Help! Which electric vehicle is right for me?

Confused about electric vehicles? Wonder no more! We sort the hybrids from the BEVs and PHEVs, and help you decide which would suit you best.

Electric vehicles and battery charged cars are becoming increasingly popular. This year, the UK has overtaken France to become the second biggest electric car market in Europe, and plug-in cars now account for over 13.9% of the UK market, up from 7.3% last year. That’s despite the pandemic causing a huge a slump in car sales in 2020, which dropped to their lowest levels since 1992.


Electric vehicle types explained

While the environmental benefits of electric vehicles are undeniable, it can be complicated deciding which one would be best for you. Unlike traditional fossil-fuelled vehicles that offer a binary choice between petrol and diesel, there’s a wider range of electric car types to decide between before selecting the exact model to go for.


1. BEVS – or Battery Electric Vehicles

Powered exclusively by electricity, these produce zero exhaust emissions, so you don’t pay road tax. Charging stations refuel their batteries, which can also be topped up through regenerative braking – this is when the electric motor is put into reverse during braking.

According to government data, there were 245,000 pure electric cars on the roads by the end of April 2021. Prices start from around £20,000 for models by Skoda, Smart and Seat, while the most popular is the Tesla Model 3 which starts from £40,000. Our BEV partners include the luxurious Lexus UX300e, Vauxhall’s more compact Mokka-e and the Toyota PROACE van.

Pros:

  • Cost-efficient to run

  • Quiet and smooth to drive

  • Cheaper to service – a lack of traditional components means there’s less that can go wrong

Cons:

  • Although improving, range is comparatively limited but you’ll still get around 200 miles per charge

  • Can be more expensive to buy

  • Long charging times


2. HEVs – or Hybrid Electric Vehicles

These are powered by a combination of an electric battery (smaller than those in BEVs) and a conventional petrol or diesel engine, which kicks in once the battery is depleted to continue driving seamlessly. Like BEVs, these self-charging hybrids power up through regenerative braking, but don’t need to be plugged in.

HEVs are the most popular electric vehicles, with over half a million on the road in 2020 – that’s over five times the number BEVs. Pricing is similar too, starting in the £18,000-£25,000 range, and models include the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, Ford C-Max and Honda CR-Z.

Pros:

  • Economical to run for stop-start city driving

  • Can be exempt from road tax, depending on how much CO2 it produces

  • No recharging needed

Cons:

  • Low range when using electricity alone – only 20-50 miles

  • Poor fuel economy on longer journeys as the batteries are heavy

  • The combustion engine means servicing is more expensive than for BEVs


3. PHEVs – or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Also known as EREVs (Extended Range Electric Vehicles), these have larger batteries than HEVs, and can also be plugged in like BEVs. They also have a combustion engine, which both serves as a generator to recharge the battery, and to take over once it’s depleted.

With around 270,000 on the road as of April 2021, PHEVs are slightly more popular than BEVs, although the starting prices are slightly higher, starting in the £30,000-£35,000 range. If a PHEV is right for you, then you might want to check out our partners. These include Ford Kuga (which is also available as a HEV) and the Toyota RAV4 SUV.

Pros:

  • Economical to run on short journeys

  • Longer range than BEVs

  • Needs a chargepoint to fully recharge, unlike HEVs

Cons:

  • Limited range when using electricity alone

  • Poor fuel economy on longer journeys

  • Similar servicing issues and road tax issues as HEVs


Choosing the right electric vehicle for you

As well as looking at the pros and cons of each type, here are some questions to ask yourself about your lifestyle and needs that could also help you to decide which sort of electric vehicle is right for you:

  • How often do you drive?

  • How many miles do you drive daily, weekly and monthly?

  • Are you usually driving short distances, or do you make regular long journeys?

  • Do you have a driveway or garage where you can install a chargepoint to recharge an electric vehicle?

  • Are there public charging stations nearby?

  • Do you need a faster charging option, or can you do it overnight?

  • Will you be buying imminently, or can you wait a couple of years to see how the technology and infrastructure improves?

> Learn more about our electrical vehicle tariff

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