A beginner’s guide to buying electric cars in 2021

Competence? I thought range was the big concern

It’s true that many people’s primary concern with an electric car is range – but don’t forget about efficiency either. Thinking about the first without considering the second is like thinking about the size of your car’s gas tank without considering the fuel consumption.

The problem is, it’s easy for a manufacturer to add range to a vehicle by installing a larger battery. But a larger battery adds weight, and that extra weight could mean these longer range electric cars are less efficient and therefore cost you more to run, especially if you constantly use chargers.

How do I find out about the efficiency of an electric car?

Most manufacturers now list efficiency figures in their brochures; If you can’t find the number, ask the seller instead.

Different manufacturers use different units to measure energy efficiency, but here Telegram We decided that using miles per kilowatt-hour (mpkWh) was the simplest. This makes it easy to calculate how much a trip in an electric car will cost you: just divide the trip distance in miles by the efficiency figure in mpkWh and then multiply by your electricity rate in kWh.

What is kilowatt hour?

The kilowatt-hour, or kWh, is a unit of energy: 1kWh is enough energy to power an electrical device (in this case a car) with a power rating of 1,000 watts or 1 kilowatt (kW) for one hour.

It can help to think of a kilowatt hour as a liter of fuel. Your battery (or fuel tank) can only hold so much; when run out, the car will stop.

If you have a larger battery (i.e. one with a higher kWh rating), it will hold more charge – or fuel – and your vehicle will travel more.

But all the same, if your EV is more efficient, it will travel more with fewer kilowatt-hours, so it will cost you less and you don’t need that big battery.

Is charging an EV as complicated as it sounds?

Maybe, but it’s getting easier. Many public chargers today will offer instant payments via an app, so while you don’t need a subscription like they used to, many are now starting to offer contactless credit and debit card payments as well.

The network is still not as reliable as it should be as users are complaining of a high rate of not working chargers, but it is still improving and reliability should increase as newer chargers are launched across the country.

You also had to worry about what type of charging socket your car was using – there were several at one point – but now most manufacturers have standardized it around a certain type called a Type 2/CCS charger. Almost every charging point will now be compatible with this type of charger.

How easy is it to install a charger at home?

A lot. It will set you back around £800 (although there is another government grant here that gives you a discount on the cost, bringing that price down to around £300). Most chargers come with included hardware and an engineer will install it for you.

You said it takes a long time to charge an electric car, but how much?

You won’t be in and out as fast as you stop for fuel, that’s for sure. But you will not “refuel” in the same way. Think of an electric car a bit like your smartphone: It’s best to plug it in to charge at night, so it’s full when you want to use it in the morning.

If your car needs more juice during the day, a quick blast of a fast charger will be enough to get you to your destination. Some of the fastest chargers currently being installed can charge at very high speeds – adding nearly 100 miles to your EV’s range in just 10 minutes.

Sounds great – can any electric car use these faster chargers?

No. An electric car can only charge at a certain rate, which is limited to onboard charging equipment. Today, the fastest public chargers in the UK are capable of charging at 150kW.

Charge speeds are measured in kilowatts (kW) – think of them as the number of kilowatt-hours you can add to your car battery in an hour. So during this time the 50kW fast charger will add 50kWh to the battery.

However, if your EV can only charge at 50kW, that will charge the fastest, even if you’re connected to a 150kW charger. So if you want to charge your car twice as fast, you need a car that can be charged quickly.


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