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Buying an electric car guide

If you’re thinking of going electric with your next vehicle, it’s good to know what the facts are before you start. Read our useful guide to help you avoid any nasty shocks you weren’t expecting.

Electric or hybrid?

 

An electric vehicle (EV) is powered purely by a battery. You charge it by plugging it into a charging point, either at home, which you’ll need to install - government grants could also be available for this or a publicly available point typically found at places of work, supermarkets and some garages or motorway service stations. Driving ranges of EVs can be lower than petrol or diesel cars, although many now do more than 200 miles on a single charge. However, there are no exhaust emissions, so EVs are considered a very green type of transport.

A hybrid car has both a normal engine and a battery. Two types are available: plug-in hybrids and self-charging hybrids. The engine charges the battery as you drive on self-charging models, while plug-in models need a charging point. The electric battery is generally used for lower speed, shorter journeys, like driving around town, and the engine will take over for longer trips. Sometimes the electric motor will kick in to help the engine when you’re accelerating. Emissions are lower and fuel efficiency is usually better than you get with a normal car.  

Benefits at a glance…

Electric cars

  • No exhaust emissions
  • Lower running costs
  • Road tax exempt
  • Congestion charge free
  • Often come with latest tech.

Hybrid cars

  • Lower carbon emissions
  • Improved fuel economy
  • Reduced road tax
  • Greater driving range.

… more features and benefits

  

Electric vehicle

Plug-in hybrid

Self-charging hybrid

  

Carbon emissions

Electric vehicle

No

Plug-in hybrid

Low

Self-charging hybrid

Low

  

Rechargeable battery

Electric vehicle

Yes

Plug-in hybrid

Yes

Self-charging hybrid

Yes

  

Combustion engine

Electric vehicle

No

Plug-in hybrid

Yes

Self-charging hybrid

Yes

  

Road tax

Electric vehicle

No

Plug-in hybrid

Yes (reduced)

Self-charging hybrid

Yes (reduced)

  

Congestion charge free

Electric vehicle

Yes

Plug-in hybrid

Yes

Self-charging hybrid

Yes

  

Reduced maintenance costs

Electric vehicle

Yes

Plug-in hybrid

No

Self-charging hybrid

No

  

Similar performance to combustion engine vehicle

Electric vehicle

Yes

Plug-in hybrid

Yes

Self-charging hybrid

Yes

Frequently asked questions

Electric cars

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

There are a few ways to charge an electric car, and how long they all take exactly depends on the size of the car’s battery. To do it at home, you’ll need a charging station fitted (it’s much quicker and safer than plugging in to your regular electricity supply, although you can do this too). A 3kW unit will typically take around 8-12 hours to fully charge an electric car, while a 7kW unit will take 4-8 hours.

If you’re out and about, you can plug into a public charging station. Many of these are rapid chargers that can get your power levels up in around 20-40 minutes.

How much do electric cars cost to charge?

This depends on your electricity supplier, the vehicle you’re charging and when you do it. Unit costs are usually lower in the evening and night time, so it’s best to do your charging then. You might also want to consider switching to a renewable energy supplier to make running your car as green as possible. Some companies offer specific EV tariffs.

Public charging units usually require you to have a subscription to use them, but pay-as-you-go stations are available. Some supermarkets and public car parks offer free charging, as do lots of work places. Whatever you pay will almost always work out cheaper than petrol or diesel. Apps, such as Zap-Map and PlugShare, can help you find which chargers are local to you, how much they charge and how to pay.

How far can an electric car go?

Again, this depends on the vehicle. You’ll usually get a shorter range than with petrol or diesel, but things are getting better as technology improves. In fact, many cars now do more than 200 miles on a single charge, including small city cars and premium SUVs

Hybrid cars

How do hybrid cars work?

These vehicles combine an electric battery with a normal diesel or petrol engine. The power for the battery is generated by the engine and a system called regenerative braking technology, which reuses the energy usually lost by braking, or they have a plug-in rechargeable battery. Power switches between the two automatically or you can choose to use battery only on a short drive.

How long do batteries last in a hybrid car?

You’ll get a lot less zero-emission range with a plug-in hybrid battery than with an all-electric vehicle, but you’ll have a greater range overall with a full tank of fuel as well. Self-charging hybrid batteries get powered up as you drive, so they’ll never run out of charge.

Do you pay vehicle tax on hybrid cars?

Yes. How much depends on the individual model, but as a rule you can expect to pay £10 per year less than the petrol or diesel equivalent of your vehicle.

How much is an electric vehicle or hybrid car?

The cost of an electric or hybrid car is totally dependent on the make and model you choose. They are usually more expensive to buy their equivalent petrol or diesel car. However, the total cost of ownership can be equivalent or lower when taking into account fuel savings, tax and lower maintenance costs. Government grants are also currently available on vehicles costing less than £50,000.

Bear in mind

  • Home charging unit costs need to be added to the vehicle price
  • Manufacturers and dealers sometimes offer an incentive for trading in a petrol or diesel car for an electric model
  • Not all finance options support electric or hybrid cars, so check beforehand.

Flexible finance available

Not sure how car finance works or which type would suit you best? Read our helpful guides to find out what you need to know.

Car finance options

Things to consider

  • Think about whether a fully electric car, a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid would best suit your needs
  • Do your homework beforehand. There are lots of online forums and websites about electric cars and what to ask dealers
  • As with any car, take your time and make sure you check everything thoroughly before you buy.

Test driving an electric car

As with any car you’re thinking of buying, it’s essential to take an EV or hybrid out for a test drive beforehand. There are things you should do when you take any car out for a spin, as well as ones that only apply to electric vehicles.

On the test drive

  • Sit in your normal driving position and check you can see all the dials clearly and reach the pedals comfortably
  • Switch all the electric things on (radio, Satnav, air con etc.) to check how fast they drain the battery
  • Drive on as many different road surfaces as you can and have a go at reversing and parking
  • If you can borrow the car for a few days, check out the range of the battery to see if suits your needs.

After you’ve finished

  • Have a look at how the battery charges, so you know how to do it at home
  • Ask about replacement battery costs, and servicing prices
  • See if there are any discounts available for buying an electric car.

Other considerations

If you’re test driving a used electric car, make sure you check the paperwork and the condition of the vehicle, including the bodywork, interior and tyres. Look out for warning lights coming on during the test drive and that everything works as it should. Have a peer under the bonnet on used hybrids too – is the cam belt or engine showing signs of wear and tear? Check the oil and other fluids are topped up fully.

Take your time and don’t be pressured by the salesman whatever car you’re thinking of buying. It’s always a good idea to sleep on such a big decision and consider everything carefully before you go ahead.

Ready to apply?

You have decided that car finance is the way to fund your next car purchase. Lloyds Bank gives you:

  • an agreement of up to 5 years
  • two different choices of plan (PCP or HP)
  • the comfort that the funds are sent directly to the car dealer.
 
You can apply if you're:
  • a Lloyds Bank main Personal Current Account holder (minimum 3 months)
  • registered for Internet Banking
  • aged 18 or over
  • a UK resident.

Credit is subject to status and additional affordability checks.

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