How to Choose an Electric Car
With more and more electric vehicles coming onto the market, it's often hard to know exactly what to look out for. In this simple and informative 5-step guide, we help you choose the ideal electric car to meet your vehicle needs.
Electric Cars? There Are So Many Options!
In a lot of ways, choosing an electric car is just like picking a conventional car. You’ll be thinking about things like:
- What body type of car you need (hatchback, saloon, SUV, estate, etc.)
- How long you want the car for
- How many seats you need
- What make of car you like
- How big is the boot space
- How cost efficient the car is
- The maximum monthly budget you can afford
However, electric cars – especially 100% electric cars (aka BEVs) – introduce some additional new considerations. Below we outline the 5 main factors to consider when thinking about getting an electric vehicle. Check out our video explainer on car types, too.
#1 Pure Electric or Hybrid Vehicle?
There are three types of electric vehicle on the market these days: all-electric Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), and conventional, non plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs):
- Powered just by a large battery
- Fill with electricity only (no petrol or diesel)
- Best for the environment
- Greatest fuel savings
- Part electric, part traditional ICE engine
- Powered by both a medium size battery and a petrol/diesel engine
- Fill with electricity and petrol or diesel
- Helps the environment (if charged daily)
- Moderate fuel savings (again, if charged daily)
- Traditional engine + a very small battery
- Powered by a petrol/diesel engine + some support from the battery
- Fill with petrol/diesel only
- Few environmental benefits
- Minor fuel savings
What's important to you?
Each car type works in a different way and it's important to choose the EV that suits your life-style and beliefs:
- Do you just want convenience?
- Or low monthly costs?
- What about impact on the environment?
- Or do you want it all?!
BEVs are ideal for environmentally conscious drivers who want to lower their monthly fuel costs substantially. They are the new world of cars and where we are all headed in 10-15 years' time.
PHEVs are aimed at people who want to dip their toe into the EV world, but still require the safety blanket of a petrol/diesel engine to fall back on. Fuel savings can be achieved, but require strict daily charging of the battery. High mileage drivers will see lower fuel savings, as the internal combustion engine will be used more.
HEVs are typically advertised as 'self-charging hybrids', can't be plugged in, and don't benefit from cheap electricity. HEVs are like traditional cars, but can be electric only at low speeds and for short distances.
Read our dedicated car type guides for more details:
#2 What Battery Range Do I Need?
Once you've worked out what type of EV suits you best, battery range is the next item to focus on with an electric vehicle.
HEVs run on petrol/diesel, so you just fill up with fuel as normal and range isn’t an issue.
PHEVs typically have a battery range of 20-40 miles, depending on the model, and you can fall back on the petrol/diesel engine when the battery runs out. So, as with HEVs, range can be managed by filling up with fuel. However, if you want to keep up your environmental credentials and save money, pick a PHEV with as much battery range as possible.
BEVs, on the other hand, are only powered by a battery and you do have to think about range before you choose a car. See the 'Did you know?' section opposite for some pointers.
- Warning! Battery range drops considerably when it’s cold outside. If the manufacturer’s official ‘WLTP’ range is say 290 miles, you might only get 200 in winter.
Want to know more? Read our extensive Range Guide for more detail on everything electric range related.
Did you know?
- The average daily commute is only 20 miles!
- All modern electric cars can go 130 miles+ on one charge.
- Most electric cars nowadays are in the 150-300 mile range.
- High-end EVs, like the Tesla Model S, can go up to a staggering 400 miles in ideal conditions before needing to be recharged!
- If you drive a lot of miles, pick an EV with a longer range.
- Doing short distances – you can choose any EV you like.
#3 How Fast Will The Car Charge?
If you have off-street parking and decide on a BEV or PHEV, you’re best off getting a dedicated charging point installed. Home charging on the ‘AC’ grid is limited to 7.4 kW and nearly all BEVs can charge at that speed now, though there are some exceptions. If you don’t have off-street parking, you’ll need to use either work-place or public chargers.
However, the main area to focus on when choosing a fully electric BEV is ‘rapid’ or ‘DC’ charging.
Every BEV has a maximum rapid DC charging rate. It might be 50 kW, 80 kW, 100 kW, 150 kW, etc.
What does this mean in practice? DC charging allows you to get extra range into your car quickly. For example, 20 minutes plugged into a rapid charger at a motorway service station at 50 kW will give you about 60 miles more range.
Newer rapid chargers are rated at 150 kW. But if your car has an internal maximum DC charge rate of only 50 kW, then it can only charge at 50 kW, even on a 150 kW charger.
So, if you’re a high mileage driver, or if you like to go on long trips, consider getting a BEV with a high DC charging rate to be able to charge quickly and make your vehicle as future proof as possible.
Read our Charging Guide for further information.
- If you have off-street parking, get a 7.4 kW chargepoint installed – we can help you with this.
- Most BEVs can charge at or near 7.4 kW at home.
- Each hour of home charging will add 25-30 miles of range, on average.
- PHEV charging can be slower, from 3.6 kW to 7.4 kW, depending on the vehicle.
- Rapid 'DC' charging capabilities for BEVs vary considerably from model to model.
- Get as high a 'kW' DC charging rate as possible to make your car future-proof.
- 100 kW or above is considered very good at the moment.
#4 How Much Can I Save?
One of the biggest wins when moving from an internal combustion engine car to a plug-in EV comes from fuel savings. Electricity is much cheaper than petrol or diesel, and annual savings can run into the hundreds of pounds if you choose an all-electric BEV.
Fuel savings are greatest in cars with the best designed battery technology.
Imagine a car with a 50 kWh battery pack. If battery efficiency is high, that 50 kWh of stored electricity will give you about 200 miles’ range on average (4 miles per kWh).
However, if the manufacturer hasn’t been as clever with its battery design, you might only get 150 miles from a 50 kWh battery. It would equate to only 3 miles per kWh.
The upshot? A less efficient battery will cost you more to run each year. You need to charge it with more electricity to go the same number of miles as a more efficient car.
It’s the same concept as higher and lower miles per gallon (mpg) in conventional cars.
So, when choosing an EV, compare battery efficiency. You can do this by dividing the official WLTP range by the usable capacity of the battery in kWh. The higher the figure the better. See our example opposite. The more affordable electric cars often have excellent efficiency as they are lighter.
10,000 miles a year in even a less efficient '3 miles per kWh' electric car would still only cost you £266.67 a year in electricity, based on charging overnight on an off-peak rate of 8p per kWh. In a '4 miles per kWh' car, it would be just £200.00. Bet you can't beat that in a diesel! Our Guide to Electric Car Charging Costs has more details.
Volkswagen ID.3 v. Hyundai Kona Electric
Here we compare the battery efficiency of two popular electric cars:
- The Volkswagen ID.3 Life Pro Performance has an official range of 263 miles and a usable battery capacity of 58 kWh. 263 divided by 58 = 4.5 miles per kWh.
- The Hyundai Kona Electric 64 kWh has an official range of 300 miles and a usable battery capacity of 64 kWh. 300 divided by 64 = 4.7 miles per kWh.
These two cars are neck and neck in terms of efficiency, with the Kona winning out by a small margin.
You may also come across efficiency measured as ‘Wh per mile’ or ‘Wh/mile’. In this case, the lower the number the better. It means you need fewer ‘Watt-hours’ of electricity to go 1 mile.
#5 What's The Performance Like?
In a conventional car with gears – whether manual or automatic – there is a bit of a delay during gear changes when accelerating.
In a fully electric BEV – which has no gears at all – the power to the electric motor(s) is instant and constant. This means no delay while accelerating, with a very smooth application of power from the battery.
It’s why many electric cars have amazing acceleration. For example, the Tesla Model 3 Performance has a 0-60 mph of just 3.1 seconds!
If sheer power and acceleration is important to you, a BEV could be just the ticket.
Electric motors are also used in PHEVs and HEVs to give a performance boost to the conventional engine, for example when accelerating hard.
Just check the acceleration stats of various electric models to fine-tune your choice.
Batteries & Electric Motors
- Batteries deliver instant power to the electric motor(s) in an EV.
- There are no gears to get in the way in a BEV.
- Many electric cars have astonishing acceleration for the price.
- Instant torque is handy for safe over-taking and pulling onto busy motorways.
Where To Next?
Now you've got a better idea of what to look out for in an EV and the benefits, why not explore some of our dedicated guides to the different types of EV available:
- Guide to 100% Electric Cars (BEVs)
- Guide to Plug-in Hybrids (PHEVs)
- Guide to non plug-in Hybrids (HEVs)
Alternatively, simply get in touch with one of our specialist leasing consultants on 0118 920 5310 or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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