Ten years after Nissan began selling the Leaf in UK showrooms, the UK market for electric vehicles finally took off in 2020. Now, almost 15% of all the cars sold so far in 2022 are pure electric, but with so many options to choose from, it can be difficult to pick the best car for your needs. To help you make that choice, we've covered the six most important questions you need to answer before making your purchase or starting a new lease.
So what are the major factors you need to consider?
- Distance: How far do you drive?
The first thing to consider is how far you intend to travel on a regular basis. If you’re doing short work commutes and urban trips such as shopping, leisure activities and school runs, a smaller EV with less range could well be perfectly adequate, particularly if you intend to use it as a second car. Driving distance for EVs is normally quoted as a WLTP figure. This is an industry standard and provides guidance, but the figures can be hard to replicate in real world use. EVs that have a WLTP under 150 miles won't take you very far at all on motorways etc, but if you drive less than 20 miles a day – then a single charge will carry you for a week. If the WLTP is between 150 and 250 miles, then it will be a shoot-out between your battery and your bladder for long distance trips. This kind of range will suite most people. If the WLTP is over 250 miles, then you can tackle any journey with confidence. Remember, though, batteries are expensive – so range will come at a price.
- Passengers: How many do you need to carry?
Next, let’s look at how many people will need to be transported on a regular basis. If it’s just you, then you have some great compact choices and some really sporty options. If there are two of you, then you’ll need a little more space and maybe must consider if you’ll be adding to the household any time soon. Finally, if there are four or more (plus the possibility of a dog or two), then that will bring other factors to the top of your list (like boot space and rear passenger comfort options).
- Luggage: What do you need to transport?
What do you need to be carting around on a regular basis. Maybe think about your big weekly shop – or the times you need to be carrying everyone + bags to the airport long-term car park. A good-sized piece of hand luggage will normally carry 40 litres – but you’ll also need a little extra space to pack things in – so maybe allow for 50 litres per standard item. Take this number into account when checking out the boot space of your chosen vehicle.
- Average Speed: How fast will you be driving (most of the time)?
Now let’s look at the kind of road you will be travelling on. Fossil fuel cars do best in the slow lane on a motorway, while struggling in the city. Electric cars are the other way around, offering the best range in town, while eating up battery on motorways. Lots of driving in town, during mild/dry weather, will give you the best possible range. Many EVs also come with ‘Drive Modes' – normally with ‘Eco', ‘Comfort' and ‘Sport' options. Driving an EV is fun, so you may spend more time in ‘Sport' mode than you might have planned – which will make you happy at the cost of range. Smart EV drivers will spend a lot of time in ‘B' mode, which gives you maximum regeneration when slowing down – often relying more on the recharging capabilities of the EV than the actual brakes themselves.
- Charging: Where will you recharge your EV?
In any event, you will need to think carefully about charging. Right now, there are close to 30,000 public charging points in the UK – but they won’t all be working/available when you need them. If you can fit a charger to your home (either on an outside wall or inside a garage), then you can be sure that you’ll have close to a 100% full battery at the start of every trip. If you need to rely on a street charger being available – or if you need to use fast (DC) public chargers – then that can affect which car you choose. Slow chargers (AC – like the ones you have at home and outside small supermarkets) will take up to 12 hours to give you a full charge. Standard public “rapid” chargers (50kW DC) can take you from less than 10% battery up to 80% in less than an hour. The very latest EVs can attach to ultra-rapid chargers (100kW and more) – allowing you to pick up an 80% charge in less than 20 minutes. Clever home charging, using a special overnight plan (around 7p per kWh), might allow you to fill your battery over two evenings for less than £5. The high end public chargers often cost around 50p per kWh and can go as high as 80p. Filling a 50kWh battery using these three methods would cost £3.50, £25 and £40 respectively.
- Price: What kind of budget are you looking at?
Finally, let’s take a moment to consider price. While you can buy a new fossil fuel car for less than £15,000, you are not likely to have many EV options below £25,000. This will change over the next 5 years (as battery tech improves and production volume increases), but – for now – most of your options are likely to be seated between £25,000 and £45,000. The luxury/performance models from Jaguar, Tesla, Mercedes etc will mostly sit above £45,000. While the initial price of an EV might be higher than a petrol or diesel car, you won’t be paying up to £100 to fill the tank with fuel and you’ll avoid most congestion charges. If you're going for a business lease, then you also need to consider that the BiK on an EV is only 2% – which can be a huge saving for you and your business. Lastly, it might be an idea to contact your company about ‘Salary Sacrifice Schemes’ (from companies like Octopus) that allow you to offset the cost of an EV against your gross salary – which reduces your tax.
To help you choose a car, head to the WhichEV Reviews Section.