The beginner’s guide to buying an electric car


Efficiency? I thought range was the big concern

It’s true that range is the number one concern many people have with an electric car, but don’t forget about efficiency either. Considering the first without thinking about the second is like worrying about the size of your car’s gas tank without thinking about its fuel consumption.

The problem is that, for a manufacturer, it is easy to add range to a car by simply equipping it with a bigger battery. But a bigger battery adds weight, and that extra weight can mean these longer-range electric cars are less efficient and therefore cost you more to run, especially if you use public chargers all the time.

How to know the efficiency of an electric car?

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

Different manufacturers use different units to measure energy efficiency, but here at The telegraph we have decided that it is easier to use miles per kilowatt-hour (mpkWh). This makes it easy to calculate how much an electric car ride will cost you: just divide the distance traveled in miles by the efficiency figure in mpkWh, then multiply by your electricity rate in kWh.

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What is a kilowatt hour?

A kilowatt-hour, or kWh, is a unit of energy: 1 kWh is enough to run an electrical appliance (in this case, a car) rated at 1,000 watts, or 1 kilowatt (kW), for a hour.

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

If you have a bigger battery (meaning a battery with a higher kWh rating), it will hold more charge – or fuel – and your car will travel farther.

But also, if your EV is more efficient, it will travel farther with fewer kilowatt hours, so it will cost you less and you won’t need as big a battery.

Is charging an electric vehicle as complicated as it seems?

It’s possible, but it gets easier. Many public chargers these days offer instant payment via an app so you don’t need to have a subscription like you used to, while many are now starting to offer contactless card payment as well credit and debit.

The network is still not as reliable as it should be with users complaining of a high rate of inoperative chargers, but again this is improving and reliability should improve as well. as new chargers are rolled out across the country.

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It used to be that you also had to worry about what type of charging socket your car used – there were several at one time – but now most manufacturers have standardized around one particular type, called a Type 2/CCS charger . Almost all charging points will now be compatible with this type of charger.

Is it easy to have a charger installed at home?

Very. Again, the government has withdrawn a grant to help EV buyers install a home charger, but this will cost you between £800 and £1,000. Most chargers will come with equipment included in the price, and an engineer will install it for you, while most car manufacturers will help arrange the installation.

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

You won’t get in and out as fast as you would stop to refuel, that’s for sure. But you won’t fill up the same way either. Think of an electric car as being a bit like your smartphone: it’s best plugged in to charge overnight so that when you want to use it in the morning, the battery is full.

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If your car needs more juice during the day, a quick hit on a fast charger should provide enough to get you where you need to go. Some of the fastest chargers currently installed can charge at tremendous speeds, adding around 100 miles to your electric vehicle’s range in just 10 minutes.

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

No. An electric car can only be charged at a certain rate and this is limited by its on-board charging equipment. Today, the fastest public chargers in the UK are capable of charging at 150kW.

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

But if your EV is only capable of receiving a charge at 50kW, that’s the fastest charge it will charge at, even if you’re hooked up to a 150kW charger. So if you want to charge your car in record time, you need one that can be charged quickly.



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