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Frequently asked questions about electric cars
Read on for answers to all those questions and more, to see whether electric motoring really is for you.
You can charge your car at home, at a public charging point or at fast-charging points at motorway service stations and each entail slightly different costs. Generally, charging at home is the cheapest but you will probably need to install a charging point.
For more details read our blog: How much does it cost to charge an electric car
Most modern electric cars can go well over 100 miles between charges, with the many of the latest cars having a ‘range’ of around 250 miles.
For more details read our blog: How far can an electric car go
To find out where you can find a charging point, take a look at our electric cars charging points finder.
To find out if an electric car is for you, use the carwow Fuel Chooser.
For those inside the car, however, it’s thought that EVs are actually safer than their conventionally powered counterparts. This is because an EV’s big, heavy battery pack is normally incorporated into the central structure of the car, usually in the floor, and this provides extra stiffness to the car’s bodyshell, meaning better protection of the passenger compartment in a crash. Look at the Euro NCAP website, and you’ll notice that all dedicated EVs tested (with the exception of the Chinese-manufactured Aiways U5) score the full five-star rating.
Some worry about the risk of fire that the lithium-ion batteries used in EVs carry; after all, there have been well-documented cases of such batteries catching fire in phones and laptops, so what’s to stop it happening in a car? Well, manufacturers use a wide range of measures to prevent this happening, including super-strong steel casings to prevent damage, separation of cells to prevent fire spreading, and a whole host of fuses, circuit breakers and cooling systems. In fact, research suggests that EVs are actually less likely to catch fire than conventional cars as they don’t carry flammable petrol or diesel.
There are a couple of reasons for this, the most influential being the cost of repair. Electric cars have fewer moving parts than conventional cars, meaning there’s less to go wrong, but some of the components they do have – the lithium-ion batteries being case-in-point – are enormously expensive to repair or replace if they do become damaged. Another factor that’s not often talked about is the availability of technicians qualified to work on electric cars, as these are far lower in number than those who can repair regular cars, which also pushes costs up.
It’s worth bearing in mind that there are companies that specialise in providing insurance for electric cars, and going with one of these could drop your premiums significantly. Even with these providers, though, it’s essential you shop around for the best deal. What’s more, all the usual tricks for dropping your premiums still apply with electric cars. Consider paying up front rather than monthly, or getting a black box or dashcam fitted.
But the fact remains that while electric cars do reduce daily running costs in most areas, insurance isn’t one of them, sadly.
Well, the depreciation on any particular make and model of car depends on a wide number of variables, including how desirable it is and how dependable it is perceived to be. And a few years ago, when the first electric vehicles appeared on the market, depreciation on them was very heavy indeed. This was because car buyers had very little appetite for electric cars due to the difficulties over range and recharging, as well as a general lack of understanding on the realities of electric motoring.
These days, however, that situation has pretty much turned on its head. The cars have got better – in terms of range, quality and appeal – the charging infrastructure has improved, and the general public now has a better understanding of – and openness to – electric motoring. This means there’s now much more appetite for electric cars, both new and used, to the point where many now hold their value better than conventional cars. And as time goes on and electric motoring becomes more and more established, this gap will only get bigger.
What you want to avoid, if your use of the car allows, is regularly charging up to 100% and depleting the battery down to 0%. This is the quickest way to shorten the life of your battery. Instead, try only topping your battery up to around 80%, and not letting it drop below 20% before recharging if you can. It’s also worth noting that the smaller you can make this window, and the closer that window is to the middle of the scale, the healthier your battery will be ( keeping the charge between 60% and 40% will be even better, for example).
Most electric cars these days come with associated smartphone apps that let you limit the amount of power the car takes on when it’s plugged in, and this should help you manage the maximum end of the scale, while keeping an eye on your instruments, not to mention sufficient journey planning, should take care of the lower end.
Unfortunately, nobody really knows for sure. Countless studies have provided evidence on both sides, but it’s such a complex equation with so many variables that nobody has managed to prove their case conclusively.
What you can say with confidence, though, is that electric cars definitely improve local environments. If you ignore carbon dioxide for a moment, petrol and diesel cars kick out all sorts of other pollutants (nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulates, etc) that pollute the atmosphere and can cause breathing difficulties for those in the vicinity.
And the bigger picture? Well, as fossil fuel reserves run dry, power producers will have no choice but to move towards more renewable energy sources, so as power stations become greener in future, so will electric motoring.
The Electric Car Grant – What you need to know?
You can get a discount on the price of brand new low-emission vehicles through a grant the government gives to vehicle dealerships and manufacturers.
You do not need to ask your dealer about the grant nor do you have to apply for it – the dealer will include the value of the grant in the vehicle’s price.
The grant means you can get up to a maximum of £3,000 off the price of an electric car. This grant was £3,500 but was cut in March 2020 by £500, with the government saying: “a small reduction to the grant, as well as excluding cars costing £50,000 or more, will allow more drivers to benefit from making the switch for longer.”
You may have heard the phrase ‘Category 1’ or ‘Plug-in grant’ in relation to the cars eligible for the grant, however, these related to the previous scheme that was open to hybrid cars too albeit with a lower grant. But the rules were changed and simplified in October 2018 to cover only vehicles with CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and can travel at least 70 miles without any emissions at all.
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