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Electric vehicles cover

Do electric vehicles live up to the hype?

Disclaimer: The information on this page was correct as of August 20, 2021.

As people become more aware of their impact on the environment, the sale of electric vehicles is on the rise. But with the ban on the production of petrol and diesel cars quickly approaching, is it time for you to consider switching to an electric car?

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How do electric vehicles work?

Unlike traditional vehicles, electric cars use a battery-powered electric motor to run, rather than a combustible engine. They get their power from batteries made from lithium ions which can be charged at home, charging points, or even using the energy from braking.

When you press the accelerator pedal on your electric vehicle, it starts a chain reaction to get the car moving:

  1. DC power is converted from the battery into AC electricity
  2. The accelerator pedal sends a signal to the controller which changes the frequency of the AC power from the inverter to the motor to control the speed
  3. The motor connects and turns the wheels through a cog
  4. When the brakes are pressed or the car is decelerating, the motor becomes an alternator which can produce power to charge the batteries.

Some electric cars can be hybrids, meaning they have both a petrol/diesel engine and an electric motor. However, some hybrids can’t be charged at home or charging points; they charge when braking or decelerating.

Charging electric vehicles

The main thing that puts people off driving electric vehicles is the lack of charging points compared to fuel stations. Depending on where you live, these stations may be few and far between, leaving you worried about losing power while out and about.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

If you’re planning on charging your car at home, one thing you might be concerned about is the cost. Will your energy bills skyrocket? Will you be able to afford it? The average electric car (60kWh) costs £8.40 for a full charge at home, however, this is dependent on location, motor size, and tariff prices, so the best way to work out how much you’ll be spending on charging your car is:

(Tariff price per kWh) x (battery size in kWh) / 100

For example, if your tariff costs 14p/kWh and your battery is 100kWh, it would cost you £14 to fully charge your car, taking you around 300 miles.

In comparison, it would cost you roughly £45 to drive the same distance in a petrol car, or £36 in a diesel.

If you want to save on this, some energy providers offer Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariffs where you’re charged less for your overnight energy usage than during the day. This could be as little as 8p per kWh, costing this 100kWh battery £8 instead of £14.

Find out more about Economy 7

However, because braking and decelerating also help charge your car, you won’t often have to charge from flat to full, just top it up every now and then. This can be done anywhere there is a charging point, whether that’s at a supermarket, a fuel station, or at home.

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

There are 5 main factors that affect how long it will take to charge your electric vehicle:

  • Battery size – The bigger the battery’s capacity, the longer it will take to charge.
  • How much charge it already has – If you’re charging from empty, it will take longer to fully charge than if your battery’s already at 50%.
  • The maximum charging rate of the vehicle – If your car’s maximum charging rate is 7kWh, it won’t charge any faster at a 15kWh charging point.
  • The maximum charging rate of the charging point – Even if your vehicle can charge at 15kWh, if it’s plugged into a 7kWh then it will charge at 7kWh, which will make it charge slower.
  • The weather – Colder temperatures can mean your car charges slower. Colder temperatures also make vehicles less efficient so fewer miles are added per charge.

If you’re charging at a 22kW fast-charge point, you could add up to 90 miles of range in an hour, but if you’re at a 45kW rapid-charge point, you could do this in just 30 minutes.

Learn more about charging your electric vehicle

Advantages of electric vehicles

There’s a reason the sale and manufacturing of electric vehicles are on the rise – there are so many benefits to us and the environment, including:

  • They don’t emit exhaust gases, because they don’t have an exhaust pipe
  • They reduce air and noise pollution
  • You can charge them at home
  • Some companies and shopping centres offer free charging points
  • Electric cars can drive through congestion zones and Ultra Low Emission Zones for free
  • Some electric cars are exempt from vehicle tax
  • Less maintenance is required
  • There are Government grants to pay for charging point installations for homes and businesses
  • They can be charged using renewable sources

Disadvantages of electric vehicles

Many people are still hesitant to make the switch to an electric car as they’re more affected by the disadvantages, such as:

  • There are less charging points than fuel stations
  • Battery charging takes a lot longer than filling up with fuel
  • There aren’t many options to choose from at the moment
  • Some hybrids can’t be charged at home or other charging points; only while braking and decelerating so they use their combustion engines more often
  • Higher initial costs
  • Quieter cars can be more dangerous for pedestrians, which can also make insurance higher
  • They can’t drive as far without needing to recharge
  • Production of electric cars produces high emissions

Where can I save money with an electric car?

While the initial cost of an electric car can be high, the Government are working on this with grants in place to help make them more affordable. The ban on the manufacturing of petrol and diesel cars should also bring prices down as demand for new electric cars increases.

Electric cars are the perfect choice for those driving in London as they’re exempt from congestion and Ultra Low Emission charges and some are even exempt from road tax. Without an electric car, you could be paying £3,000 extra per year to drive down the same roads.

Economy 7 meters and electric vehicle tariffs are also a great way to save money on your electricity bill. Your energy rates will be lower at night so that you can charge your car, but you can take advantage of this by having high-energy appliances on at the same time.

Even without a time-of-use meter, you can still save a huge amount by charging your car at home rather than filling it with fuel. With petrol and diesel prices constantly increasing due to decreasing supplies, electric cars look a lot more attractive. Especially when you can charge your car for almost half the price of filling it up with the equivalent amount of fuel.

The environmental impact of having an electric car

The electric car’s increase in popularity is mostly down to people being more aware of the impact they’re having on the environment and consciously changing their habits to match.

Electric vehicles make a huge contribution to improving air quality in busy towns and cities. With no tailpipes or combustion, they don’t emit any exhaust gases or carbon emissions. Studies have shown that in a year, one electric car on the roads can save an average of 1500kg of CO2 – imagine what a whole country of electric cars could do!

However, the production of electric cars uses a lot of energy, releasing a lot of emissions. This is mainly due to the use of lithium-ion batteries needed in the car. As battery recycling technology improves, we might see this change in the future to create a more eco-friendly manufacturing process to go with the eco-friendly drive.

Electric cars are essentially only as clean as the power it uses. For an even greener drive, why not switch to a renewable electricity provider? You could charge your car’s battery without having to worry about how your increased electricity usage is affecting the environment. This is another great way to save money with your electric vehicles too as the renewable energy market is becoming more and more affordable.

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This page was written by...

Polly Tyler

I've loved writing since I was a child and have worked on a number of different projects since I left school, including journalism, copywriting, and marketing. Utilty Switchboard has given me the opportunity to grow my knowledge and experience and I've loved every minute!

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