Top 20 Electric Car Frequently Asked Questions
Thinking about purchasing an electric car but have some concerns or just have a niggling question you need answering to satisfy your curiosity? From the cost of owning an E-Vehicle (EV) to their performance, from safety features to environmental impact and everything in between, here are the 20 most common questions and answers.
1) An obvious first question, are electric cars safe?
In short yes… Very! All EV’s are built to meet strict, universally approved and governed design and manufacturing standards just like conventional petrol and diesel motors. They have to go through the same rigorous processes and checks to ensure each EV performs optimally and is safe to drive. What is more, they have thousands of sensors, warnings, prompts and visual indicators to provide constant and consistent information about the health and safety of the car.
Every car manufacturer also has to subject all their EV’s to a Euro NCAP assessment. In these assessments, virtually all electric cars perform as well as similarly-sized and equipped internal combustion car specifications.
With solid chassis and build structures, extensive crumple zones and multiple airbags that ensure passenger safety, EV’s offer the very latest and safest build quality and safety features.
Electric cars also have large and heavy battery packs, which need to absorb the increased energy they create in a collision, therefore EV’s are designed to withstand even more force than traditional petrol and diesel cars.
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2) Can an electric car give you an electric shock?
Most EV’s operate at voltages of between 12 and 48 volts. This can be dangerous in certain situations but is highly unlikely to cause a fatal shock. But even that is not at all likely with modern electric cars. Of course, any piece of electrical equipment can be hazardous, but you are much more likely to get a static electric shock by touching any car, especially in dry weather.
You are not going to get an electric shock from an electric car any more than you would a petrol or diesel car. How? Simply because the electrical energy used to power an EV is stored in the battery, and the high voltage cables connecting it to all relevant parts of the car are thickly insulated and well-protected in the event of an accident. As such, as long as safety regulations are adhered to, there should be no danger of an electric shock from an EV.
3) How safe are electric car batteries?
Following on from the above question, one other common concern with regards to safety of an EV is the battery. In that electric car batteries run on lithium-ion, which is highly flammable in the wrong conditions.
Again, this should not be a concern for any would-be EV owner. If any of the power cells within the battery are damaged and a short-circuit occurs, there is potential for combustion (known as thermal runaway). But don’t panic. it is extremely unlikely for this to occur, and the latest generation of EVs are designed, engineered and built to avoid this situation.
4) How long do electric car batteries last?
This totally depends on the manufacturer, although most EV batteries have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years within the car – and can have a second life beyond.
That said, EV batteries typically last up to eight years or 100,000 miles due to performance of the battery degrading over time, reducing the amount of energy the battery can store and harness. In order to prolong an EV battery it is best to have it regularly maintained and charged correctly.
It’s also worth noting that EV battery technology is always evolving, so as the technology develops we can expect all electric car batteries to increase in lifespan, not to mention become cheaper, smaller and lighter.
5) Are electric car charging points free to use?
Across the UK there are thousands of free EV charging stations. These tend to be located in, or close to, shopping centres, supermarkets, public car parks, hotels and service stations. But please keep in mind that there are often restrictions on charging at these ‘free’ points, such as a set time allowed or requiring an in-store purchase. So, always check beforehand.
The easiest way to find your nearest free electric vehicle charging point is to download an EV charge point map, as available at Car Wow or Zap-Map, to see what EV charging points are nearby or on your planned route.
6) Can I get an electric car if I don’t have a driveway?
If you don’t have a drive you will need parking access in an area in front of your property that is as short a distance as possible away from where a charging point can be installed, so that the charging cable can reach from the unit to your EV.
If you’re considering charging your electric car at home but don’t have a drive, you can also contact your local authority to find out if there are any plans to install on-street charging points in the near future. The ‘On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme’ is a Government grant for installing public access charging points and is being rolled out across local authorities. It is a scheme whereby charging points are installed either into lamp posts, fixed pillars on kerbs or folding charging points that retract into the pavement.
Find out more about the On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme by clicking here.
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7) Are electric cars really better for the environment?
EV’s are so much kinder to the environment than any petrol and diesel cars, simply because they do not run on fossil fuels and don’t release any CO2 – the latter of which is the biggest contributor to climate change in the world today.
They are hugely better for the environment because they reduce air pollution and carbon footprint. The benefits of EVs on the environment are even more pronounced in cities and towns where there is a heavier throughput of traffic. By not having an exhaust system, thus not producing carbon dioxide they do not release toxic smoke or gases into the environment, improving air quality considerably.
8) Will electric cars always be so expensive?
In short, No! Because they will become more common as supply catches up to demand. But choosing to go with an EV currently comes with a higher price point due to the following reasons that will remain the same for some time to come:
- Battery technology costs are high
- Cars using a fully electric motor are still new to the market
- There is limited EV supply which is far outweighed by demand
- EV servicing and maintenance costs more than petrol and diesel motors
- Most electric cars are in a higher insurance group
- Electric cars are exempted from road tax
- The environmental impact is significant and sought after by consumers and governments alike
- It is quick and easy to get financing for an electric car
- The resale value of an electric vehicle is much better than petrol or diesel cars
- There are many initiatives to get more EVs on the road which keeps demand and price high.
In short, the price of EVs is still high because of the limited supply of electric motors, car batteries and other components. However, due to green initiatives across the globe, governments and manufacturers are really pushing to lower the price of electric cars, to make them affordable, so that more of us drive them.
Making charging points much more readily available, giving tax credits, enticing finance options and grants are all part of the plan to make EVs much more affordable to consumers.
9) What happens if I run out of charge?
To be perfectly honest, it would take some effort to run out of charge in any modern EV. Assuming your car is working properly and the visual warnings are appearing, you should never run out of charge without you getting ample notice.
Today’s EVs have many warning prompts, visual indicators and mileage countdowns when the battery is getting low, distance it has left, etc. Most electric vehicle navigation systems also inform the driver of the closest charging stations nearby where they can go to charge up.
So if you are running low, the UK now has a network of over 42,000 chargers across more than 15,500 locations, and with thousands more being added each year, it is easier than ever to find public charging points. Compare this to the fact there are only around 8,300 petrol stations in the UK and it is obvious, you should be fine wherever you are.
But if by chance you were to run out of charge and cannot connect your charging cable, any major breakdown provider is fully equipped to give roadside assistance in the form of a ten minute fast charge, which would be more than enough to get you to a charging point.
In brief, due to the plethora of warnings you will receive, and the abundance of charging points across the UK, running out of electric charge is now less likely to happen or cause you a problem than if you were to run out of petrol or diesel.
10) Are all electric car chargers the same type and speed?
As with phone charging cables, EV charging cables tend to have two connectors, one that plugs into the vehicle socket and the other end which connects to the charging unit. The type of connector you need varies by vehicle and the power rating but there are two main types of plug – Type 1 and Type 2.
Type 1 plugs are five-pin connectors used widely in North America, but in the UK and Europe these have largely been superseded by Type 2 plugs instead.
Most EVs and EV chargers in the UK are compatible and use Type 2 plugs and for non-rapid charging you will need your own charging unit and cable. For non-rapid charging, EVs available in the UK will either have the above Type 1 inlet socket or Type 2 inlet socket. This connects direct to a charging point installed and connected to the mains.
Today, your EV will almost certainly be supplied with a cable that has the plug it requires, and at the other end on the charging unit it will either be tethered or connectable as a removable cable.
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The above are the most common 10 questions asked about buying an electric car. But there are several others that people often ask too. In short these are those questions answered:
11) Are electric cars automatic?
Nearly all electric vehicles are automatic since an EV does not need gears. So there is also no clutch and no way of stalling, unlike a standard petrol or diesel car.
12) Can I charge my mobile phone?
Yes, by plugging it into one of the many USB ports the car will be kitted out with. And don’t be concerned about it draining the battery, most EV’s have an eco-mode to increase the efficiency of your EV by partitioning only certain amounts of charge to ‘non performance’ battery usage, meaning your phone will take longer to charge.
13) Will air con ruin my battery life?
Turning on your air con to full can reduce the range of your EV by more than 15%, meaning if you were planning a 100-mile trip, you could only travel 85 miles at most. However, most EV’s have a preconditioning feature which allows you to pre-cool your vehicle’s cabin before a journey.
14) Can you drive an electric car through standing water?
A strange question but of course you can, within reason! While the Environmental Agency warns that as little as 300mm of flowing water is enough to compromise a car, many electric cars perform better than conventional vehicles when wading through water because they do not need air intake. This means the propulsion system is not affected when immersed in water like an engine.
That said, it’s never a good idea to risk driving through water on the road. Always do so with caution.
15) Are you allowed to take an electric car through a car wash?
Again, of course you can! Electric vehicles are perfectly safe to take through a car wash, just like a regular petrol or diesel car. All EV’s go through rigorous ‘soak tests’ and are subjected to near-flood water levels to check for possible leaks.
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16) How long does it take to charge an electric car?
Most EVs fully charge overnight, which is ideal if you are charging at home. A public rapid charging point can return a fully drained battery to 75% of its range in less than 30 minutes. Of course that’s not as quick as filling up with petrol or diesel but is an acceptable time to most EV owners, especially as it gives the opportunity for the driver to take a break.
17. What is the range of an electric car?
The range any EV can do on a single charge depends on the make and model of the vehicle, how aggressively it is driven, and the battery powering it. But on average about 280 miles.
That means most modern EVs have a range that easily covers most people’s daily routes with more than enough to comfortably get home for recharging.
18. Are electric cars more likely to break down?
Not at all! An electric vehicle is less likely to break down than a petrol or diesel car because it has fewer moving parts, less mechanical components that can go wrong or that degrade over time.
19. Are electric cars expensive to run?
As EV’s run on electricity, keeping an eye on your electricity bill and rate is very important. Get a tariff that is as low as possible for when you will be charging your vehicle at home, i.e. overnight.
Even then, your electricity bill for charging an EV will be far less than it would cost to fill up a car with petrol or diesel. An electric car costs around 10p per mile, petrol cars around 30p per mile.
20. In the long run does it make financial sense to purchase an electric car instead of a petrol car?
As thing stand that is tough to say. As electricity and petrol prices rise significantly and EV prices are still high. But in the next couple of years, as supply matches demand, as prices come down and as the impact on the environment becomes even more pronounced, owning an EV will absolutely become the most financially prudent thing to do.
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