In the fast lane of electric motor vehicles, zero hour is close at hand. There are already more than half a million low emission vehicles (LEVs) on UK roads and 1 in 8 vehicles sold in the last month came with a plug. By 2035 the government has ruled that all cars and vans must be zero emissions at the tailpipe, and yet many people still have concerns about switching to an electric vehicle.

Whether it’s a cost consideration or a fear of the new, the era of the EV is here to stay and we have to get on with it. Here are a few pointers for becoming more EV-friendly.

Why should I choose an electric car?

Electric vehicles are big news for British business. According to the Plugging the Gap report from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the UK is the second largest major player on the EV market in Europe and car manufacturers have invested 10.8 billion in Britain, generating 20,000 jobs. BritishVolt’s Gigafactory is poised to supply enough batteries for 300,000 EVs every year.

Which EV should I buy?

There’s an ever-expanding variety of electric motors on the market, ranging from the battery-operated (BEVs) to zero emission (ZEVs), with the hybrid (HEVs) and (PHEVs) somewhere in the middle. The hybrid route is particularly popular among motorists who understand the importance of emission-free motoring but have reservations about going fully electric. At the recent SMMT Electrified conference, hybrids were highlighted as a good way of transitioning to lower emission driving, especially for families in need of a reliable runabout for the school run. Mild hybrids (MHEVs) can be cheaper to buy and don’t need to be plugged-in because the electric motor doesn’t power the car on its own.

If you’re ready to be a zero hero, thankfully there’s an EV for every occasion. You can test drive an electric Volvo at the Eden Project and Hyundai has an all-electric showroom at Bluewater in Kent. Even classic cars such as Rolls Royce, Bentley and Beetle are getting the EV makeover. If you’re looking for a compact electric vehicle there’s the Citroën’s Ami with its plastic chassis or the dinky Honda e, which was the Sunday Times Motoring Awards city/small car of the year in 2020.

In 2021, top of the Sunday Times list was the all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E while the Hyundai Ioniq 5 scooped the prize for best design. Other winners were the British-built Mini Electric, the adventure car gong went to the pure-electric Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo. Meanwhile Lotus won car manufacturer of the year with its British all-electric hypercar Eviya. When you look at the super-slick promo video the word ‘Eviya’ glitches for a split second and reads as ‘Alive’. The message is loud and clear; it’s time to wake up and smell the cleaner air.

How do I find a good EV dealership?

To find a reliable EV dealership, look out for the Electric Vehicle Approved (EVA) kitemark, which is endorsed by the government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) and the Energy Saving Trust (EST).

So which electric cars have the best range?

Range is the distance your car can travel between charges. The latest models on the EV production line can do an average of 200 miles before plugging in while the top-ranked EV, the Tesla Roadster has a whopping 620-mile range. American start-up Lucid Air pulls an impressive range of 520 miles and the Mercedes EQS is not far behind at 485 miles. Both the BMW iX and Ford Mustang Mach-E are front runners at the 370-80-mile zone.

While it is expected that high-performance sports cars and SUVs would top the list, there are a few smaller cars that pack a pretty good range punch. The Volkswagen ID.3, the Kia EV6 Wind RWD and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 RWD are all rivals for the 300+-mile spot. Lagging slightly behind, somewhat surprisingly, we have the Jaguar I-Pace (253), the Audi e-tron Sportsback (241) and the Porsche Taycan 4S Battery Plus (227). The Volvo C40 Recharge meanwhile at 226 miles, is the same league as the plucky Nissan Leaf S Plus. Bringing up the rear is the Renault Zoe at 192 miles, the Honda e and Mini Cooper Electric tying at 137 miles and the Mazda MX30 at 124 miles. 

Electric Vehicle Helpline

For free advice about electric cars, including information about vehicles, range, charging and much more, please call the Saga EV Experts hotline at the RAC on 03330 702 720.

The number is exclusively for Saga customers and lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

You can also email: sagaevexperts@rac.co.uk

 

Where can I charge my electric car?

Charging up is even easier than pulling up at the pump – you just plug into a charging point. There are more than 42,000 charge points, 29,500 of which are publicly available and 5,400 rapid charge points in 15,500 locations across the UK. It takes from as little as half an hour up to 10 hours to fully charge an electric car and you’re never more than 25 miles from a charge point. You’ll find free charge points in shopping centres, supermarkets, hotels, public car parks and service stations, though it’s best to check if there are any restrictions of use.

Use the Zap Map app to plan in stops on your route and for a list of public charge points. Charging your electric car to between 60-80% can help it run more efficiently. Smart charging apps allow you to monitor when and how long to charge your electric car, so you can choose off-peak hours. 

What is regenerative braking?

It’s the process by which you can use the kinetic energy you use when slowing down to top up your battery. The amount of energy you put back depends on how smoothly you drive. If you slow down gradually, you’ll get more recycled power than if you slam on the brakes last-minute. 

What happens if my electric car breaks down?

Many vehicle recovery companies offer EV roadside assistance. Saga Breakdown Assistance provided by the RAC will give you a roadside boost or take you to the nearest charge point. 

Winter driving tips for electric vehicles

Did you know your EV may need extra care in winter? Your EV battery might take up to two hours longer to charge in colder weather and you may experience a reduction in range in sub-zero temperatures. Switching to winter tyres is also worth considering, especially if you live in a rural area. The size of an EV battery makes the car heavier, which may make it trickier to handle on slippery road surfaces.

Are there grants available for electric cars?

The government’s Plug-in Car Grant means you can get back up to 35% of the cost of a new EV with cars capped at £1,500, small vans up to 35% with a £2,500 cap and large vans up to £20% capped at £5,000. If you don’t have off-street parking, your local authority can apply for an On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme. The Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) is now only available for people in flats and rental accommodation. It allows up to £350 off the cost of installing a home charge point.

Which energy tariff should I choose for an electric car?

Since the energy price cap has been lifted, many companies have stopped offering cheap deals on EV tariffs. Look out for bundle packages and fixed-price offers. There are several green energy suppliers depending on what matters most to you. Energy Saving Trust has advice on renewable energy sources. Now might be the time to invest in green energy such as solar, wind, hydro, wave, tidal. According to the Office of National Statistics, wind farms generated around a quarter of the UK’s total electricity needs in 2020. You can even part-own a wind farm to supply energy to your home with Ripple Energy UK. 

What is vehicle-to-grid energy?

Vehicle-to-grid technology (V2G) lets owners of electric vehicles release energy stored in their car batteries back to the grid using a bidirectional EV charger. Although still at the pilot stage Octopus Energy is trialling a V2G scheme with the Nissan Leaf. 

Insurance cover for your electric vehicle

Saga Car Insurance includes cover for a range of electric vehicles including battery cover, so if yours is damaged by accident or fire we’ll replace it. We offer liability cover up to £20millon should someone not covered on your policy be injured by tripping over your charging cable. We’ll also repair or replace cable and charging points if damaged by accident, fire, or theft. The most we will pay is the market value of your vehicle, accessories and spare parts at the time of the loss or damage.

You are also insured for over the air (OTA) updates, which allow you to keep up with the advances in EV technology for your make of car, including software updates and settings wirelessly installed in your vehicle such as safety and performance updates. We are not able to cover loss or damage caused by (OTA) updates that were either not installed when advised or are not approved by your vehicle’s manufacturer.