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Electric car guide

Everything you need to know if you’re looking to go down the electric route for your next vehicle. 

Electric cars have become more popular over the last few years, with people turning to them for their environmental benefits and cheaper running costs. There is a greater choice now too, with most major manufacturers adding electric versions to their top-selling models, as well as different types of electric vehicles available. This guide tells you what your options are, and contains lots of information you might find useful.

Electric vehicle or hybrid?

An electric vehicle - also known as an EV - is one that runs on an electric battery rather than a petrol or diesel engine, which means there are no polluting emissions released. Instead of filling up with fuel at a petrol station, you have to charge the vehicle’s battery, either at home with a specially installed charging point (you’ll need to factor this in as an extra expense, but you might be eligible for a grant towards part of the cost) or at one of the thousands available at public places. Many offices and other workplaces now have free charging points for staff to use.

A hybrid car uses a battery and/or an engine to power it, so they still have to be filled up with petrol or diesel. Plug-in hybrids need to be charged in the same way as electric vehicles, while self-charging hybrids use their engine to charge their batteries. The length of the journey and speed you drive at will determine whether the battery or the engine will be used. Sometimes the battery will provide a small boost to the engine, if it feels it’s needed.

Electric cars

Features and benefits

  • Zero exhaust emissions
  • Rechargeable battery
  • No road tax
  • Congestion charge free
  • Reduced maintenance costs

Hybrids

Features and benefits

  • Lower carbon emissions
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Road tax discount
  • Congestion charge free
  • Combustion engine

Things to consider

Electric cars and hybrids can be more expensive to buy than normal cars

  • Government grants are often available on electric vehicles, and manufacturers and dealers sometimes offer an incentive for trading in a petrol or diesel car for an electric version too. 

Savings can be made with running costs, though

  • Although you might have to pay more upfront for an electric car, you’ll probably save in the long run as it’s generally cheaper to use electricity than normal fuel. Electric cars have fewer mechanical parts, so maintenance costs can be less too.

Think about what you will use your electric car for

  • Electric vehicles have, in most cases, a shorter range than petrol or diesel, but this is increasing as the technology develops. You’ll get fewer miles with a plug-in hybrid’s battery, but have the engine to use too. Do your research and consider which type of electric car would suit your needs the best.  

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