Types of electric cars


Fully electric cars (EV)
These are cars that run entirely on electricity.  Instead of an engine, they have an electric motor that gets its power from on-board batteries, which you charge by plugging the car into a power source.  Extra efficiency is provided by regenerative braking technology, which captures the energy that’s usually lost under braking.

Examples are the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla.

Conventional hybrids
A hybrid has a regular petrol or diesel engine, plus an electric motor and batteries. The electric power is generated by the engine and through regenerative braking technology. As a result, you never need to charge these cars, but they can’t go far on electric-only power. These have better fuel consumption than most petrol cars but are not normally considered as ‘electric vehicles’.

Examples include the Toyota Prius, Toyota Yaris, and Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid.


Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

These have both petrol engines and electric motors and switch between the two depending on driving conditions. They plug in at home and can generally run for 20-40 miles on electric power before the battery is drained.  At that point the petrol engine kicks in, and the car behaves like a conventional hybrid.

Examples include the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

Extended Range Electric Vehicles (E-REV)

These are hybrids that run mainly on electricity, but have an auxiliary generator on board that recharges the battery using a small petrol engine.  This kicks in when the battery is running low, so extends the range of the vehicle between charges.

The BMW i3 used to have a range extender as an option, so you may see these for sale second hand.




Many car websites now have information about electric cars but the best dedicated sites are Next Greencar and the Green Car Guide.  Many more cars are coming onto the market over the next year.


Driving Experience

For a start you get near-silent cruising with next-to-no sound from the electric motors. In traffic, the car slows itself when you lift off the throttle, so it’s possible to drive around town using just one pedal, hardly ever touching the brake. Electric cars are quiet and smooth and make most regular cars seem clunky and outdated.  It all makes for a very relaxed experience, yet the instant torque provided by the electric motor means that even everyday EVs have the potential to leave a hot hatch standing when pulling away from the traffic lights.

Basically you get what you pay for in terms of performance.  Entry level electric cars like the VW e-Up! do 0-62 mph in 12.4 seconds, similar to the basic petrol version, and has a maximum speed of 80 mph. The sportier Mercedes B Class EV does 0-62 mph in 7.9 seconds, with a maximum speed of 99 MPH. At the other end of the spectrum, the fastest Tesla Model S does 0-60 mph in a breathtaking 2.5 seconds and has a top speed of 155 mph.


Cost of Electric Cars

Electric cars are more expensive to buy than petrol or diesel equivalents, but they save money on fuel, tax and servicing, and there are government incentives around to take the sting out of the initial purchase price. There are a variety of financing and leasing options available through dealers to spread the cost.  Figuring out their costs overall is quite a complicated calculation but it has been shown that over four years they are now cheaper if you live in London and can save on the congestion charge.  The Next Greencar website has a handy car comparison tool that is a good place to start.

The International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT) examined the purchase, fuel and tax costs of Europe’s best selling car, the VW golf, in its battery electric, hybrid, petrol and diesel versions.  Over four years, the pure electric version was the cheapest in all places – UK (London), Germany, France, Netherlands and Norway – owing to a combination of lower taxes, fuel costs and subsidies on the purchase price.


Government Grants
Vehicles with CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and can travel at least 112km (70 miles) without any emissions at all.

The grant will pay for 35% of the purchase price for these vehicles, up to a maximum of £3,500.

Vehicles with no CO2 emissions and can travel at least 50km (31 miles).
The grant will pay for 20% of the purchase price for these vehicles, up to a maximum of £1,500. 
Vehicles with no CO2 emissions and can travel at least 50km (31 miles).
The grant will pay for 20% of the purchase price for these vehicles, up to a maximum of £1,500.
Vehicles with CO2 emissions of less than 75g/km and can travel at least 16km (10 miles) without any emissions at all:

The grant will pay for 20% of the purchase price for these vehicles, up to a maximum of £8,000. 

There are also grants for taxis and lorries and trucks. See:https://www.gov.uk/plug-in-car-van-grants


Car Tax or Vehicle Excise Duty (VED)


  • The basic rule is that all electric cars pay zero VED from new and in subsequenst years.
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) pay reduced VED.
  • The more expensive electric cars fall into the luxury car bracket where all cars with a retail price of over £40,000 have to pay an additional £320 for five years from the second year.
  • For all other cars there is a sliding scale depending on its CO2 emissions.
  • The bottom line is that most electric cars will save £145 a year compared to a plug in hybrid or conventional car.


The details are shown below (from Next Green Car website)

12-month Vehicle Excise Duty rates for new cars registered from 01 April 2017
CO2 emissions
First year rate
Inc. RDE2 diesel
First year rate
Non-RDE2 diesel*
Standard rate**
Premium rate***
0 g/km £0 £0 £0 £320
1-50 g/km £10 £25 £145 £465
51-75 g/km £25 £110 £145 £465
76-90 g/km £110 £130 £145 £465
91-100 g/km £130 £150 £145 £465
101-110 g/km £150 £170 £145 £465
111-130 g/km £170 £210 £145 £465
131-150 g/km £210 £530 £145 £465
151-170 g/km £530 £855 £145 £465
171-190 g/km £855 £1280 £145 £465
191-225 g/km £1280 £1815 £145 £465
226-255 g/km £1815 £2135 £145 £465
Over 255 g/km £2135 £2135 £145 £465

* Rate applies to diesel vehicles registered from 01 April 2019 that do not meet the RDE2 standard.
** Standard rate applies from year two onwards to cars with a list price up to but not including £40,000.
*** Premium rate applies for five years to cars with a list price of £40,000 or more.


Fuel costs

This is the big saving compared to a regular car.  Fuel costs can be as low as 2-4p per mile with fully electric cars, depending on tariff and whether you generate your own electricity. For an annual mileage of around 10,000 miles, switching from a conventional to an electric car could save you around £700-£800 in fuel costs alone. The more miles you drive, the more you save. The Next Green Car website has a handy calculator that allows you to pin the savings down more accurately.



Electric cars are generally cheaper to service than petrol or diesel equivalents because they  have far fewer moving parts and use regenerative braking to help slow down, rather than wearing out brake pads. Much depends on the car but there should be savings of several hundred pounds a year.


Congestion Charge

If you travel into London, EV’s will save you money on the Congestion Charge as fully electric cars are exempt.  Cars with emissions below 75g CO2/km and with a capability of travelling 20km with zero emissions may also have exemption.  You have to apply, supply your car’s documents and pay an annual £10 registration fee.



Company Car Tax Benefits

There are also significant tax advantages if you choose an EV as a company car because of the rules on ‘Benefits in Kind’ tax for low emission cars.  Next Green Car website has a section about this and includes a Company Car Tax Calculator.  The tax will  this will rise to 1% and then 2% over the next few years, but is still much lower than combustion cars where the rates are due to go up to 37%!


Second Hand Cars

How much will my electric car going to be worth after three of five years?  This is a hard one to answer because the whole sector is so new.  A lot will depend on how many miles you’ve done, and how well your battery has lasted – since replacing a battery is expensive.

With the more established brands such as the Nissan Leaf there’s plenty to chose from.  You can see hundreds for sale on sites like Autotrader, with prices of £9000-£10,000 typical for a three year old Nissan Leaf with low mileage (under 20k miles) and £6000-£7000 for a five year old car.   Three year old Renault Zoe’s are going for £5000-£6000 – less than the Nissan Leaf because owners will need to take over the lease on the battery, but with the advantage that the battery will then come with a guarantee.


Buying second hand

Mechanical wear and tear on electric cars is less than with internal combustion engines, so it’s worth considering buying second hand. Battery life ebbs gradually over time rather than dropping off a cliff. So provided you’re not doing regular long journeys picking up a second hand EV with 75% of it’s battery capacity left could be a bargain – and the way in to EVs for people who are concerned about the steep initial depreciation on new cars.


Converting your existing car

If you love your existing car or are concerned that we should try to reduce the need for resources, converting your existing car may seem the obvious solution.  It is a perfectly possible but it is currently extremely expensive (starting at about £20,000) and is mainly being done by classic car enthusiasts.  But technology is changing fast so it may become a more affordable option in the future.


Charging Electric Cars


Charging on the Move

Without a doubt the biggest fear of a prospective electric car owner is what is called “range anxiety”, ie that they can’t go far because they might not be able to find a charging station and become stranded.  And without a doubt, 99% of electric car owners say this is not a problem!

Electric cars indicate when the battery is becoming low just like a petrol car.  Some petrol stations now have electric charging points, supermarkets are increasingly installing them and most motorways have them.  Some are free and some you have to pay for.  There are now more public electric charging points in the UK than petrol stations and the number is growing fast.

There are apps like Zap Map that show you where your nearest charging point is, how many charging bays there are, and how fast it is.  This last point is crucial, since there’s a big difference between:

  • Slow charging points (3kW) – that take overnight to charge your car.
  • Fast charging points (7-22kW) – that can fully recharge most models in 3-4 hours
  • Rapid charging points (43-150kW) – that can give an 80% charge in around 30 minutes. Tesla also have their own supercharger network for their cars.

A Zap Map of charging points in Sussex: There are two charging points in Lewes – the station and Phoenix Car Park.


There’s quite a lot to learn when it comes to public charging – with much depending on your driving patterns. For many, it’ll be the occasional top up.  But if you do regular long journeys you’ll become a master at planning your trip around convenient charging points – and you’ll find yourself seeking out rapid charging stations where you can get the job done quickest.

How congested charging stations become will depend on how fast the take-up of electric cars occurs, and whether the charging networks keep up.  The lessons from experienced drivers are to plan ahead so you know where the alternative charge points are, get to know your phone app so you can see which points are working and don’t run the battery down too far before you top up.

Could you go on holiday with an electric car?  The answer is, yes, if you plan ahead and are not in too much of a hurry.  You can’t just bomb up the motorway for 600 miles with just one 10 minute fuel and bathroom stop.  Instead you’ll find yourself taking a more scenic route – stopping for a leisurely coffee, finding a nice town to have lunch in, and maybe take a stroll, and breaking the journey down into stages where you top up at each stop.  It’s slower, but you’ll be saving loads of money on fuel and discovering some interesting places along the way!


Charging at Home

Charging in Lewes with a normal 3 pin socket

When it comes to charging at home, you have a couple of choices. You can either plug it in to a standard UK three-pin socket, or you can get a special home fast-charging point installed.

Go for the former and it’s easy and convenient, but it’s also the slowest option. Charging using this method can take many hours, depending on the size of the battery. Meanwhile, if you go for a home fast-charging point, then you have to arrange to have it installed, but you get much faster charging times as a result.

Typical speeds using the dedicated fast-charging point are between 10 and 30 miles of range per hour plugged in.  Most home chargers have a cable attached, which you typically just plug in to your vehicle to start charging.

Home chargers are also available with a universal ‘Type 2’ socket that accepts a separate cable and plugs into your car in the same way.  Even if you choose a home charger with an attached cable, you’ll still need a separate cable to plug in to public charging stations.

Given that around 80% of all car charging happens at home, it’s probably worth having the fast-charging point installed.  The typical cost for a home charge point and installation is approximately £1000.

It’s also worth noting that the Government will cover up to 75% (or a maximum of £500) of the cost of having the fast-charging point installed and the Energy Saving Trust as at time of writing are offering a further £300 to assist with the cost.  Some car manufacturers will supply you with a home fast-charging point with your electric car for free.


If you want to learn more about a specific electric car, or electric cars in general then do join one of the owners clubs, like Sussex EVs.


1 Comment

  1. neil williams

    For Lewes the priority has to be lots more charging points. With 80% of houses not having off road parking we’ll have to rely on public points. I’d get an electric car tomorrow if there were local charging points I could rely on.
    Lewes has just two pairs, both in paying car parks.



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