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electric cars

Guide to Electric Cars

Everything you need to know about electric cars including how they can save you money, how they help to improve air quality, and independent reviews of all the EVs on sale in the UK.

Electric Cars

At the moment the vast majority of cars on UK roads are powered by petrol or diesel engines; there are relatively few battery electric vehicles. However this situation is due to change very quickly: there will be a rapid growth in electric vehicles. Here’s everything you need to know about electric vehicles, including types of electric vehicles, how they can save you money, and how they help to improve air quality.

Types of electric vehicles

Electric vehicles (EVs) include pure or battery electric vehicles (BEVs), extended-range electric vehicles (E-REVs), and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

Pure or Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) operate using an electric motor powered by a battery 100% of the time.

Extended-Range Electric Vehicles (E-REVs or REEVs) have also been available but there are no new Extended-Range Electric Cars on sale at the moment (although there are some Extended-Range Electric Vans). E-REVs operate as electric vehicles all the time, but a small engine can act as a generator for the battery if it becomes depleted.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) feature an electric motor powered by a small battery, and usually a petrol engine, or occasionally a diesel engine. PHEVs typically only have a short electric driving range, possibly between 20-50 miles (depending on make and model); the vehicle can operate on its petrol or diesel engine for longer journeys.

Benefits of electric vehicles

  • EVs have lower running costs (fuel and maintenance, and total cost of ownership) than petrol or diesel vehicles
  • EVs have zero tailpipe CO2, NOx and particulates emissions at all times in the case of pure EVs, or have the ability for zero-emission running in the case of E-REVs or PHEVs
  • EVs are seen as a key solution to improve air quality
  • EVs are typically seen as a better driving experience than petrol or diesel vehicles.

Electric vehicle driving experience

When most people try an EV for the first time they prefer the driving experience to that of a petrol or diesel vehicle. This is because EVs are virtually silent, they’re very refined, and they have instantly available torque, which means strong, linear acceleration. There’s no clutch and no changing of gears. And most EVs have their batteries in the floor, resulting in a low centre of gravity, and therefore good handling. In summary, they find EVs easier and better to drive. This feedback is typical for people trying both electric cars and electric vans. Once people have driven an EV the vast majority don’t want to go back to a petrol or a diesel vehicle.

Electric vehicle choice

The number of makes and models of electric cars is increasing month by month, and this trend is set to accelerate over the coming years. Already there is an electric vehicle in most car body styles, there are increasing numbers of electric vans coming to market, and there are even electric trucks and buses.

Electric vehicle price

Most electric vehicles cost from around £20,000 to £100,000. Some electric vehicles are more expensive to buy than similar petrol vehicles, but electric vehicles have much lower running costs – typically around one-fifth of the running costs of petrol vehicles – so electric vehicles are usually cheaper to run on a whole life cost basis than petrol or diesel vehicles. And forecasts suggest that EVs will reach cost parity with petrol vehicles in the years to come.

Electric vehicle incentives

There are a number of financial incentives for electric vehicles including the Plug-in Car Grant (a £3,000 discount for a car with a zero emission range of over 70 miles); the Plug-in Van Grant (up to £8,000); the home charge point grant (up to £500); and the workplace charge point grant (up to £500 per charging socket).

Company car financial incentives

Benefit in Kind tax rates for pure electric company cars reduced to zero percent in April 2020. When combined with the much lower running costs of EVs compared to petrol and diesel cars, switching to an EV will save company car drivers – and companies – thousands of pounds per year, and the whole-life costs of EVs will, in most cases, be much lower than petrol and diesel equivalents. This will drive a substantial growth in sales of EVs as company cars, and today’s company cars are tomorrow’s private cars. EVs will also deliver much lower running costs for private motorists.

EU CO2 emissions targets

Although there has been a growing range of EVs on sale up until 2020, there has been limited availability of many makes and models. This is set to change in 2020 as car manufacturers will have to meet strict EU fleet CO2 emissions targets. The next target is 95g/km CO2 by 2021, and a new agreement in December 2018 was for a further 37.5% reduction by 2030 which equates to an average of less than 60g/km CO2 by 2030.

This will mean they will have to sell more cars with lower emissions, or they will have to pay huge fines. This will result in improved availability of EVs. In stark contrast to previous years, manufacturers may have to market EVs in preference to petrol or diesel cars.

Local air quality and clean air zones

There has been growing awareness about the problems of poor air quality over recent years and now a large number of cities in the UK are currently consulting on Clean Air Zones (CAZs) in order to improve air quality. There are already zones in operation in cities such as London which result in high charges for the most polluting vehicles. Such initiatives will result in more car – and van – drivers adopting EVs.

UK government targets for EVs

Due to the challenges of local air quality and climate change (in June 2019 the UK government announced a target of ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2050) the government has recently proposed a ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars – including plug-in hybrids – by 2035, which may, in reality, come into effect from 2032. This may sound far off, but from a car manufacturer’s point of view, this is less than two model changes away. This will encourage people to start thinking about their next car now – along with the potentially worsening future resale values of petrol and diesel cars – so accelerating the uptake of pure electric cars between today and 2032.

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