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All you need to know about electric cars

The fastest growing car segment today, an electric car is your route to low-cost motoring and at the same time protecting the environment.

With electricity being much cheaper and cleaner than petrol or diesel, leasing an electric car or van can save you up to 90% on fuel costs in an average year. Exactly how much you save depends on the type of electric vehicle you select, how far you travel as well as where and when you charge it.

Below we explain in four simple steps which type of electric car will suit you and the best way to achieve these savings. We also summarise essential advice on electric car range, charging points and electricity tariffs, providing you with everything you need to know about electric vehicles to make the most informed choice.

Step 1 of 4

Decide which type of electric car meets your needs

There is more than one kind of electric car and trying to work out the difference between them can be a little challenging. Electric and hybrid cars fall roughly into the categories of Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV), Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) and Hybrid (HEV).

You may initially think having to plug a car in is a disadvantage. In fact, it’s the key to unlocking very low running costs. The rule of thumb with electric vehicles (EVs) is: the bigger the battery you can plug in to charge, the more money you save.

Not only does the type of electric vehicle you choose dictate how much money you save, it also determines how polluting the car is. The good news is the cheapest EVs to run are also the best for the environment.

In a pure electric car (BEV), there are no harmful emissions at all, as no petrol or diesel is burned, and therefore no CO2, dirty particulates or NOx gases are emitted. And if you’re driving for business, then executive and fleet cars are so much cheaper to run due to the government’s healthy tax incentives for electric and lower emission cars.

Furthermore, if you sign up to a renewable energy electricity tariff to charge your car, you can enjoy 100% environmentally friendly driving. Unlike a purely electric car, hybrid cars do still cause pollution due to their reliance on a petrol or diesel engine working alongside the electric motor. However, emissions can be eliminated in a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) when driven in battery-only mode up to about 30 miles.

100% Electric (BEV)

The biggest savings come from purely electric cars, known sometimes as BEVs. You can plug their large batteries in and charge at very low electricity rates. In this way, you avoid expensive petrol/diesel costs completely.

Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV)

The next biggest savings come from plug-in hybrids, PHEVs. You can plug them in to charge, but, as the battery is smaller than in a BEV, the ability to fill them with cheap electricity is more limited. You will have to rely on the petrol/diesel engine for longer trips which will push the cost of motoring up.

Hybrid (HEV)

Conventional hybrids, also referred to as HEVs or self-charging hybrids, can’t be plugged in. Its very small battery is charged by the petrol/diesel combustion engine. This means you can’t lower your running costs by charging with cheap electricity at all.

Step 2 of 4

Work out how far you have to travel

The first generation of pure electric cars didn’t have much range, often below 80 miles. Being worried about range in an electric vehicle is called ‘range anxiety’ and it used to be a genuine concern. Not any more.

Most electric cars available in 2020 have a battery range of 150 to 300 miles and can be recharged quickly at motorway service stations. So, if you’re thinking about leasing an electric car, consider two types of driving scenario: daily driving and longer trips.

Daily driving

How far do you drive each day? Let’s imagine you either commute to work each day up to about 60 miles, or you use the car for shopping, going to the gym, picking up the kids, etc. In both cases any new electric car in the UK market has sufficient range on a single charge.

Longer trips

Let’s say you live in Birmingham and want to take a weekend trip to Brighton; a 180-mile trip each way. To work out how viable this is, let’s take a look at the journey in the three main types of EV.

Birmingham to Brighton in a 100% electric car

Some cars such as the Kia e-Niro – with an official WLTP range of 282 miles – would reach Brighton easily without having to stop to recharge. Other cars though, such as an MG ZS EV (163 miles range), won’t reach Brighton in one go.

The solution is stop en route at a motorway service station – perhaps after 120 miles – and charge at a rapid charger (see below). After 20 minutes or so of charging, your car will be sufficiently charged and you can complete your journey.

Birmingham to Brighton in a plug-in hybrid

It’s a different story if you’re in a plug-in hybrid such as a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. The Outlander has a range of about 30 miles running on the battery alone before the internal combustion engine kicks in and you simply carry on driving to your destination.

It wouldn’t make sense to stop and recharge the Outlander’s battery on our imaginary 180-mile trip from Birmingham to Brighton, as you would have to stop multiple times at 30 miles, 60 miles, 90 miles, 120 miles, etc.

Birmingham to Brighton in a conventional hybrid

The situation changes again in a hybrid HEV such as a Toyota Yaris. HEVs only run on the battery at low speeds, and once you reach around 20 mph the petrol/diesel engine powers the car and charges the battery. For motorway driving, therefore, you will be running on petrol/diesel practically the whole time.

In the context of our Brighton motorway trip, in a HEV, you would simply drive all the way without stopping.

Step 3 of 4

Consider how and where you charge your electric car

The batteries in plug-in electric vehicles – both BEVs and PHEVs – are charged like any other electrical device. You plug them into a suitable electrical socket. To charge safely and at the fastest rate, the best type of electrical socket for an EV is a dedicated charging point.

Home charging

If you have off-street parking, it makes sense to have an EV charging point installed in your garage or on your driveway. This means every morning you can wake up to a fully charged car. Having a 'full tank' as you set off each day is a really practical benefit of a 100% electric car.

If you do go ahead and lease an electric vehicle, make sure you secure the £350 government installation grant for home chargepoints (available for fully electric cars only). The power rating for a home charger would be 7.4 kilowatts (kW) – the maximum rating for home electric car charging.

Work-place charging

Many businesses have already installed electric vehicle charging points for their staff. Over time as we move away from the internal combustion engine, the work-place carpark will be full of EV chargers.

How fast will you be able to charge at work? That will depend on the company policy, but most likely you will have a mixture of slow charging and fast charging. The slow charging rate will probably be around 3.6 kW, however this is all you need if you work in an office and your car sits in the car park all day. Even a slow charger will be able to charge your car gradually and still have a full battery before you drive home.

Fast charging, usually between 7.4 kW and 22 kW, is more suitable for staff members who need to use their car during the day, e.g. salespeople. For example you may go out on a sales trip in the morning, come back, plug in, and then go out again for another meeting in the afternoon.

Public charging

You normally only use public charging points in two situations. First, for longer trips in a fully electric car – like our Birmingham to Brighton example above – where the total trip distance is greater than the maximum range of the car. Second, if you find yourself low on battery unexpectedly – perhaps you forgot to charge overnight – and need a quick top-up.

Some types of public charging, for example at a motorway service station, are often referred to as ‘rapid charging’. Instead of charging with ‘AC’ electricity as you would at home or at work, rapid charging points charge your car’s battery with ‘DC’ electricity (direct current). This allows much faster charging rates, such as 50 kW, 100 kW, 150 kW, etc. The latest charging stations offer an ultra-rapid 350 kW.

Every model of electric car has a maximum DC charging rate that it will allow. For example, the Peugeot e-208 has a 100 kW maximum charging speed. This means if you plug the e-208 into a 150 kW charger, it will be limited to 100 kW.

How long does it take to charge your car's battery at a rapid charger?

It depends how fast the charging point is (kW rating) and how many extra miles’ range you need. On average, you would plug in for 20-30 minutes and then be on your way. If you were really low on charge, you might be there for 45-60 minutes. Time for a coffee and sandwich, check your emails, stretch your legs, etc.

Step 4 of 4

Secure the lowest electricity price possible

This step is crucial to achieving very low motoring costs. The best time to charge an EV is at night on a cheap, off-peak rate. The most competitive rates at the moment are around 5p per unit (kWh).

Consider these typical different electricity tariffs:

  • Rapid charging (DC), 50-150 kW, in public: 30p per unit of electricity (kWh)
  • Fast charging (AC), 7.4 kW, at home during the day: 15p per unit of electricity (kWh)
  • Fast charging (AC), 7.4 kW, at home during the night: 5p per unit of electricity (kWh)

An example will illustrate just how much money you can save by clever charging

Imagine you have a fully electric vehicle and drive 10,000 miles per year. For the average EV you will need to put about 2,500 units of electricity into the battery to cover that many miles over the year.

Here are your annual electricity costs for 10,000 miles of motoring using the tariffs above:

  • Public charging at 30p: £750
  • Home charging at 15p (day rate): £375
  • Home charging at 5p (night rate): £125

If you’re still in any doubt about the savings benefits, another metric to look at is fuel cost per mile.

If you were to charge your car at home overnight for the year, your cost per mile would be as little as 1.25p per mile. Whereas for the average petrol car, the fuel cost per mile is 15p; with diesel not much better at 12p per mile.

Even in the worst-case charging scenario, if you did all your charging at public chargers at 30p per kWh, the cost per mile would still only be 7.5p!

Electric vehicles are a breath of fresh air, offering cleaner, greener, and cheaper driving.

When thinking about leasing a new vehicle, it’s logical to focus first on the monthly lease payment. How much is it and can I afford to pay it? It’s easy to forget about the cost of fuel.

In an EV the total cost of motoring over a 3 or 4 year lease – taking into account both the monthly lease and fuel/electricity costs – is often less than a petrol or diesel car with the same specifications.

Want to know more?

If you are interested in investigating electric or hybrid cars in more detail and want to know more about any of them then simply click here to see the wide range of different electric car models we have available to lease.

Alternatively, why not visit our dedicated Electric Special Offers page to see all the latest electric car deals.

Looking for something else? Visit our main Special Offers page where you’ll find the latest and most competitive leasing deals available in the UK today.

Visit Our Electric Special Offers