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Electric Cars: Your Common Questions Answered

Find answers to our most commonly asked questions about electric car leasing. 

What is the difference between an electric and hybrid car?

The main difference between an electric and hybrid car is how the vehicle is powered.

As the name implies, an electric vehicle (EV) is powered solely by an electric motor. Unlike a traditional combustion vehicle which is fuelled by petrol or diesel, electric cars are powered by taking electricity from the grid when you plug them into a charge point. The electricity is stored in the vehicle's rechargeable batteries, powering the electric motor and turning the wheels.

A hybrid car is a partly electrified vehicle that combines an electric motor and an internal combustion engine (petrol or diesel) to power the vehicle. Usually, in a hybrid, the electric motor powers the car at lower speeds and the gas engine powers it at higher speeds. There are three types of hybrid cars available in the UK: full hybrids, plug-in hybrids (PHEV) and mild-hybrids (MHEV).

You can find out more about electric cars in our benefits of an electric car guide which includes an electric vs hybrid comparison. 

Are there different types of electric cars?

There are three main types of electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). 

Both electric and hybrids rely on electric mobility, but in different ways.

Full electric cars are always powered solely by electric motors meaning they have zero emissions and are almost entirely silent when moving. This isn't the case for hybrid vehicles, such as PHEVs and full hybrids (HEVs), as they also use a traditional gasoline engine (petrol or diesel) to power the car. As such, they cause pollution and noise, just like a regular vehicle.

Electric and hybrid cars also differ in running costs. The reduced cost per kilometre of an electric vehicle makes them more economical in daily use than hybrid cars. Plus, their mechanical system is more straightforward, so they require less complex maintenance.

You can read more about electric cars differ from diesel and petrol cars in our benefits of an electric car guide.

How do I charge an electric car?

You will need to plug an electric car into a charging point, also known as an EV charging station, to charge an electric vehicle. This is a unit that provides electric energy to recharge your vehicle's battery. 

An EV charge point works similarly to charging any other electrical device, like your mobile phone. You simply plug the car's charging cable into the electrical socket and wait for the vehicle to reach the required charge amount.

In the UK, there are four different types of charging options you can use:

  • At home, using a three-pin domestic plug (3kW) or wallbox home EV charge unit (7kW - 22kW)
  • At work using a commercial wallbox charging unit (7kW - 22kW)
  • At public locations like retail shopping centres using a fast public charger (7kW, 11kW or 22kW)
  • At motorway service stations using a rapid public charger (50kW - 120kW)

If you are still unsure, check out our electric car charging points guide to answer any questions you have about electric car charging.

Do I need to install an EV charging point at home?

It's entirely up to you whether you choose to install an electric charging point at your home. Most EV drivers prefer to charge an electric vehicle at home during the night to benefit from lower electricity costs and less vehicle downtime, however, this is a personal choice. You may prefer to charge your vehicle at one of the UK's 10,000+ public charging points or at a different address such as your workplace. 

If you plan to install a home EV charger, the price of the unit depends on several factors, including:

  • The type of unit (e.g. Universal or Tethered)
  • The type of installation required (e.g. standard or bespoke)
  • The speed of the charger (e.g. 3.6kW, 7kW or 22kW)

You also may be eligible for a government grant to help with the cost of installing a home EV charger. The Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) covers 75% (up to the value of £350) of the cost of installing and buying a 'smart' wallbox charger.

Check out our electric car charging costs guide to learn more about home charging, or take advantage of our special smart home EV charge offer with Project EV from £249 in Scotland or £499 in England and Wales (eligibility and exclusions apply).

Where do I find electric car charging points?

There are over 10,000 public EV charging points across the UK, offering a range of charging options from 3kW lamp post chargers to 50kW to 120kW rapid chargers. This is set to increase with 700 new EV charging locations added in the past year alone.

The easiest way to find your nearest electric vehicle charging point is to download an EV charge point map, such as Zap-Map, to view what EV charging points are local to you.

OpenChargeMap also offers a handy online tool in which you can enter your location into the search bar at the top to find out where your nearest electric charging station is. 

Our handy electric vehicle charging guide has more information about the different electric car charging stations and where to find them. 

Are electric vehicle charging points all the same?

When charging an electric vehicle, several different connectors can plug your vehicle into a charge point. These connectors vary based on their power rating and their compatibility with the car.

Most electric cars have a Type 1 or Type 2 connector for 3kW to 22kW charging and a CCS or CHAdeMO connector for DC rapid charging. Tesla vehicles, however, use Type 2 connectors for DC rapid charging.

Thankfully, unlike a petrol or diesel car, it's virtually impossible to use the wrong charger in an EV as it simply won't fit. However, you still need to check that your vehicle is compatible with the charger. 

On apps such as ZapMap, you can add the electric car you drive into your settings, and the app will automatically show you compatible chargers nearby. 

Check out our helpful electric car charging points guide to read more about the different types of EV charge points available and the importance of charging your electric vehicle correctly.

How long does it take to charge the battery?

The time it takes to charge an electric car varies depending on several factors, including the size of the car's battery and the speed of the charging point. 

Average EV charge times for the different types of charge points are: 

  • 3.7kW Charger: From empty to full in 14 hours
  • 7kW Fast Charger: From empty to full in seven hours
  • 50kW Rapid Charger: From empty to 80% in 60 minutes

Other factors that affect charging times include the size of the vehicle's battery, the state of the battery (e.g. how much charge is already in the battery), the vehicle's maximum charging rate and the weather conditions. 

Does an electric car need less maintenance?

Unlike traditional petrol or diesel cars, which have expensive exhaust systems, starter motors, fuel injection systems and radiators to maintain, electric vehicles have fewer moving parts which can make them easier - and cheaper - to maintain. 

However, it is worth noting that you must continue to service and maintain your electric vehicle regularly to keep it safe and legal on the road. Conventional parts like brakes, tyres and windscreen wipers will need regular maintenance as any standard vehicle would.  

You can read more about how to care for your electric vehicle in our handy Electric Car Maintenance guide. 

Does an electric car need oil?

Electric cars use a completely different drivetrain to traditional petrol and diesel engines, meaning they don't need engine oil. They do, however, use oil inside their reduction gearboxes, which may need to be changed over the vehicle's lifespan.

It is also worth noting that while electric cars do not require engine oil, it is important that other fluids in the vehicle, such as the coolant, brake fluid, and windshield washing fluid, are checked and topped up regularly.

You can read more about how to care for your electric vehicle in our handy Electric Car Maintenance guide. 

Do electric cars need servicing?

Like a petrol or diesel vehicle, an electric car needs to be serviced regularly, in line with the manufacturer's guidelines. An electric car service checks parts that may wear down over time and use and helps maintain the car's performance, safety, efficiency, and reliability.

When leasing an electric car with Nationwide Vehicle Contracts, you can choose to add a vehicle maintenance package to your agreement which includes all service scheduling, replacement tyres, MOT, and other repair costs required during the contract term. 

Do electric cars need an MOT?

Like any vehicle used on public roads, electric cars have to pass an MOT after three years old. MOTs are a legal requirement, and make sure your vehicle meets roadworthiness and environmental standards. If your car successfully passes its MOT test, then a certificate will be issued, and this lasts for one year. 

Our handy electric car maintenance guide tells you all about the MOT process for an electric vehicle and how it differs from an MOT for a petrol or diesel-engined car. 

How long does the battery last for on an electric car?

Depending on the manufacturer, electric car batteries typically last for up to 100,000 miles or eight years of use. This is due to battery degradation over time, a natural process that reduces the amount of energy a battery can store. They also need regular maintenance to guarantee a long lifespan. 

Most vehicle manufacturers offer a warranty that covers your battery's lifespan. For instance, Nissan has introduced a battery replacement scheme for its electric cars in the UK, including its Nissan LEAF range. The replacement is priced at around £5,000, and buyers will also receive £1,000 cashback for their old battery. 

For more information on electric car battery maintenance and lifespan, read our electric car maintenance guide.

What is an electric car like to drive?

If you've never driven an electric car before, it may feel different to driving a traditional petrol or diesel car. Firstly, as pure electric vehicles (EVs) don't have an exhaust system, they produce almost no engine noise. This means the driving experience is near-silence. 

Secondly, thanks to their responsive electric motors, electric cars offer fast acceleration. This means they are often quick off the mark and can pick up a good speed when on the move. 

Finally, as an electric motor doesn't require gears, almost all EVs are automatics. This means there's no clutch and no possibility of stalling, unlike a manual car.

Are electric cars manual or automatic?

Almost all electric vehicles are automatic because an electric motor doesn't require gears. This means there's no clutch and no possibility of stalling, unlike a manual car. 

You can read more about how electric cars differ to petrol and diesel cars in our handy Electric Car Maintenance guide. 

Are electric cars exempt from London's Congestion Charges?

Currently, full-electric vehicles are exempt from London's congestion charges as they qualify for the Cleaner Vehicle Discount (also known as the Ultra Low Emission Discount). 

Check out our guide to Ultra-Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) for more eligibility information.

Is each mile cheaper with an electric than with a petrol or diesel?

The cost of charging an electric car in the UK varies between home, work, and public, just like fuel costs vary between filling stations. 

Typically, an electric car is cheaper to run per mile than a petrol or diesel car as electricity is cheaper than petrol or diesel fuels. For example:

  • A Hyundai Kona 1.0-Litre petrol costs around 14.8p to fuel, cost per mile (£118 fuel cost per month)
  • A Hyundai Kona Electric costs around 3.5p to fuel, cost per mile (£28 fuel cost per month)

To help you compare costs easily, check out our electric car charging costs guide, which talks you through the difference in charging costs and the best method for your electric vehicle.

Are electric cars better for the environment?

Electric cars drastically reduce your carbon footprint and help to reduce air pollution considerably, versus a traditional petrol or diesel car.

As pure electric vehicles (EVs) don't have an exhaust system, they produce no carbon dioxide and zero tailpipe emissions when driving. This means they do not emit toxic gases or smoke in the environment like a traditional petrol or diesel car. This helps improve air quality in towns and cities and means you can take advantage of government grants and tax incentives for EVs, including zero road tax rates to help reduce the total cost of ownership.

You can read more about the environmental benefits of an electric car in our benefits of an electric car guide. 

Which electric car has the longest range?

The Tesla Model S Long Range AWD Auto Saloon has the longest range for an electric vehicle on the market. Thanks to its huge lithium-ion cells and unique aerodynamic design, the market-leading Model S has a 370-mile range.

You can view a list of the best electric cars with a long range from one charge in our electric cars with the longest range guide.

Which electric car is the cheapest?

The cheapest electric car on the market is the Skoda CITIGOe iV, which costs around £15,000 with the Government's £3,500 plug-in car grant. 

If the Skoda CITIGOe iV isn't for you, there are plenty more low-cost options to choose from our Top 10 Cheapest Electric Cars guide, from the Seat Mii Electric to the Fiat 500 Electric Hatchback. 

Want to know more about electric car leasing?

Visit our electric car guide hub for more information, check out our full range of electric vehicles to lease or call Nationwide Vehicle Contracts on 0345 811 9595 to speak to an electric car leasing specialist. 

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