What do I need to know before buying an electric car?

What do I need to know before buying an electric car?

From home charge points to special tariffs, we’ll get you up to speed on electric vehicles (EVs) and help get you fully charged and on the road.

What is an EV?

Electric vehicles, or EVs, are pretty similar to traditional vehicles except for one key difference: they run on electricity instead of petrol or diesel. Rather than a combustion engine, an electric motor powers everything in the car – from the wheels to the brakes and the air-con. And that means emission-free driving and cleaner air.

How do EVs work?

Electric vehicles are powered by an internal motor. This takes the electricity stored in the car’s rechargeable batteries and converts it into mechanical energy, which then turns the wheels.

EV batteries work in much the same way as the battery in your phone. After being plugged in and charged up, they'll send a continuous flow of energy to the motor (via a converter). Unlike the batteries found in petrol or diesel cars, which need to provide short, high-powered bursts of energy to start the ignition, EV batteries are designed to always provide power while the car runs.

But the battery isn’t the only source of power in an EV. Electric vehicles also make use of a very nifty feature known as regenerative braking. This is where energy is drawn from the vehicle’s momentum every time the driver brakes. This energy is then sent back to the battery, so nothing is wasted.

And of course, there are also hybrid electric vehicles that combine the benefits of batteries with the reliability of petrol. But they can have their own drawbacks too, so it’s worth finding out which EV is right for you.

What are the different types of EVs?

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs)

These are EVs that use a large battery for power. They can be charged up by plugging it into a home EV charger or the various charging points around the country. They’re emission-free to drive and cheaper to run than their fuel counterparts. Driving a BEV is similar to driving an automatic petrol or diesel car – two pedals for brake and accelerate but without the loud noise. And with regenerative braking, each time you slow the car down, it puts more energy back into the battery.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

These type of EVs are powered by a combination of an electric battery and a petrol engine. Batteries aren’t as big compared to a BEV and when driving, the car will use the battery power first and then switch to petrol once it runs out. You’ve probably heard about Toyota Prius’ – they’re the perfect example of a PHEV.

Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicles (MHEVs)

Similar to a PHEV, these cars run on petrol but use an electric battery for assistance. By regenerative braking, energy is stored and created. However, the battery in a MHEV is just for helping the engine, rather than relying on it as a power source.

Read more about the different types of EVs

How long does it take and how do I charge an electric car?

You have quite a few options for charging if you have a plug-in electric car. The most convenient one is to install a British Gas EV charger at home, and our partners at Hive can sort this out for you. There are different EV charger types and costs, and our guide explains all.

How long on average does it take to charge an electric car?

For a full charge, it typically takes about 8 hours. However, this is rarely needed as charging an EV is a different mentality to filling up a car with petrol or diesel. Most EV drivers will top up their car when they’re parked near a charging point or overnight at home so won’t need to fill up from empty on a regular basis. If that ever is the case, the average charge time is around 8 hours, based on using a 7kWh charger.

How long does EV charging take at home?

While it depends on the size of your EV, battery and charger, the time it takes at home could range from under an hour to 12 hours for a full charge. The most common charger is the 7kW charger and that can take up to 8 hours for a full charge. A 3-pin plug (like the ones you use in your home for appliances) can also be used, but they can take up to 12 hours.

How long does EV charging take at public charging points?

Again, it all depends on the size of your battery and the speed of the charger available. Some supermarkets, shopping centres, service stations and workplaces offer rapid EV chargers, which could give you enough battery power for 100 miles in just a 35-minute charge session.

How far can EVs travel?

The bigger the battery size of an EV, the more power and the further it will travel. And on average, the range if an EV is between 200 and 250 miles. The majority of EVs in the market now will have a range between 100 and 300 miles on a full charge. For context, it’s about 120 miles from London to Birmingham. And with an average commute of between 10 to 20 miles a day, you’ll go over a week before needing to charge your EV. Here are some of the EVs you may have seen zipping around and their average range:

  • Honda e – 137 miles
  • Nissan Leaf – 168 miles (up that to 239 on the Leaf e+ model)
  • Hyundai Kona – 250 miles
  • Audi e-tron GT – 260 miles
  • Volkswagen ID.3 – 263 miles
  • Tesla Model S Long – 412 miles

Advantages and disadvantages of electric cars

The benefits of electric cars are many. They're often much cheaper to run than petrol or diesel cars (despite rising energy costs) and with fewer moving parts, they often need less servicing. And once you have your own charger installed, you can top up whenever you like – so no more queuing up at the petrol station.

Many people are worried that rising energy prices are making electric driving much more expensive. And while yes, you’ll pay more than you used to, it’s still far cheaper than filling up at the pumps – especially with a dedicated EV tariff.

The advantages of electric vehicles

  • Better for the planet because they can be powered by renewable energy
  • No exhaust fumes mean cleaner air
  • Convenient to charge at home
  • Cheaper to run
  • Cheaper to service
  • Cheaper to tax and often exempt from congestion and clean air charges

The disadvantages of electric vehicles

  • More expensive to buy
  • Longer to charge
  • Shorter range
  • Pricier to insure
  • Needs more planning, especially on longer journeys

How to switch to an electric car with British Gas EV tariffs

We can help you at every step of the way. As well as getting a Hive EV charger installed by our experts, we make charging easy too with our EV tariffs. With cheap electricity from just 9.4p per kWH, you can charge your car for less at night – so you can sleep and wake up fully charged.

We’ve taken even more steps to help you save once you’ve kitted your home out with a Hive EV charger and the EV tariff. SmartCharge is a feature within the Hive app which does all the work for you. You set the time you need your car to be fully charged, and it works in the background, charging it when electricity is cheapest on the grid. And you can also get money back on your energy bill each month.

Ready to switch on to electric driving? Get a charger installation quote from our trusted experts.