EVs are different… Or try it like this: EVs are different!
Funny how depending on who says it and how, this could be the – rather stiff – 3-word summary of all reviews, road tests, and comparisons the web has to offer, or a trendsetting claim, full of optimistic enthusiasm. But at least it’s something electric car enthusiasts and skeptics all agree on:
They’re pleasantly quiet, and the little noise they make sounds more like one of those remote-controlled toys, rather than a car. Some of them even look quite different. But certainly, all of them are different to drive, and indeed,
EVs are very different to live with compared to a traditional car, even a hybrid.
Regardless if you’re passionate about electric cars or you couldn’t care less about the tech, desperately need an EV to cut your expenses or just want to be prepared for the changing times,
this guide will 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|
|Rating||50 kW||43 kW||25 kW||7-22 kW||up to 3 kW||3-6kW|
|Type 1 (7kW only)
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. The table below includes estimated charging times for some of the most common battery sizes and charger types:
|Battery capacity||38.3 kWh||52.5 kWh||64 kWh|
|Approximate combined range||190 miles||215 miles||300 miles|
|50kW charger (rapid DC)||50 min||1 hr 8 min||1 hr 24 min|
|22kW charger (fast AC)||1 hr 53 min||2 hr 36 min||3 hr 11 min|
|7kW charger (lamppost)||5 hr 58 min||8 hr 10 min||10 hr 3 min|
|3.5kW charger (slow AC)||11 hr 56 min||16 hr 20 min||20 hr 6 min|
Important: 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.
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.
Please note: 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.
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.
Petrol 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. Well, time to throw out the textbook – with EVs, it’s the exact opposite.
EVs have what’s called regenerative braking or KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System), which charges your car’s battery while on the go.
Electric motors act as generators when rotated by an external force, such as the car’s rolling wheels.
In essence, when you’re 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.
In many electric cars, regenerative braking has several levels so you can adjust how aggressively the car brakes when you lift off, and you can even turn it off. This is useful when driving on the motorway.
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.
You can’t get your car licensed for private hire use in London if it’s older than 10 years, not to mention the difficulty of staying competitive with an older-model car. If you’re a PCO driver, you’d likely sell or trade in your car for a more recent model long before it even comes close to the end of the battery’s life expectancy.
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.
Fun fact: There are some electric cars that have multiple gears, such as the Porsche Taycan, but they’re quite a bit different from traditional gearboxes. Rather than making the car more energy-efficient, their purpose is to squeeze out even crazier acceleration performance from the motor.
There are many misconceptions and half-truths about the environmental impact of EVs – and believers circulate them just as much as skeptics.
There can be no doubt that transitioning to electric cars will greatly contribute to improving the local air quality in cities where tailpipe emissions do the most harm. However, EV skeptics argue that if the electricity used to charge these cars comes from fossil-based power plants, the pollution is still there.
This is true, however, wind, solar, biomass and hydro-power plants are quickly taking over – renewables accounted for 43% of the UK’s domestic power generation in 2020, and it’s likely to further improve in the years to come. 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 that’s necessary for EV production also 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, etc. to change, EVs pollute far less during their useful life, and there’s also increasing demand for their old batteries that can get a second life if refurbished or put to other use such as backup energy storage for buildings.
In order to make a difference, you need to embrace difference. That includes getting used to a new vocabulary and blowing the dust off your physics knowledge:
Most of this stuff you’ll probably stop caring about once you’ve chosen an electric car, but until then, it’s quite important. So get ready to throw horsepower and MPG out the window and give way to some zappy terms:
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.
Unlike petrol engines, electric motors put out peak torque as soon as you put your foot on the pedal. In other words, even a less powerful EV will accelerate quicker than a traditional car with a massive petrol engine. Keep this in mind when converting back to horsepower.
Also see: kilowatts in charging
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 if you’re a gardening superstar, or ironing half a shirt if you’re really clumsy. Or for a fairer comparison, having an old 100W bulb on for 10 hours vs. a modern, 5W LED for 200 hours.
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.
The Hyundai Ioniq Electric is among the most efficient EVs in its segment, rated at a combined 136 MPGe.
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. You can think of it as the gallons-per-minute equivalent that a petrol pump can deliver – if anyone cared about it.
Since charging is considerably slower than filling up the tank, the kW rating of chargers is very important
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.
EVs typically have a lower range but a much higher efficiency than petrol, diesel, or hybrid cars.
Range anxiety: The worry that your car’s battery will run out before you arrive at your destination or get a chance to recharge. Everyone has it at first, but it goes away as you start to know your way around your electric car.
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