re-charging during quieter times.  This V2G (Vehicle to grid) technology may mean that in the future 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 is in need of improvement is payment mechanisms for vehicle charging.  Different companies will use different payment methods and to get to a universal network, work needs to be done on tariffs and a universal payment system.

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 breaking 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 normally be in the 11-15 pence per mile range.  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 not something widely available at present.

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.  When volumes for electric vehicles increase it is likely the government will 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 chargepoint installation.  Further information can be found 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 which can include the car, charge point and electricity tariff (www.octopusev.com).

Insurance can also be a relatively immature market so it is worthwhile looking at comparison sites such as GoCompare.

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!

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

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