During 2021, around 12% of new cars registered in the UK was a fully battery electric car. That may not sound like much, but it amounts to hundreds of thousands more electric vehicles (EVs) hitting the road. With petrol and diesel cars to be phased out by 2030, the transition to EVs is only expected to accelerate.

From the model you want to get to where, when and how you’ll be able to charge, there’s a lot to think about before getting an EV. So if you’re considering making your next car electric, here are some commonly asked questions to help with your research.

How do lifetime carbon emissions compare to petrol and diesel cars?

Good news – research by universities in Exeter, Cambridge and Nijmegen has found that in the UK, the lifetime carbon emissions of an EV are 30% lower than for petrol and diesel cars. This rises to 70% in countries like Sweden, where a higher proportion of electricity is generated from renewables.

How do running costs compare?

Take into account the reduced need for expensive maintenance and the lower cost of electricity compared to petrol or diesel, and it’s almost certainly cheaper to run an EV. Here are some of the financial benefits and incentives that can help make getting an EV more affordable:

  • Grants: The EV chargepoint grant provides funding for up to 75% of the cost of installing an EV charger for people living in flats or rented accommodation.
  • Tax benefits: EVs are exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty. And if you choose one as a company car, you won’t pay Benefit in Kind tax, either.
  • Recharging: Most modern EVs can travel around 250 miles on one charge, and it can cost as little as £5 per charge if you charge at home, depending on your electricity tariff. Speaking of the cost of driving – if you regularly drive in city centres, it’s good to know that EVs are exempt from most congestion charges.

What model of electric car do you want?

From hatchbacks right up to SUVs, the choice of EVs available grows year on year. Go to Next Green Car for reliable reviews of the latest EVs on the market, or check out the Fully Charged Show for more inspiration.

Can you install a purpose-built charger at home?

While you can plug an EV into a standard power outlet, it will take much longer to power up compared to installing a purpose-built wallbox charger. These are installed either in a garage or on an outside wall of your property, so are best suited for properties with off-street parking.

This is not to say that people without access to off-street parking cannot access EV chargers. The government has launched the On-street Residential Chargepoint Scheme, giving grants to local authorities to improve on-street charging facilities.

What is public charge point coverage like where you live?

If you’re not able to install a wallbox charger where you live (for example, if you live in a flat or house without designated parking), it’s a good idea to check what public charging coverage is like. We’re a majority investor in EV charging app, Zap-Map, which you can use to search for available charge points.

It’s also worth being aware that charging times at public charge points can vary dramatically. Rapid chargers can provide a full charge in as little as 20 minutes. Ultra-rapid chargers that cut this time even further are being rolled out more widely, but it’s worth noting that some networks are restricted to certain EV models. One example being the Tesla Supercharging network.  

Is your electricity tariff designed for electric car drivers?

If you charge your EV at home, your electricity usage will increase. Good Energy doesn’t currently have an EV tariff on the market, but we hope that will change in the near future. We are also looking into developing innovative time of use tariffs to reduce the cost even further.

If your house has solar panels or other forms of renewable generation, you can charge your EV using clean, renewable energy, making it even greener.

Other environmental questions to consider

Do you need your own car?

Although replacing petrol and diesel vehicles with EVs will reduce carbon emissions associated with transport, research commissioned by Friends of the Earth argues that it won’t solve the problem entirely. There also needs to be a reduction in the number of vehicles on the road full stop.

If you live in a city, short term rental services like Zipcar and CoCars now include EV models, which can help supplement travelling by bike or public transport. While not having your own car is more difficult in rural or less well connected regions, improving access to safe cycling and walking routes and affordable public transport are issues that you can raise with your local council or MP.

How does the manufacturer protect planet and people throughout the supply chain?

Like fashion and smartphones, EV manufacturing is not without an environmental or human cost. EV batteries require rare earth metals and minerals that are mined in over-exploited countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo. Battery manufacturers are currently developing batteries that require less of these resources – and battery recycling schemes are also being introduced in Europe.

In the meantime, you could consider researching whether the manufacturers of the cars you’re interested in have policies in place to reduce environmental impact and protect workers’ rights and welfare, along with how stringently they follow these policies. Ethical Consumer is a good place to start for this.

And, just like with clothing and smartphones, buying a second hand EV could not only be more affordable, but more ethical as well.

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