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Stoneacre's Guide to Electric Cars

What is an EV and how do electric cars work

‘EV’ stands for Electric Vehicle, and unlike a hybrid or plug-in hybrid, a pure electric car runs solely on electrical power. This power comes from a battery, or even multiple batteries, where this electricity is stored and is used to propel the vehicle.

In addition, the car’s functions are usually powered by a separate auxiliary batter, powering the like of the infotainment system and lights, which won’t turn off if the main battery dies. However, running the likes of air conditioning and heated seats will run the primary battery down quicker.

When all this electricity is depleted, then the car’s battery/batteries will require a recharge. This is done through your mains at home or a public charger than you will now find in most car parks.

Of course, the big benefit to this type of vehicle is zero-emissions driving, and is the aim of the government to get as many motorists behind the wheel of such cars in the next 15-20 years.

Charging an electric car

We go into this topic in more detail on our blog, but charging at home through a charging kit is the norm, while the public charging network in the UK is only getting bigger, with plenty of options now available while on the move.


What’s all this about ‘range anxiety’?

 

The term ‘range anxiety’ has become commonplace among those who worry that the available mileage an electric car offers could leave them short during a journey.

 

Manufacturers are working hard to make sure this phrase becomes something of the past. However, it’s important to consider that a lot of the current crop of electric cars are mostly for smaller journeys at the moment, more about work commutes and doing the shopping than traversing the country.

 

Something like the Honda e’s 136-mile range, for example, is ideal for those who don’t usually stray too far from home on a daily basis. Though some cars such as the Kia e-Niro can manage just under 300 miles on a full charge, so offers something a bit more versatile.

Electric car battery life

 

How long do electric car batteries last? Well, it has to be said that, like the battery in your phone, its capacity will deplete over time and extended use. However, how long the battery’s lifetime lasts can be down to you, the driver. As an electric car’s battery doesn’t have a set date of expiry, how long it does last can be affected by how often it is fully recharged or depleted completely.

The more frequently you charge your battery to 100%, for example, can actually do a bit of harm due to the heat produced during the process. If possible, only charge your car when it’s necessary to do so; so, if you have more than enough miles to get home from work, don’t charge it in the office car park.

The opposite is also potentially harmful, as these lithium ion batteries usually work best when between 50-80% charge, so fully depleting the battery puts in a state where it’s not working at its most efficient.

Also, that 81-100% part of charging takes more time to achieve than the first 80%, which is why you’ll see in plenty of places (this website included) about rapid charging to 80% and the time it takes to do so.

It’s important to note temperature when talking about electric car batteries, as they struggle in cold climates to the degree that range can be noticeably lower than at temperate heat.

Cost of electric cars

 

While for now electric cars cost a premium over their combustion engine counterparts, the technology will get cheaper over time and they currently command some decent residuals, so depreciation is less of an issue.

 

Remember though that the government grant of up to £3,000 is available on such cars (that cost under £50,000), so it’ likely that that full amount can come off an EV’s ‘sticker price’.

 

Electric car running costs, as you might imagine, are where these vehicles start to really make sense. Charging your car overnight (to take advantage of lower electricity rates) could see you spend just 2p per mile of range, meaning a car like the e-Niro’s 285-mile range would cost you a touch under £6 for a full charge.

 

Maintaining an electric car is not necessarily the expense you might believe it is. With electric vehicles set up to be as efficient as possible, there are only three main components that are utilised to power an electric car: on-board charger, inverter and the motor.

 

As a result, electric cars will tend to go through less wear and tear than a conventionally powered vehicle which has many moving parts that can go wrong or break completely. Reliability also benefits from this simple set up of components, with the Nissan Leaf, for example, achieving a 99.7% score in WhatCar?’s Reliability Survey.

Driving an electric car

The quietness of the car’s cabin is the first thing you’ll notice about driving an electric vehicle; with no pistons working overtime or transmission changing gear, you’ll be in for a very different experience from the driver’s seat.

Another difference you may pick up on, especially if you’re used to driving modestly powered petrols, is the amount of torque available from the power supply. Electric cars tend to be great at that initial deployment of acceleration, getting from 0-30mph in just two or three seconds usually.

The handling of the car will most likely feel different, too, as the battery or batteries are hunkered down low in the car’s chassis, making for a low centre of gravity and a nicely balanced vehicle.

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