What Is An Electric Car? And Is It Time To Buy One?

Electric cars could soon challenge the dominance of petrol and diesel vehicles on our roads.

They’re fast, they’re clean and they’re quiet. They also use some of the most advanced car technology and engine technology around. What’s not to love?

Here’s a quick guide to electric cars and everything you’ve ever wondered about this growing form of car power.

What types of electric cars are there?

Electric cars are a lot more varied, and come in a lot more different types, than you might have first thought. They’re not just big batteries on wheels.

The exact type of electric car that’s best for you will depend on your own circumstances and the respective pros and cons of each type. I’ve drawn up a list below of the main different types of electric cars that are available at the moment.

Full-electric

They haven’t been seen that much on British roads in the last decades, but full-electric vehicles are becoming increasingly common as drivers look for cheaper forms of transport. 100% electric cars can work out a hell of a lot cheaper to run than your standard petrol or diesel vehicle. Costing between £2.50 and £10 to charge them fully, electric cars can help to drive down (excuse the pun) the cost of your motoring significantly. They also produce no emissions whatsoever which means that you’ll get tax benefits and exemptions from congestion charges.

Thanks to the development of battery technology and the motor itself, most modern electric cars offer ranges of up to around 200 miles of driving before they need to be charged. This figure is rising as the technology gets more advanced. If you’re just using the car for commuting, a full-electric car could be perfect for you.

Hybrids

The main drawback of full-electric cars is the fact that they can only go a comparatively short distance before needing to be charged. Hybrids are an attempt at solving that problem, and solving some of the emissions issues that come with fossil-fuel powered cars.

A hybrid is essentially a combination of an electric motor with a petrol or diesel internal combustion engine.

There are a fair few sub-classes of hybrids out there too. Parallel hybrids let you choose from electric motor power, petrol or diesel power and a combination of the two. Series hybrids are generally powered by the electric motor and battery, with the internal combustion engine kicking in on longer journeys. A mild hybrid is mainly powered by petrol or diesel, with the electric motor providing additional torque.

Plug in Hybrids (PHEV)

There’s also another class of hybrids that deserve their own group really – the Plug in Hybrids or (PHEV) as they’re known in the industry. The easiest way to think of them is as an electric vehicle that can use petrol/ diesel power (as opposed to an ordinary hybrid which is more of a petrol/diesel car that can use electric power).

These hybrids are special in the fact that they can be charged manually which eliminates the faff of having to make sure you’ve driven  – the majority of other hybrids rely on using a dynamo to recharge their power automatically, whilst driving.

Extended Range (E-Rev)

An E-Rev is very similar to a plug in hybrid. It’s an electric vehicle that can use an additional source of power to extend his range (hence the name).

The difference between an E-Rev and a PHEV is that in an E-Rev the additional power can come from a source that isn’t necessarily a petrol or diesel-powered internal combustion engine. A lot of E-Rev vehicles instead use hydrogen fuel cells, or biofuel, for instance.

How much do they cost to run?

Practically nothing compared to what you’re probably used to.

Charging an electric car from empty to full will cost a couple of pounds at most – usually under £10.

Filling up petrol or diesel cars with fuel can often feel like throwing your money down into an invisible sinkhole because of how expensive fossil fuels are getting these days.

They do cost a lot to buy from new though, and they quickly depreciate in value – probably more so because of how fast electric power technology is developing.

The good news is that you can minimise the negative effects of this by just leasing the car instead of buying it. Sorted.

Pros of electric cars

  • They don’t produce any emissions and can potentially be powered by renewable sources, helping save the environment
  • They’re very cheap to run (a few pounds for a full charge)
  • Most mainstream manufacturers offer electric cars or hybrid options as part of their ranges now
  • They’re relatively cheap to lease
  • Their environmentally friendliness can give you a tax bonus and exempt you from congestion charges.

Cons of electric cars

The main negatives of electric cars are:

  • Some electric cars have a very limited distance (called range) they can go before needing to be charged
  • Maintenance and repairs can be costly and finding the right mechanic can be challenging
  • They’re expensive to buy outright
  • Charging posts can be challenging to find
  • Charging itself can take a couple of hours