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A Beginner's Guide to Electric Vehicles

What is an electric vehicle?

An electric vehicle is a vehicle that is powered by electricity. Unlike petrol and diesel vehicles, electric vehicles power the wheels through an electric motor that is fueled by electricity from lithium-ion batteries or fuel cells to run. They can be partially or fully powered by electricity, depending on the type of vehicle. Most of the models available will have a single motor, but higher end electric vehicles that are more performance focused can have dual motors. 

Electric Vehicles

While standard vehicles need to be refuelled at a petrol station, electric vehicle need to be charged at home or at an available charging port. As well as electric cars, there are also other kinds of electric vehicles available, such as bicycles, scooters, vans and trucks.

What are the different types of electric vehicles?

Battery Electric Vehicle

These are solely powered by electricity, and may also be referred to as a 100% electric vehicle. They are charged by external power points (charging points), and do not produce any emissions. The majority of these vehicles have an average range of around two hundred and twenty miles on a single full charge.

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle

This kind of vehicle has a battery, electric drive motor and an internal combustion engine (ICE). It can be driven using the ICE, the electric motor or both, and is charged at an external power point similar to a battery electric vehicle. A typical plug-in hybrid will have a range of around fifty miles if running purely on electricity, but once their electric charge has depleted they can still be driven in hybrid mode, meaning that they are not restricted by range limits. However, plug-in hybrids are only efficient if they are charged often, as otherwise they will be more costly to run than conventional petrol and diesel vehicles.

Extended Range Electric Vehicle

These are a type of plug-in hybrid that combine a battery, electric motor and a small petrol or diesel engine. The electric motor will always drive the wheels, with the engine functioning as a generator when the charge has run out.

What are the benefits of an electric vehicle?

The initial purchase costs of an electric vehicle will be much higher than a petrol or diesel powered car, especially if you need to install a charging point in your home. However, these costs will soon be offset by the lower running costs of the vehicle, as well as other benefits including:

● A full charge for an electric vehicle usually lasts around two hundred and twenty miles, and costs roughly £23 if charged at home. In comparison, driving the same distance in a petrol or diesel vehicle will cost an average of £41 in fuel, or potentially more. The savings from an electric vehicle will be more prominent if it is charged at home, especially if the owner is able to access an off-peak overnight tariff. 

●Electric vehicles have fewer mechanical components compared to standard cars, which can mean that they have lower servicing and maintenance costs.

● Until 2025, there is currently low or zero vehicle excise duty on electric vehicles in the UK. Even when this does come in, the first year charge will be £10 for electric vehicles, compared to the £120 to £945 paid by other vehicles. However, after this first year all vehicles will be charged a standard of £165 a year.

● Until December 2025, zero emission vehicles will qualify for a cleaner vehicle discount in the UK. All other vehicles, despite their emissions output, will have to pay the congestion charge.

● Electric vehicles often have lower or zero emissions, meaning that they will pay lower charges in the various clean air zones being set up in the UK, as well as in London’s ultra low emission zone (ULEZ).

● Some towns and cities may currently offer free parking spaces for electric vehicles. 

What are some of the potential cons of electric vehicles?

● On average, electric vehicles have a shorter range than standard cars when running on a full charge versus running on a full tank. This can be an issue for people who regularly travel long journeys or distances in their car, as they may need to stop to charge it more often. 

● Some electric vehicles can take a long time to charge, with even fast charging stations taking around thirty minutes to charge a vehicle to eight percent capacity.

● Although many owners will rely on a charging point installed in their home, there are still very few charging stations around to charge vehicles when journeying. As a result of this, it can be difficult to find a charging station when needed, and you may also need to wait to use the charger and then wait again for your car to charge.

● Currently, the batteries used within electric vehicles are expensive to replace depending on the model and type of the vehicle. The cost of replacing a battery can affect the resale value of an electric vehicle, as the battery will need to be replaced during the car’s lifespan.

● Even though electric vehicles do not produce exhaust emissions, they do still contribute to emissions in other ways. For example, they emit harmful gases when being manufactured, as well as using unsustainable materials that are also polluting when being extracted. The energy that they use to charge may be sourced from a grid that uses fossil fuels, and their batteries use a lot of energy and raw materials when being produced. Furthermore, there is not a fully sustainable way to recycle the batteries yet, even though they can be repurposed when they become inefficient for use in electric vehicles.


Although there is a push towards electric vehicles, not everyone may benefit from owning one. For example, if you are someone who only uses a vehicle for short journeys (e.g. around a town, running errands) or commuting, an electric vehicle will probably suit your lifestyle. However, if you often drive long distances or are a fan of road trips, a 100% electric vehicle is probably not the best choice for you.

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