Electric vehicles are increasingly becoming mainstream, especially as the government has pledged to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 to help the UK cut its carbon emissions.
What’s more, you may have noticed electric vehicle charging points popping up around our towns and cities.
If you’re thinking about ditching your petrol car and making the jump to an electric vehicle, it isn’t just the environment that will benefit. Done properly, buying an electric car can also save you big sums over the long run.
First of all, let’s get to grips with the basics. The term electric vehicle (EV) is broad and covers several types of vehicles with motors that are powered by electric batteries. Here are the main types available on the market right now:
Battery electric vehicles (BEV). These are cars that run solely on electricity, and therefore do not produce any exhaust emissions. The cars operate on an electric motor that is powered by a battery that you charge by plugging the car into a specially designed socket
Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs, also known as self-charging, or parallel hybrids). These are the most common type of hybrid vehicle. While the petrol or diesel engine is still the main power source, the car can also be powered by an electric battery that’s charged when the car is in motion
You can then select how you want the car to be powered at a given moment. You never need to charge these vehicles yourself.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). As the name suggests, these vehicles operate like parallel hybrids, but you can also charge their battery via a power outlet. While they have a conventional engine, their batteries are typically larger than those in regular parallel hybrids.
Range extended electric vehicles (REEVs). These cars run on an electric motor but also come with a small petrol or diesel engine that recharges the batteries to extend the car’s range between plug-ins. The combustion engine does not power the wheels.
Electric car range varies depending on the model and the type of terrain you are driving through.
As a very rough rule, electric motors can perform well on flatter roads in towns and cities, but their power can run down more quickly when driven at higher speeds outside towns and cities. But the best electric cars can travel almost 300 miles before needing to recharge.
It’s fair to say that the upfront cost of an electric car can be slightly higher than an average petrol or diesel vehicle, but there are key savings you can make over time.
You can instantly benefit from up to £3,000 in government grants towards the cost of buying a new vehicle. In order to encourage drivers to go electric, the government offers a ‘Plug-in Car Grant’ reducing the list price of an EV.
To be eligible to get the grant, you need to buy an electric car with a recommended retail price of less than £50,000 including VAT and delivery fees. The grant will cover 35% of the purchase price, up to a maximum of £3,000.
You will not need to do anything yourself to benefit from the grant. The car dealer will include the grant discount in the price you pay for the vehicle.
It’s worth noting that the grant can only be claimed on brand new EVs, not on used cars. If you’re considering buying a second-hand EV, factor this in.
Separately, you can also get up to £350 off the cost of installing an EV charger at your home through the government’s Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS).
For full details on how the EVHS works, log on to the GOV.UK website.
These discount schemes are incentives designed to get more people buying EVs, so it’s unlikely that they will last forever. The closer we move to 2030 and the more drivers switching to EVs, the less the government will feel the need to offer these kinds of financial perks.
While that does not mean you have to run out and buy a new EV tomorrow to take advantage, it’s worth acting sooner rather than later if you are thinking of making the switch.
On top of the Plug-in Car Grant, there are some handy tax breaks that can further help EV drivers keep costs down.
All ‘pure’ electric vehicles are completely exempt from road tax. If you drive a PHEV or HEV then the amount of car tax you pay will depend on your car’s carbon dioxide emissions.
If you use your EV for work, you can claim mileage back through the HM Revenue and Customs’ Approved Mileage Allowance Payments scheme (AMAP).
This scheme works whether you drive an electric car or a petrol or diesel vehicle, but should still be factored in as a potential saving.
Under HMRC rules, you can claim 45p for each mile you drive for work up to 10,000 miles per year. You can then claim back 10p per mile for any distance you travel over 10,000 miles that year.
If you’re not sure how the scheme works, it’s worth speaking to your employer. Otherwise you can find full details of how the AMAP scheme works by logging on to the GOV.UK website.
If you live in or around London you’ll be pleased to know that all BEVs are exempt from paying the Congestion Charge. However, it’s worth noting that this discount will only last until 25 October 2021.
To check if your vehicle is eligible for a full discount from the charge, log on to the Transport for London website.
At the moment it costs slightly more to insure an EV when compared to a conventional combustion engine car.
This is mainly because there are fewer electric cars on the roads and when they get damaged, the costs involved in replacing expensive electrical parts can make repairs more pricey.
As with other vehicle types you’ll need to take account of the normal risk factors that can affect the cost of getting car cover.
As EV technology advances and more electric cars take to the roads, it’s hoped that repair costs will come down as the market to repair electric cars becomes more competitive.
The cost of charging your car will vary wildly depending on where you plug it in to recharge. The size of the vehicle’s battery will also dictate how much you’ll need to shell out to keep your EV topped up.
Recent reports suggest that the most expensive companies offering charging facilities can cost you up to four times as much as the cheapest provider for the same amount of charge.
If you’re able to charge your EV at home, you’ll need to calculate the number of kilowatt hours (kWh) you’ll need to charge your vehicle. This will then give you an idea of the cost of each charge, based on your home electricity tariff.
Over time, charging your car at home, especially overnight, could also help you see cost reductions. Energy regulator Ofgem is considering plans to encourage drivers to charge their EVs during ‘off-peak’ hours, when the national grid is under less pressure.
However, it’s possible to find an array of free charging points across the country, some of which are installed by local councils. It has been reported that more than one in five of the 21,267 public charging points in the UK are currently free to use.
Websites like ZapMap can be an invaluable way to find your nearest charging point.
If you have recently purchased a new Electrical Vehicle, or are in the process of buying one, it is important that you compare car insurance deals to find the best quote to suit your needs.