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All you need to know about electric cars

Electric vehicles are the fastest growing sector in the car sales market today, providing you with lower cost motoring whilst helping to protect the environment.

As electric is much cheaper and cleaner than either petrol or diesel, opting to lease an electric car or van could save you up to 90% on your fuel costs in an average year. Actual savings depend on the type of electric vehicle you have chosen, what your type of journeys you make regularly and where and when you charge your vehicle.

Below we have summarised the main points you need to consider before deciding on the best vehicle for your needs and how to make the best savings on running costs. These include the types of vehicles available, electricity tariffs, charging points and grants that are available to help you on your way to a greener future.

Step 1 - Deciding on which type of electric car meets your needs

As there are more than one type of electric car on the market, you need to be aware of the different types and which one would best suit your needs. Electric and hybrid cars fall into the categories of Hybrid (HEV), Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) and Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV).

The type of vehicle you choose will dictate how much money you can save, so taking some time to understand the different types available will ultimately be to your advantage. Some of the cheapest electric vehicles to run are also the best for the environment.

100% Electric (BEV)

Battery Electric Vehicles combine some of the biggest savings and zero harmful emissions. No petrol or diesel is burnt by these vehicles therefore, no CO2 or NOx gases are emitted. This also allows you to avoid any extra costs for petrol or diesel as a secondary fuel. As they have very large batteries, you can charge them overnight at very low electricity rates. If you are looking at these for business purposes, they are also much cheaper to run due to the government’s healthy tax incentives for electric and lower emission vehicles. You will have to consider they type of journeys you will undertake with BEVs as the mileage range is more limited. For longer journeys you will have to plan a stop to re-charge the battery to get you to your final destination.

Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV)

The second biggest savings come from PHEVs. These vehicles have both a petrol or diesel engine and a battery. The batteries in these vehicles are typically smaller than the BEV variants, so the ability to fill them with cheaper electricity is more limited. If you regularly do longer journeys, you will have to rely more on the petrol/diesel engine which will affect your running costs, however, any emissions can be eliminated when driven in battery only mode for around 30 miles. Advantages of the PHEV mean that you will not need to plan any stops on the way to your destination as the car will switch from battery to its main power source automatically.

Hybrid (HEV)

Conventional hybrid vehicles are self charging vehicles with a small battery on board that is charged by the main engine of the vehicle whether it be petrol or diesel. These are also known as HEVs and cannot be plugged in. The fuel savings on these vehicles therefore come in when the battery is being used and no fuels are being combusted.

Step 2 - Work out what type of journeys you mostly undertake

First generation electric vehicles typically received bad press as their mileage range was fairly poor at around 80 miles. As time has progressed and technology has evolved, most electric cars of the current generation have a much improved typical range of between 150- 300 miles. Charging stations are also much more readily available, and if you are planning a longer journey, rapid charging is available in many service stations.

If you are thinking about leasing an electric car, you will need to consider two types of driving scenario, daily driving and any frequent longer journeys you may do.

Daily driving

Firstly, how many miles do you drive in a day? Do you commute daily? A fully charged BEV could easily cope with a commute of 50 miles each way on a single charge. Or do you use the car for general activities from going shopping to going to the gym or doing the school run? Any new electric car on the UK market has a sufficient range on a single charge for these. Longer journeys are also no problem with a little planning and research on charging stations, you can reach your final destination with a rest stop on the way!

Longer trips

If you regularly make longer journeys, maybe a PHEV would be a better consideration? These would ensure you get to your final destination without having to stop for a break on the way as your vehicle would automatically switch to its alternative power source en route. Another consideration would be the charging infrastructure in your local area - if charging points are few and far between you may be better opting for a PHEV.

Conventional HEV’s typically only use their batteries for low speed driving, so therefore, if you commute in a busy area during peak times, these would help to reduce your emissions in built up areas at low speed, but rely on their main power source at all other times.

Step 3 - Consideration on how often and where you charge your electric car

Both BEV’s and PHEV’s charge just like any other electrical device. They have to be plugged in to a dedicated charging point which will charge them safely and at the correct rate.

Home charging

If you are seriously considering leasing an electric car, it makes sense to have your own EV charging point installed at your home if you have off street parking. This enables you to plug your car in on your return home and have it fully charged for the next day. There are currently government grants available to help you fund these for fully electric vehicles. The rating for a home charger is a maximum of 7.4 kW.

Work-place charging

Businesses are starting to understand the inevitable change over to electric vehicles and many have started to install charging points for their staff. Depending on the company’s needs, there could be slow charging stations that would charge the cars at 3.6kW over the full working day or faster charging stations between 7.4kW and 22kW for those that need to attend business meetings in other locations during the working day. These figures obviously depend on the individual companies policy, but the option of charging at work is a possibility if you don’t have one at home.

Public charging

You normally only use public charging points in two situations. The most obvious of these is if your battery is running low, pretty much the same as running out of petrol or diesel! The second would be if you are undertaking a longer journey in your BEV and the range of the vehicle would necessitate a top up to enable you to reach your final destination.

Most motorway service stations now have “Rapid Charging” available which, unlike your home charger, use DC electric allowing much faster rates such as 100kW, 150kW and even up to 350kW. Bear in mind though that your chosen vehicle will have its own maximum charging limit, so if this is 100kW this is the maximum you would get, even from an ultra rapid 350kW charging station.

Typically at a Rapid Charger, you could be looking at anything between 20 minutes to 1 hour to top up your car, depending on how many more miles you need charge for and how much the maximum kW your cars charging rate is. This certainly gives you a chance to have a break from your journey!

Step 4 - Securing the lowest electricity price available

This is the most crucial stage to achieving low cost motoring. If you are charging at home, you need to look at your electricity tariff, and ensure that you are on one that is set up to offer cheaper electric when your vehicle will be at home on charge. Most comparison websites will be able to tell you the best option for your own circumstances.

If you opt for the cheapest tariff for when your vehicle will be charging, there are obvious savings to be made over a year. Furthermore, if you sign up to a renewable energy electricity tariff to charge your car, you can enjoy 100% environmentally friendly driving!

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