Most frequently asked electric car (EV) questions

electric cars FAQ

Like it or not, the 2030 switchover is coming, and soon petrol and diesel cars will be a thing of the past. The UK has gone zero emission in a big way, with electric car sales leaping almost 200% in the past year. Still, for many, the idea of an electric vehicle, or EV, may still seem a little mystifying — but not to worry! We’ve gathered all the most common electric car questions below, so be confused no more!

Will an electric vehicle work for me?

Probably one of the first electric car questions that comes to any would-be owner’s mind is if the car is going to work for them. Of course, it will work, as in, drive perfectly well, but will it work for your lifestyle? Budget? Daily route? These are all things to consider before making the EV switch.

The answer is, yes! Electric vehicles have come a long way in recent years, and are now available as sleek city cars, performance-based sport cars, and hard-wearing vehicles. An EV is generally cheaper to run per 100 miles as well, and with things like at-home charging allowances and ULEZ exemption, an EV could shave pounds off your usual driving costs.

What’s the difference between an electric car and a hybrid car?

Another common one on any electric car questions and answers list is about the brother of the EV — the hybrid vehicle. A hybrid car combines a traditional car with an electric vehicle, so it contains both a regular combustion engine that still requires petrol or diesel to run, and an electric motor. Some hybrids need to be plugged in to have this motor charged — and will be suitably named ‘plug-in hybrid electric vehicle’. Others will recharge their motor through regenerative braking i.e. generating power for the battery every time the brakes are used.

Hybrid cars use electric motors to aid in fuel economy, and when coasting, can sometimes use the electric motor alone. Hybrid cars are not designed to run off the electric motor for general driving, though, and when the battery is flat, the combustion engine will take over. If the petrol tank of a hybrid car is empty, it will not run.

charging electric car
Electric cars need to be charged via cable at a suitable charging station.

How do I charge an electric car?

There are several ways to charge an electric car. The most convenient is charging your car at home. To best do this, you should install a wallbox. These are at-home charging sockets that are mounted on an outside wall, you simply attach the charging cable and charge your car. There are grants available to help save money on installation. The drawback is that you need space on your own property for both the car and the charger. You can’t have the charging cable run across public land, say, if you live in a flat and want to run the cable to the curb.

The other option is to use public charging stations. There are tens of thousands of these all around the UK. They’re ideal for keeping topped up when out and about, and with high-speed chargers available, you can even get a full top up from empty in a couple of hours. There are multiple apps that will map out the location of these chargers for you, and if you purchased a certain brand or are already the customer of certain electricity suppliers, you might find you get preferential treatment at their branded chargers.

Are electric cars expensive to run?

Electric cars can cost 40% less than a traditional car over their lifetime. They save on things like fuel , ULEZ fees, road tax, and also require far less servicing due to having less parts. That said, an electric car is more expensive to buy in the first place. So, it’s a question of short-term expense vs. long-term benefit.

Where are my nearest electric vehicle charging points?

There are many sites and apps that will map these out for you, even updating to let you know if they are currently in use or not. Generally, charge points will be more frequent in city centres, but you’re likely to find one in large supermarket car parks, which may even have no cost to charge provided you’re shopping in store. Petrol stations may also provide a charging point, or longer stay car parks near stations.

wallbox electric car
Wallboxes allow for easy car charging at home.

Can electric cars drive through water?

Electric cars aren’t affected by water damage in the same way as a normal car. A combustion engine can quickly be compromised if submerged in water. While caution is advised, the battery of an electric car is completely sealed, it will not intake water or suffer any lasting damage after a quick wade through shallow water. No car, electric or not, should be driven into flooded areas.

Do electric cars have the same lifespan as petrol cars?

Due to having less parts, an electric vehicle may well out-live a traditional combustion engine car. The main areas to inspect on an electric car are its motor and battery. That’s significantly less work than a traditional car, with less parts to break. On the other hand, we see traditional cars that were made 30 years ago still going strong, with no massive threat to its basic technology being outpaced. This is where electric cars may end up being notably different.

With so many car brands actively pursuing the perfect EV vehicle and new models coming out all the time, the EV car that is at the top today may be very out-dated within a few years. In this case, its not so much a matter of if a car will successfully run for 30+ years, but if it will be supported by ever-evolving technology.

Can electric cars go as fast as non-electric cars?

Electric cars accelerate quicker than non-electric cars, which can give them the overall speed advantage. For general (legal) driving, an EV will hit the speeds you need for the road, i.e. 70 miles per hour, and usually can achieve up to 100mph. This may be a little lower than the fastest petrol or diesel car, but how often have you driven around at 120mph?

car park electric car charge
Public charging stations can often be found in shop car parks and may even be free for customers.

Could an electric car suddenly stop working or shut down like other electrical items?

Electric cars are made with less moving parts than a regular car, so there is less to go wrong. But just like any vehicle, sometimes things do go wrong. No car is immune to the sudden break down, not even electric vehicles. Unlike your laptop, though, it’s unlikely to be due to you accidentally adding a virus to your car’s system. Take it into a specialist and see what needs to be done to get it fixed. One thing to bear in mind is that car batteries may be under warranty by their manufacturer, so be sure to visit an approved expert.

Will I get tax breaks?

Yes, you can. Electric vehicles are zero emission, and this makes them exempt from road tax. You will need to notify the DVLA of your EV exemption, but you’ll not have to pay anything. Businesses looking to update their fleet of corporate cars may also enjoy tax benefits if they choose electric vehicles.

Will I be able to park in special places if I have an electric car?

There are special parking spots just for electric vehicles but these are used as charging spots. So, in order to use them, your car needs to be charging. Regular parking spots won’t come by any easier just because you are driving an electric vehicle, but you may find you’re charged less by the council for a parking permit due to having a zero emissions car.

charging station EV
Charge time will vary depending on your charging station and your car model.

How long does it take to charge an EV?

This depends on your car and the type of charge point you use. The latter generally calls into the following categories:

TypekW(Approx) Time to full charge
Slow2-410-24 hours
Fast7-222-4 hours
Rapid43+30-60 minutes
Ultra Rapid100+20-40 minutes 

Your car may not be able to utilise ultra rapid charging due to its battery size, so be sure to check before you waste time looking for a rapid charger that you can’t actually use.

What is the range of an EV?

This will also depend on the car model you are driving, so you should be sure to check your manufacturer’s guide for the answer to this, one of the most important questions on EV vehicles. Here are some of the leading models and their range:

ModelRange (Miles)
Tesla Model 3 360
Kia e-Niro ‘2’282
Renault Zoe R110 ZE40 (2018)186
Nissan LEAF (2018)168
Mini Electric (2020)145
Smart EQ fortwo (2018)83

Do electric cars break down more?

As we said, electric cars have less moving parts than a standard car. That leads to less potential problems, less things to go wrong, and less breakdowns. Still, they are not impervious to issues, and you will need a specialist to repair your EV when things do go wrong — it’s not something you can tinker with on the driveway.

driving electric car in rain
You can drive an electric car through rain or shine.

Can you drive and charge an electric car in the rain?

Yes, you can drive an electric vehicle in all sorts of standard weather conditions, and you and also charge them in the rain. Make sure you are using cables that are in good condition, with no rips or tears.

Can you buy or sell second-hand electric cars?

Of course you can! With the increasing popularity of electric cars, they are also becoming more frequent on the second hand market, making it perfectly possible to buy an electric car without having to pay showroom prices. Selling an electric car can be done hassle-free, haggle-free, and completely free when you do it the Motorway way!

Can you have an electric car if you live in an apartment?

Yes, anyone can buy an electric car, even if they live in a flat. Where there may be some restrictions is when it comes to at-home charging. You cannot install a wallbox on a wall that isn’t yours i.e. you can’t stick it onto the communal garage. You also can’t run the cable across public areas. So, even if you live in a ground floor flat and attach the wallbox to your outside wall, you can’t then run the cable across the pavement to reach your car on the curb.

Is it worth buying an electric car in 2021?

Of course! The EV switchover in 2030 will mean only electric vehicles will be manufactured and sold, so now is as good a time as any to make the change.

lifespan electric vehicle
Combustion engine cars can continue driving for decades, but it’s unknown if EVs will age in the same way.

Should I charge my electric car every night?

Electric cars should be kept at around 20%-80% full when it comes to battery charge. In most cases, this won’t require an overnight top up, and certainly not one every night. Check your manufacturer’s guide to see how fast your car/wallbox can charge. You don’t want to end up wasting electricity by charging your car for longer than needed.

Are electric cars good for society?

Electric cars are zero emission, that means no CO2, that means clearer air for everyone. If we all drove an electric vehicle, we’d all stop our carbon emissions which we are, at present, all creating daily. So, while EVs aren’t going to single-handedly save the world, we think they’re definitely a good thing for society so far as the environment goes.

What are the negatives of electric cars?

Probably the most obvious negative of electric cars are their upfront costs which remain significantly higher than regular combustion engine vehicles. Brands are tackling this issue, with many makes such as Mini, Renault, and Volkswagen all offering EV vehicles under £30,000. Plus, with some grants available, you can save some money on the asking price.

Another issue at present may be the lack of public charging points in your area, a significant concern if you are unable to install a wallbox at home. There are plans to massively improve this situation by the time 2030 arrives, but until then, you may find yourself having to battle off other local EV owners to charge your own at the single public chargepoint near you.

Ready to go electric?

See our guides and have all your other burning EV questions answered!

Electric cars — the ultimate guide
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Do electric cars pay the congestion charge?
Car ownership — ways to own and finance a car
How to look after & maintain a car
Car engine size – the ultimate guide
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What is a mild hybrid car?