If there’s something electric car enthusiasts and sceptics all agree on is that EVs are different. For sceptics, electric cars are difficult to charge, unfavourable for longer trips and too expensive. The reality is that they’re pleasantly quiet, easy to drive, fuel-thrifty, cheaper to maintain and offer an overall unique driving experience.
Regardless if you’re truly passionate about electric cars, or just fancy the green mobility idea to cut your expenses, here is a complete guide to help you make the best of your electric car experience.
There are multiple ways to charge your electric car, but it’s not as confusing as it seems at first.
There’s an important difference between charging with alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC):
This is where it can get overwhelming, because there are a lot of plug types, each providing different charging speeds. However, once you’ve chosen your electric car, you’re left with just one or two charging connectors to focus on, and use a charging app to find the nearest compatible public charger.
Charging points fall in three categories depending on the speed at which they can charge your EV:
|Rapid charging||Fast charging||Slow charging|
|50 kW||43 kW||25 kW||7-22 kW||up to 3 kW||3-6kW|
|Type 1 (7kW)
The larger your car’s battery, the longer it takes to charge. Therefore it’s less likely you’ll use it at full capacity if you drive in the city every day. Long-range cars are more suitable for longer trips on the motorway.
Cars charge somewhat slower between 0-20% and 80-100%. This is to save the battery from premature wear. This is why it’s most efficient to run the car within 20-80% most of the time. That’s not to say you shouldn’t charge it up to 100% every now and then, but you don’t have to aim for full cycles every time.
The table below includes estimated charging times for some of the most common battery sizes and charger types.
|38.3 kWh||52.5 kWh||64 kWh|
|190 miles||215 miles||300 miles|
|50 min||1 hr 8 min||1 hr 24 min|
|1 hr 53 min||2 hr 36 min||3 hr 11 min|
|5 hr 58 min||8 hr 10 min||10 hr 3 min|
|11 hr 56 min||16 hr 20 min||20 hr 6 min|
If you’re a rideshare driver, the best practice is to slow-charge overnight if you have the possibility, and hook up to rapid chargers whenever you get the chance during the day. This is the cheapest and most efficient way to charge, while always having enough headroom for an unplanned trip.
IMPORTANT: When using AC power, the highest possible charging speed is limited by the car’s on-board charger. Therefore, you may experience slower charging times at AC fast chargers than what their rating would suggest. DC chargers bypass this system, so this issue doesn’t affect DC fast and rapid charging.
Public rapid charging is more than twice as expensive as home charging, and costs almost six times more than the nighttime rate at some providers – overnight home charging is by far the most cost-effective method.
This is the reason why drivers who have the possibility prefer to charge their cars overnight as much as possible, waking up to a full battery every morning.
The average domestic electricity rate in the UK is about 17p/kWh, but this can vary wildly depending on your area, your provider, and your plan. There are plans that are ideal for electric car owners who want to benefit from nighttime rates, which can go as low as 4.5p/kWh, so it’s worth putting some research into it and changing your provider or contract before getting an EV.
By contrast, public rapid charging can cost up to 26p/kWh, or even as much as 39p/kWh at some petrol stations according to WhatCar’s EV charging price analysis.
Charging a 38.3 kWh Hyundai IONIQ Electric from 20-80% can set you back anywhere from £1.03 in just under 13 hours at home to £10.34 in 45 minutes at one of the more expensive petrol-station rapid chargers.
At Splend, we recommend rideshare and delivery drivers to use a mix of home- and public rapid charging to best balance their time and expenses.
Charging is indeed a bit more complicated than filling up the tank, but just as cars, the infrastructure is getting smarter every day. Some cars come with charging maps as part of their on-board infotainment system, but there are plenty of third-party charging apps too that you can download on your phone. You can choose your favourite one from the best EV apps list.
Zap-Map is one of the most popular UK smart maps for EV drivers. It allows you to search and filter nearby chargers, learn all about them before you get there, pay for EV charging at partnering charge points, and it even includes a smart route-planner.
With EVs, everything is backwards. While ICE cars consume less on the motorway but are thirsty in the city, and it’s also best to brake as little as necessary to save fuel, EVs squeeze better range while driving through the city, and braking helps charge your car.
EVs have what’s called regenerative braking or KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System), which charges your car’s battery while on the go. When coasting downhill (similarly to engine braking with a traditional car) or lifting your foot off the accelerator as you approach a traffic light, you’re charging the battery, recovering energy from your car’s motion.
This not only adds range, but saves your brakes from premature wear – a welcome bonus on top of the fact that EVs require much less maintenance than traditional cars by default.
Any onboard consumer will obviously drain the battery to some degree, but again, heating and cooling in an EV work differently compared to a petrol or diesel car. While internal combustion engines produce a lot of heat that you can use to warm up the cabin on cold days, electric cars have a separate electric heater that uses quite a lot of power.
It’s more efficient to use your EV’s heated seats than the conventional heating system. Depending on your car model, you may be able to start heating / defrosting your car remotely, while it’s still charging – this is the best way to bring your car up to temperature. AC on the other hand is more energy-efficient in an electric car, and has minimal effect on range. However, it still makes sense to park in the shade and let the warm air out before you set off, or pre-cool the car while it’s charging.
EV batteries undergo so-called charge-discharge cycles. Repeating this process – in other words, using the car – will gradually decrease the amount of charge the battery can hold over time, affecting the car’s true range. Most manufacturers have a five to eight-year warranty on their battery.
There’s little reliable real-life data on the lifespan of modern battery packs, but they’re mostly predicted to last 10 – 20 years with normal use before they need to be replaced.
Electric motors produce a consistent amount of torque at any given RPM within a specific range, so most of them don’t need to have a multi-speed transmission. This means they also don’t need a clutch – having less moving parts means less wasted energy and less that can go wrong.
Undoubtedly, transitioning to electric cars will significantly improve the local air quality in cities where tailpipe emissions do the most harm. However, EV sceptics argue that the pollution is still there if the electricity used to charge these cars comes from fossil-based power plants.
While this is true, green power sources such as wind, solar, biomass and hydro-power plants are quickly taking over. In the meantime, considerably fewer people are directly exposed to these emissions than tailpipe gasses in the city, so although there’s an unavoidable compromise during the transitioning phase, we can’t ignore the short-term benefits of switching to EVs.
There’s also the common argument that the increased lithium-mining activity necessary for EV production affects the environment, and recycling is also an issue. This is also true, but it’s not all that different from traditional cars. Manufacturing and transporting petrol cars and the fuel needed to run them also have a heavy carbon footprint long before their first fill-up and long after their last.
With no oil, engine coolant, transmission fluid, particle filters, catalytic converters to change, EVs pollute far less during their useful life.
Getting used to their new terminology is essential to deeply understand how EVs work. Here are the most common terms you’ll encounter when researching electric cars.
kW (kilowatt): 1,000 watts – with EVs, it’s used mostly to reflect the electric motor’s maximum power output. 1 kW is equivalent to 1.34 horsepower, but there’s an easier way to remember: a 75-kW motor is about as powerful as a 100-horsepower engine at maximum output.
kWh (kilowatt-hour): The amount of electricity a 1,000W appliance uses per hour. That’s the same as mowing the lawn in a large backyard or ironing half a shirt. KWh is the most important measurement of the size of an EV’s battery, so think of it as the equivalent of the fuel tank size, or a rough indicator of a car’s maximum range.
MPkWh (miles per kilowatt-hour): The estimated miles an EV can go on one kilowatt-hour of battery. Efficiency is key. Much like in the ironing and lawn-mowing examples above, some EVs are more efficient than others and get more work done with the same amount of energy.
MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent): The same as MPkWh, but in a more relatable form if you’re used to comparing petrol or diesel cars. MPGe is how far an EV can travel on 33.7kWh of energy, the equivalent energy in one gallon of gas.
kW (kilowatt): We’ve mentioned kW as an indicator of an electric motor’s power output, but when talking about chargers, it’s also a rate of energy flow.
Regenerative braking: A method of braking used by EVs as well as hybrids to store and use energy recovered from braking.
Off-peak charging: Charging your EV during the less busy times of day for a lower cost. In the UK, the night time rate (11pm – 6am) can be anywhere between a third and half of the peak-hour energy prices.
Range: The distance you can travel before the battery requires a recharge or you need to visit the pumps – simply expressed in miles or kilometres.
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