12 things everyone’s asking about EVs

Woman in a blue jacket and wearing a green backpack is charging her car with electric power in front of a brown brick house using a Hive EV Charger attached to the wall

Electric vehicles are becoming more and more common on our roads – and for good reason. They’re much better for the planet and can even work out cheaper to run than petrol or diesel cars.

But if you’re a complete EV novice, they can be a bit tricky to get your head around. That’s why we’ve answered 12 of the most commonly asked questions to help you understand what they are and how they work. And who knows, maybe your next car could be an EV?

What is an electric vehicle?

An electric vehicle (or EV for short) is exactly that – a vehicle that’s either solely or partially powered by electricity stored in rechargeable batteries.

There are three types of electric vehicle, and they each have their own benefits:

  • Battery electric vehicles, or BEVs

  • Plug-in hybrids, or PHEVs

  • Hybrids, or HEVs

Not sure which is which?

> Find out which EV is right for you

How do EVs work?

Fully electric vehicles use an electric motor, instead of an internal combustion engine, to turn the wheels. The all-important electricity is stored in a rechargeable battery and its fed to the motor via the controller.

EVs don’t need a clutch or gears, so you won’t find a gearbox inside. That’s because electric motors can achieve much higher revs at any speed – up to 20,000 revs per minute compared to just 4,000-6,000 of a standard fuel engine. It’s why EVs tend to accelerate really well, as all the ‘pulling power’ is available as soon as you put your foot down.

How does an electric motor work?

Electric motors are pretty complex, especially if it’s been a while since your last science exam! Technically, they convert electrical energy into mechanical energy using magnets. But really, all you need to know is they take electricity stored in the onboard battery to turn the wheels of the car, allowing you to drive it.

Most EVs have just the one electric motor, but four-wheel drive models have two, one on each axle, to drive each set of wheels.

How do electric vehicle batteries work?

Most EVs use lithium-ion batteries as they offer a longer range and hold energy better than other battery types. They’re actually the same sort of batteries as the ones in your laptop or phone, and they’re ideal because they’re quick, efficient and can be charged thousands of times.

Once charged up, the electricity stored in the battery pack is then fed to the electric motor via the controller. This controller manages the flow of electricity from the battery to the motor, making it possible to control your speed in the same way you would in a petrol or diesel car.

How do you charge an electric vehicle?

Fully-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles need to be plugged in to charge the battery, either at a special EV charger or a domestic plug socket (although that’s not always recommended).

The time it takes to charge depends on the type of charger you use and the size of your battery, but rapid charging points can fill most batteries to 80% in less than an hour.

There are more and more public charge points springing up at petrol stations, car parks and even on streetlamps throughout the UK, but if you have a driveway you can install your own. It’s usually cheaper, more convenient and means you can charge up using greener energy.

How far can an EV travel on one charge?

This is the question on everyone’s lips when it comes to EVs. It’s even been given its own name: ‘range anxiety’. But there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on the size of the battery, the car’s age, how fast you drive it – it can even be affected by the weather!

Some of the pricier models can go 300-400 miles on a single charge, but most tend to reach between 150 and 250 miles before needing to be plugged in. Of course, this will go up as the technology improves – so watch this space.

Where does the electricity come from – and is it free?

Just like with anything that needs plugging in, the electricity comes from the National Grid – it’s the same as what boils your kettle and powers those box set binges! Some shops, workplaces and businesses offer free charging for electric vehicles, but you’ll need to pay via an app to use most public charge points.

By far the most convenient way to charge an EV is with your own at-home charger. Dedicated EV tariffs offer cheaper rates for electricity, and if you have a smart charger like Hive EV Charging, it’ll automatically charge in off-peak times when there’s more chance of getting renewable electricity from the grid. That not only makes it cheaper, but greener too.

What is a hybrid?

A hybrid vehicle uses a combination of electricity and petrol or diesel to power your drive. They come in two different types: plug in hybrids and self-charging hybrids.

There are various pros and cons of choosing a hybrid or a fully-electric vehicle, and the one you choose will largely depend on your driving habits. Check out our guide to finding the right EV for you.

Why are electric vehicles better for the environment?

EVs have a huge role to play in creating a net zero future. They emit far fewer greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants than petrol or diesel cars – even when you take into account their production and generating the electricity needed to run them. And that’s better for our health and the planet.

The UK Government is actually set to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 – so the EV revolution may happen sooner than you think.

Is an EV more expensive than a petrol car?

Electric vehicles tend to have a higher price point to petrol cars since they use newer, more expensive technology and are made in much smaller numbers. But once you have one, they can actually be cheaper to run.

The cost of charging up the battery is far lower than filling up a tank of petrol or diesel, and many all-electric cars are actually tax-exempt. Servicing can be cheaper too, because there are fewer moving parts and there’s less that can go wrong.

At the moment, you’ll pay more to insure an EV versus a traditional fuel car, and that’s likely down to the expense of replacing some of the specialist parts. But as EVs become the norm, that should start to improve.

Do EVs still need an MOT and servicing?

Just like any other vehicle, EVs still need to pass an annual MOT once they’re three years old. The main difference is that there isn’t an emissions test, simply because they don’t produce any.

They also need regular servicing, but because there’s less that can go wrong compared to a petrol or diesel car, they often require less maintenance.

What happens if you run out of charge?

Running out of charge completely, known as ‘deep discharging’, can damage the battery, reducing its performance and its ability to hold charge. But your EV will give you plenty of notice if the battery’s running low, so it shouldn’t be too much of a worry.

If it does run out, the car will come to a stop and you won’t be able to drive any further. And since you can’t bring a can of fuel back from the petrol station, so you’ll need to get a recovery vehicle to take you to your nearest charge point.

Hive EV Charging has arrived to help you switch

We’re making it easier than ever to switch to an electric vehicle with Hive EV Charging. We’ll help you through the entire process, from a live virtual survey with a British Gas engineer before we install your charger, to taking care of the government grant paperwork for you.

And once you’re all set up, our smart charger will sync with your Hive app to charge your car in the cheapest, greenest way possible – all in just a tap.

> Find out more about Hive EV Charging

Dev Tools
AB tests