The FIVE things you need to know before buying an electric car

Ginny Buckley

8.7.2021

It’s no secret that we are big fans of electric cars, and there’s no doubt that it will bring advantages for you, your pocket and the air we all breathe. But there are a few things you need to check and research to make sure it is right for you, as it will involve some changes to your life. 

Here are the top five things we’d advise you to check before you sign on the dotted line.

1. Do your sums 

Firstly, work out how many miles you do in a week. Just simply make a note of the journeys you do and add them up at the end of the month. The average motorist covers around 20 miles in a day, so it’s going to be easy to switch to an electric car. How often do you do a big trip of 150 miles or more? If it’s once or twice a year, you don’t need a car with a big battery as you will be financially much better off just charging on the way when you break for a coffee and a wee.

M6 charging, rapid charging, ecotricity, gridserve, electrifying, road trip, getaway If you only do big journeys occasionally, don't be scared of a car with a smaller battery, as you can stop on the way

2. Count the real cost 

Now you know how many miles you are doing, tot up how much you are currently spending on fuel, road tax, servicing and other costs. Then add it to your finance costs to give you a total cost of ownership. Then do the same for an electric car. It might be more to actually buy or finance, but the fuel cost will be about a quarter, road tax is nothing and the servicing should be about half. 

There are other ways to make it even cheaper too. There are the grants (see below), tax advantages, and many towns and cities offer other incentives such as free parking. And don’t forget to check your electricity supplier, as there are special tariffs which have cheaper rates in the early hours of the morning. As an overnight charge is perfect for charging your car’s battery, these will slash your ‘fuel’ costs to around 1p per mile in a family hatchback.

AC home charger wall box Charge at night to get the cheapest rates and you'll pay 1p per mile or less

3. Get the grants 

The government is really keen for you to get an electric car too, so offers a nice selection of incentives to help persuade you and make the sums add up. In some cases, they are incredibly generous and make it a no brainer decision, so you’ll want to make sure you are taking advantage of them. 

For example, leasing the car through your employer’s salary sacrifice scheme will mean the money is taken out of your gross pay, just like you might have with childcare vouchers or a cycle to work scheme. That can lop 40% off the lease payments and make an electric car cost less per month then you currently spend at the petrol station. 

Or, if you are entitled to a company car, the tax liability is just 1% of the car’s value - compared to the hundreds or even thousands of pounds you’d need to pay every year for a petrol or diesel car. Your company will be pretty keen too, as there are tax advantages for having an electric car on the company books. 

Even if you aren’t lucky enough to get a company car, you’ll still be able to get £2,500 off the price of an electric car if it’s priced below £35,000, and the government will throw £350 in the pot for a wallbox charger to fitted by an approved installer.

If you live in Scotland, there’s another nice bonus: you’ll be able to get an interest free loan to buy a new or used electric car.

Nicki Shields with a white Fiat 500e Electric cars costing less that £35,000 get a £2,500 grant, plus plenty of other incentives

4. Work out your charging 

One of the many advantages of owning an electric car is that you can ‘refuel’ from the comfort of your own home. Even if you arrive with just a few miles left in your battery, by the time you wake up the next morning, you can be topped up and ready to go again. No more having to leave 10 minutes early the next morning to factor in a petrol station trip.But you’ll need to get a wallbox installed, so think about where that might go and if you’ll need permission from your landlord. 

If you can’t charge at home or the office, all is not lost, but you will have to rely on the public charging network. This isn’t as tricky as it sounds – if you are doing 20 miles a day you could have a car like a Corsa-e and easily top up the battery every week on a public charger, either overnight or at a rapid charger while you shop, eat a meal or go to the gym.

Even if you can't charge at home, there are plenty of ways you can top up while you are doing something else

5. Long journeys 

Some electric car drivers will never take them on a long journey and are happy to just charge at home. But once you realise how cheap an electric car is to run, it’s likely you’ll want to use it for far flung adventures. 

But your first experience of driving a long distance in an electric car and needing to top up your battery could be stressful, unless you’ve done your homework. The good news is that the charging situation is getting much better every week. But there are still some things you’ll need to know. 

Firstly, you’ll be needing apps to help you out. At electrifying.com, we’re devotees of zapmap.com, plugshare and Wattsapp, and recommend them all. What makes these apps indispensable is that they show live information from the vast majority of the UK’s charging network. 

You’ll need them as the UK’s motorway rapid charging network can be, to put it politely, woeful. But the charge point provision is being transformed, with the entire motorway and A-road network is being upgraded at quite a pace. A vast 12-unit hub has just opened on the M6 near Rugby, while existing units are being ripped out and replaced at existing sites at a rate of 10 locations a week. These points are super fast too, meaning you’ll spend less time at them. 

Until the upgrades have happened however, we’d suggest you need to take precautions. Always arrive at a charging point with enough range to reach an alternative. When you plan your journey, look at your charging point app and see what other points are in the area. 

If you can find a location that has a two or more units (increasingly common now), head there first. Even if one unit is offline or being used, your odds of success are far greater. Double or quad unit sites are also generally much newer and generally more reliable. If you are planning to charge at your destination, such as a hotel or shopping centre, check the website and maybe even call ahead just to make sure the points are still working and haven’t been dug up.

Ginny Buckley and Nicki Shields at Gridserve electric car charging station with an Mazda MX-30 The rapid charge network is being revamped

Is it worth it? 

Reading the list above might make the whole business of getting an electric car seem like hassle, but once you’ve put in the effort you will never have to visit a petrol station again and should see your bank balance grow too. You might find yourself grinning when you first drive one too – you don’t need petrol to have fun.

bp pulse electric car rapid charger hub This is as close as you'll need to get to a fuel station

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