Everything you need to know about buying an electric car
The electric car revolution is well and truly underway. Not only are manufacturers bringing their own EVs to market thick and fast, but the government is implementing new measures to promote these zero-emissions vehicles. The infrastructure is gaining momentum, too.
But the process of buying an electric vehicle can be a bewildering one. There’s all manner of terminology, grants and processes to understand which can make researching an EV a bit of a headache. Fortunately, we’ve rounded all of the key aspects of buying an electric vehicle together - so let’s take a look.
Charging is crucial to an electric vehicle. Without energy going in, you’re not going anywhere - so it’s worth getting to know a little bit more about how electricity is put into these vehicles. Oh, and just before we dive in, all charge rates are measured in kW. Think of this as how quickly the energy can be pushed into the car.
At the top of the tree sits rapid charging. Think of this as the fastest way to top up a car’s energy. Some are able to deliver over 100kW of charging power - though some updated chargers are reaching the heady heights of 350kW. It means that if your car is capable of receiving it, you’ll be able to add plenty of miles in a short amount of time.
Fast chargers come up next. As the name suggests, these deliver a fast rate of charge - so not quite a rapid one. Power ranges from 7kW to 22kW, and you’ll usually find these speeds at supermarket chargers other standard locations. In addition, most domestic wallboxes - the ones fitted to the outside of properties - deliver around 7kW of charge. It’s a great option to have if you’re planning on regularly charging at home.
Finally, there’s three-pin. Now most manufacturers say that you should only really use a three-pin socket to charge a car as a last resort, but it’s also not a great option because of the speed of charge. With around 2-3kW, charging a standard EV will take an overnight sitting to get to full - at least.
Maximum charge rate
But that’s not where charging information finishes - far from it. In fact, even if you visit a 100kW charger, if your electric vehicle isn’t rated to accept that speed of charge then it won’t make a bit of difference. It’s all about a car’s maximum charge rate.
Different EVs have different charge rates. It means that if you plugged a car rated to 7kW into a rapid charger, the maximum rate of charge it’ll be able to accept is 7kW.
This is a key area of consideration when looking at an EV. Planning to charge mainly at home? A 7kW rate of charge will likely be fine. Want to frequently use rapid chargers while stopping during journeys? You’ll need a car with a higher charge rate.
Electric car grant
The government is putting a large push on electric vehicles at the moment. To clarify, we mean fully electric vehicles here, as hybrids aren’t included in any sort of grant anymore. Today, you can get £3,500 off the cost of a new electric car with the government’s plug-in car incentive. If you’re browsing for a new EV, then look closely to see if this grant is included in the car’s displayed price - sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t.
To sweeten the deal, you should be able to get an additional grant of up to £500 off the cost of installing a home charging point too.
Range is a point of contention in the discussion surrounding EVs. Many people believe that current electric vehicles simply don’t offer a useable range, but that’s not often the case anymore. The Tesla Model S Long Range, for instance, can do up to 375 miles between charges while even more entry-level models, such as the Vauxhall e-Corsa, will achieve well over 200 miles on a single charge - more than enough for most occasions.
In the same vein as manufacturer-issued MPG figures though, always take range with a pinch of salt. Though it’s often possible to achieve the claimed range, more often than not you’ll find it tricky to do so - particularly during chillier months when batteries become less effective.
Again, batteries is an area of EVs which can be confusing. But for ease, it’s best to think of a car’s batteries as its fuel tank. Measured in kWh, the larger the number, the bigger the ‘tank’ - and the longer your car will be able to go on a single charge.
For example, the latest Tesla Model S comes with a 100kWh battery, and has one of the longest ranges around (375 miles).. Yet a Nissan Leaf with a 40kWh battery will only be able to deliver around 165 miles per charge. That said, the larger the batteries, the longer the charge time - and there will be more weight added to the car’s overall bulk, too.