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Electric and plug-in cars come in all shapes and sizes with a large number of models now available. Electric vehicle technology is fast maturing and as range increases and prices come down, running one is becoming an attractive option for many drivers. Learn more about electric vehicles, their benefits such as lower running costs, how to charge, and more about the grants that are available.

Electric vehicles explained

Learn more about the ins and outs of electric vehicles with Robert Llewellyn of Red Dwarf and Scrapheap Challenge fame. This short video explains EVs and the questions potential buyers may have.

Read our best practice guide on ultra low emission vehicles to better understand how EVs can benefit you and your business. 

BEV (Battery-electric EV)

A vehicle powered solely by a battery charged from mains electricity. Currently typical pure-electric cars have a range in excess of 80 miles with many of the newest travelling even further. As with conventional motoring, driving style, speed and air conditioning/heating use can reduce the range available. Current models include Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, Renault Zoe and Kia Soul. 

PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid EV)

A vehicle with a plug-in battery and an internal combustion engine powered by petrol or diesel. Typical PHEVs will have a pure-electric range of up to 30 miles. The benefit of these vehicles is that once the electric battery is depleted, journeys can still continue in hybrid mode. This gives a range in excess of 300 miles. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Audi e-tron and VW Golf GTE are all current examples of such technology.

E-REV (Extended Range EV)

These are a version of plug-in hybrids, with the vehicle powered by a battery with a petrol or diesel powered generator on board. With an E-REV the propulsion technology is always electric and range can be between 150-300 miles. The BMW i3 range-extender is an examples.

If you are considering an ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) as your company car, we have an animated guide that can help.

Benefits

While the initial upfront purchase price of an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle can be higher, this is offset by lower running costs over the lifetime of the vehicle. Plug-in cars offer a number of potential savings compared to conventional vehicles including:

  • A full charge in a pure electric vehicle will cost around £3 to £5 and will give a typical range of 100 miles. Driving 100 miles in a petrol or diesel car will cost around £11 to £16 in fuel, which is around four times the cost of the electric car. The cost savings will be greatest when owners have access to an off-peak overnight electricity tariff.
  • There are fewer mechanical components in an electric vehicle when compared with conventional vehicles, which often results in lower servicing and maintenance costs.
  • Pure EVs costing no more than £40,000 have a zero rate of Vehicle Excise Duty.
  • Plug-in cars emitting 75g/km CO2 or less are eligible for a 100% discount from the London Congestion Charge. A regular user of this zone could be saving over £2,000 a year.
  • The lower or zero emissions of plug-in vehicles means that they will attract lower charges from Clean Air Zones being implemented around the UK and the Ultra-Low Emission Zone in London.
  • Free parking may also be available to further encourage the uptake of electric cars in some urban areas.

Maximising range

Most electric vehicles available on the market today have a typical range of around 100 miles. However, how far you can go on one charge largely depends on how you drive the car. Efficient driving maximises the car’s range and ensures driver satisfaction. Discover helpful top tips in our ULEV driving guide.

Charging

Charging at home is the cheapest and easiest way to keep your vehicle topped up. Some energy companies offer tariffs that would reward you for charging your car at off-peak times, such as overnight.  Discover our tips on how to save money on charging your electric vehicle at home.

The extensive and growing UK-wide network of charging infrastructure provides coverage in many areas through subscription or pay as you go charge services. There are many chargepoint maps available that detail chargepoint locations:

Rapid chargers, which can top up a battery to 80% in 20 -30 minutes, are becoming more common and are in place at most service stations on the motorway and main road network.

Grants

Government support for electric cars and vehicles exist in the form of the Plug-in Vehicle Grant towards the purchase of vehicles, and the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme to assist with costs of installation of a homecharger. Other grant schemes also exist for Local Authorities to install on-street residential chargepoints and the Workplace Charging Scheme.

Plug-in Vehicle Grant

This provides a subsidy of:

  • 35% of the cost of a car, up to a maximum of either £2,500 or £4,500 depending on the category the model belongs to (see below)
  • 20% of the cost of a van, up to a maximum of £8,000
  • 20% of the cost of a motorcycle, up to a maximum of £1,500

The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) has a list of eligible vehicles. The grant is automatically deducted from the retail price when an eligible vehicle is purchased, so there is no additional paperwork to complete, and there’s no need to pay the full retail price and then reclaim the benefit. For the Plug-in Vehicle Grant, minimum warranty terms apply and pre-registration conversions are eligible.

There are three grant categories for cars, differentiating between Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) on the basis of their carbon dioxide emissions and their zero emission range, whilst retaining a technology neutral approach: 

  • Category 1: carbon dioxide emissions of less than 50g/km and a zero emission range of at least 70 miles.

  • Category 2: carbon dioxide emissions of less than 50g/km and a zero emission range between 10 and 69 miles.

  • Category 3: carbon dioxide emissions of 50-75g/km and a zero emission range of at least 20 miles.

  • Motorbikes: zero carbon dioxide emissions and a zero emission range of at least 31 miles.

  • Mopeds: zero carbon dioxide emissions and a zero emission range of at least 19 miles.

  • Vans: carbon dioxide emissions of less than 75g/km and a zero emission range of at least 10 miles.

As of 1 March 2016, 2 grant rates are available: Category 1 vehicles benefit from a grant of £4,500. Category 2 and Category 3 vehicles with a shorter zero emission range — such as plug-in hybrid vehicles with a petrol or diesel engine — receive £2,500.

Please note, criteria for grants are subject to change. Please refer to the OLEV Guidance for more details

The Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme

Electric vehicle users can receive funding from OLEV to install a homecharger for their plug-in vehicle. The Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme provides a grant of up to 75 per cent of the eligible costs of chargepoint installation (capped at £500, inc VAT) for the registered keeper, lessee or nominated primary user of a new or second-hand eligible electric vehicle on or after 1 April 2015 onwards. Find out more about eligibility criteria and a list of approved installers.

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