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Petrol vs Electric: What is best to learn to drive in?

With the rise of the electric vehicle (EV), as a new driver you might be questioning whether you should learn how to drive in a classic petrol car, or begin your driving journey in an electric vehicle that is likely to dominate our roads in the future. 

As with anything, there are positives and negatives for both types of cars, and choosing between them isn’t always a straightforward process for learner drivers and their parents. The most appropriate car for you to learn in will be based on your unique situation, so we will go over some of the pros and cons of petrol and electric vehicles across a range of criteria so that you can make a properly informed decision. 

What is the difference between a petrol and electric car? 

Petrol cars and electric cars differ fundamentally in their power sources and operational mechanics. 

Electric cars are powered solely by electricity, replacing the internal combustion engine with electric motors. Instant torque in electric cars enables a quiet and smooth ride. Charging an electric car can be done at various locations, including home charging stations, however EV charging stations are less common than regular petrol pumps – especially in smaller towns. 

Petrol vehicles rely on internal combustion engines, meaning regular refuelling trips to petrol stations. The engine functions by mixing petrol with air drawn into the cylinder via intake valves. To move efficiently, petrol cars require revving the engine before experiencing acceleration, making for a ride that’s louder due to engine noise.

All electric cars are equipped with automatic gearboxes as standard, while petrol cars offer options between manual and automatic transmissions. Ultimately, the experience of driving an automatic petrol car and an electric car does not particularly differ too much – if you can drive one, you can easily switch between them and adjust to some minor differences like a faster take off and regenerative braking in electric vehicles. 

Now that we know what the difference between an electric and a petrol car is, let’s make some comparisons across a few different areas. 

Accessibility 

There is quite a difference in the overall accessibility of electric and petrol cars. The first barrier of accessibility for electric vehicles is the higher upfront cost associated with purchasing an electric car. The price tag difference primarily comes from the cost of the battery in electric cars, however prices are evening out as supply increases for this car type. Now, this probably won’t influence your decision if you already have access to an electric vehicle, however if you are planning to buy a new car for learning purposes then you should keep this in mind. 

Driving instructors with electric vehicles may also be slightly harder to come across if you opt to learn in your instructor’s car. If you struggle to find a driving instructor that uses an electric car, you can use EZlicence to find driving lessons that are conducted in an EV. 

Licence type

Learning to drive in an EV does limit the type of drivers licence you’ll have the option of obtaining when you go for your practical test. Although there is no special licence needed for an EV, taking your test and learning in one excludes you from obtaining your full manual licence.

This means that if you take your drivers exam in an electric car, you will be able to drive EVs and automatic transmission type petrol cars, but not manual transmission vehicles. The same goes if you take your test in an automatic petrol vehicle. 

Environmental Impacts

The most stark difference between a petrol and an electric vehicle is their respective environmental impacts. Electric cars are battery powered and do not release any emissions into the atmosphere when they are driven. Petrol cars, on the other hand, emit pollution into the air in the form of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It is important to note that manufacturing EVs can still have negative environmental impacts

You may be wondering how this point is relevant to the learning experience, but it is important that you consider your values in everything you do in life. If you are an eco warrior, and your parents have both petrol and electric cars available for you to learn in, this will definitely influence your decision. Learning to drive while making a lesser impact on the environment is certainly a benefit of learning in an electric car. 

Final thoughts

There is no definitive way to determine whether you should learn how to drive in a petrol or electric vehicle. Ultimately, matters of accessibility, the licence type you desire and your personal beliefs and values will help you decide which is the right kind of car to begin your life as a driver in.