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google maps electric car charging

Google Maps now shows where to charge your electric car

google maps electric car charge

Google has provided a solution to the problem of where to charge your electric car. The latest version of its Google Maps navigation app comes complete with charging locations.

It’s an issue we’ve contended with regularly when testing electric cars. We’ve often found ourselves giving up and draping a wire across the pavement from home. 

Unless you’re local and know your charge points, or have done some research ahead of setting off, finding a suitable charging point for your electric car can be tricky. Google’s latest Maps update should, in theory, lessen this struggle by including charging locations in its database – as it already does for petrol stations.

How does the Google Maps update work?

electric car charge

All you need to do is search for a keyword like “EV charging” and the nearest supported stations will be displayed.

Information on the types of ports available, charge speeds and how many ports there are is included, too. As with most registered locations on Maps, users will be able to upload photos, plus rate and review these charge points. Any businesses that feature chargers will also be able to add information on them within the app, too.

Charge points included for the UK are Tesla superchargers, Chargemaster and Podpoint, and coverage also includes the USA, Australia and New Zealand. We assume that will only expand in the future.

The update is available now and we’re keen to test it out.

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Electric car MOT

How much does servicing an electric car cost – and is it cheaper?

Electric car servicing

A new study by automotive data experts Cap HPI has revealed the average servicing and maintenance costs for electric cars. It shows that EVs cost, on average, 23 percent less to run than petrol vehicles over a three-year/60,000-mile period.

For smaller cars, the gap gets wider still. An electric Renault Zoe will set you back £1,100 in servicing and maintenance over three years, but a Vauxhall Corsa 1.0 90 Design costs nearly £1,500. That’s more than 35 percent extra.

The Nissan Leaf, currently the best-selling EV in the UK, costs just under £1,200 over three years. Compare that to the VW Golf 1.0 TSI at £1,429 and you’re staring at a saving of nearly 20 percent.

The number of electric vehicles on the road has jumped by 128 percent over the past three years, with more than 21,000 drivers taking the leap between April 2015 and April 2018. Purchasing costs are still notably higher than a comparable petrol-powered car, but servicing is where you can potentially claw that back.

Electric car servicing

As for the most popular EVs, the Nissan Leaf leads the BMW i3, Volkswagen e-Golf and Renault Zoe in the sales charts.

“An electric car motor has far fewer moving parts than a petrol or diesel engine” said Chris Plumb, senior valuations editor at Cap HPI.

“While the purchase price is often higher at the moment, but coming down all the time, drivers will find an EV much cheaper to run, with significantly lower costs to charge rather than visiting the pumps  plus lower maintenance costs.”

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Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longestRange anxiety – the fear of not making it to your destination without recharging – is a big concern for those buying an electric vehicle (EV). We’ve done the research and ranked 20 battery EVs currently on sale in order of range when fully charged.

It’s important to note that we are listing purely battery-powered vehicles here, so plug-in hybrids are not included. The range figures are from New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) tests. A new ‘WLTP’ test-cycle is well on the way to phasing out NEDC results, and thus some of the newest cars on this list have estimated range results. Prices quoted include government EV grants where relevant.

Renault Twizy – NEDC range: 62 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

Is it a car? Well, technically the Renault Twizy is classed as a quadricycle, meaning it has to conform to limits on weight and power. Fitted with a 13kW (17hp) motor driving the rear wheels, the Twizy is capable of just 50mph. But being designed for city use suits it just fine, as does an NEDC range of 62 miles. Prices are also low, starting at £6,690, plus compulsory battery rental.

Citroen C-Zero – NEDC range: 93 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longestEssentially a rebadged version of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV – a car no longer sold in the UK – the C-Zero ups the power stakes to 49kW (67hp). The rear-mounted motor drives the back wheels, and is claimed to be capable of pushing the C-Zero to an 80mph top speed. Driving like that won’t help the 93-mile range, though. It costs from £16,020.

Peugeot iOn – NEDC range: 93 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

Identical to the C-Zero in looks and powertrain, the Peugeot iOn also matches its 93-mile NEDC range. Similarly, it takes nine hours to charge from a domestic plug socket, but can be topped up to 50% capacity in just 15 minutes when connected to a rapid charger. The iOn costs £15,995 – big money for a car that has made only a small impact on the UK electric car market.

Volkswagen e-Up – NEDC range: 99 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

Although Volkswagen is now fully embracing EVs, until very recently it chose to base electric cars on existing models. Out goes the regular petrol engine from the Up, and in comes a 60kW (82hp) electric motor powering the front wheels. Rapid charging will fill the 18.7kWh battery in just 30 minutes, and the e-Up enjoys a range of standard kit including parking sensors, cruise control and DAB radio. But, with a price of £21,140, this is a very expensive city car.

Smart EQ – NEDC range: 99 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

We’ve had the pleasure of little Smart cars on our roads for 20 years now. It seems like a car that should always have been electric-powered. As it happens, electric Smarts are available now, in three flavours no less: four-door ForFour, ForTwo Coupe and ForTwo Cabriolet. With less than 100 miles range, they’re not exactly long-distance haulers, but they’re certainly capable city cars. Pricey, though, with the ForTwo coupe kicking off the range from £20,920.

Volkswagen e-Golf – NEDC range: 144 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

It might look like a Golf but, as with the e-Up, this is anything but a normal VW underneath. There’s a 100kW (136hp) electric motor driving the front wheels, which makes the e-Golf capable of 0-62mph in mild-to-warm 9.6 seconds. The 214lb ft of torque also helps acceleration feel brisk, even if top speed is only 93mph. An NEDC range of 144 miles is just about reasonable, but the price is steep. The e-Golf starts from £32,730.

Morgan EV3 – NEDC range: 150 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

We’re still waiting on a finalised production version of this battery-powered Morgan 3 Wheeler, but it’s too cool not to include. Morgan claims the EV3 will have a range of 150 miles, along with the ability to hit 62mph in nine seconds and a top speed of 90mph. With a planned weight of less than 500kg, and packing a 20kWh battery, those figures are fully believable.

Kia Soul EV – NEDC range: 155 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

The Soul is a fairly unique looking vehicle to begin with, so Kia making it electric probably shouldn’t seem surprising. More startling is the price tag of £25,995. That represents a jump of more than £2,000 from the most expensive petrol-engined Soul, and makes this a direct competitor to premium rivals like the e-Golf. Notably, the EV still comes with a seven-year/100,000-mile warranty like any other Kia model, which is a big deal in the EV world.

Nissan e-NV200 Combi – NEDC range: 174 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

Ignore the fact it looks like a van, and that it even comes in van form. Nissan wants you to think of the e-NV200 Combi as an electric-powered people carrier. An ‘EVMPV’, if you will. With sliding rear doors, and seating for up to seven, it’s certainly one of the more practical ways to experience battery propulsion. The 0-62mph dash takes 14 seconds and top speed is just 76mph, but we doubt this is high on the list of priorities for any buyer – unlike the £30,480 list price.

Hyundai Ioniq Electric – NEDC range: 174 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

The Ioniq isn’t just one model. No, Hyundai has taken the path of building three versions of the same car: hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery EV. With an 88kW (120hp) motor, the Ioniq is one of the few lower-end models with a top speed exceeding 100mph – admittedly by just 3mph. It also features a Sport Mode, which drops the 0-62mph time to 9.9 seconds when engaged. Keenly priced at £25,745, the Ioniq shows the benefits of designing an EV from the ground up, rather than converting a conventionally-powered model.

BMW i3 42kwh – NEDC range: 225 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

If you want a motorsport-style carbon-fibre chassis, rear-wheel-drive and 19-inch alloy wheels, an electric car might not be your first choice. But those features are exactly what the BMW i3 offers, along with an NEDC range of 225 miles with the recently revised 42kWh battery pack. You’ll also get 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds, funky ‘suicide’ rear doors and the benefit of a premium badge. Prices for the updated model haven’t been confirmed yet, but the starting list price for the 33kwh car was £27,880.

Nissan Leaf 40kWh – NEDC range: 235 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

From £25,190, you now get an NEDC range of 235 miles in the new 2018 Leaf. The updated looks are less apologetic, the cabin is much more attractive and the real world range of 150 miles is workable. The second-generation Leaf is a major step on indeed. The e-Pedal makes driving easier than ever, too, with regenerative deceleration calibrated such that normal braking is just a matter of lifting off. What’s more, a 60kWh version with even more range should be here soon.

Renault Zoe R110 ZE 40 – NEDC range: 250+ miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

Fitted with the larger ZE 40 battery and now available with the new R110 motor, the Zoe can be charged from 0-80 percent in just 65 minutes via an appropriate charging station and will cover an NEDC-equivalent 250 miles – real world, that’s around 180 miles. The old Q90 motor is still available, although overall range is compromised slightly. The main question is whether you rent or buy the batteries. The former leaves a starting price of £18,420, the latter more than £24,000.

Mercedes-Benz EQC400 80kWh – NEDC range: 280 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

Beating the Audi E-tron to the punch was the EQC crossover SUV from Mercedes-Benz. Packing a comparatively small 80kWh battery, on balance, the EQC’s 280-ish NEDC equivalent range is impressive. While not using all of its 400hp, you can expect around 250 miles of real-world driving. Price-wise it shouldn’t be too far north of £60,000 when it arrives in 2019. Expect a veritable tidal wave of EQ-branded electric models from Mercedes going forward.

DS 3 Crossback E-Tense – NEDC range: 280 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

Fresh from its Paris Motor Show debut is the DS 3 Crossback E-Tense. It’s the car that suggests an EV variant should be the norm. It packs a 50kWh battery and is good for an NEDC-rated 280-mile range. Not bad, but not quite up there with certain Korean rivals. It’s got French style on its side, though. No prices just yet, athough it shouldn’t cost much more than the Hyundai/Kia dream team…

Audi E-tron 95kWh – NEDC range: 300+ miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

The freshly-revealed Audi E-Tron is a relatively late entry to the EV market for a marque that’s been so publicly curious about electric power over the last decade. Still, better late than never. The E-tron looks promising to say the least. An official NEDC number hasn’t actually been quoted, but based on Audi’s 250-280-mile post-homologation estimates, that could reasonably see it past an NEDC-rated 300 miles. As well as that, you get up to 400hp and cameras instead of wing mirrors for your £71,000 or so. It marks the start of a 12-car Audi EV onslaught.

Jaguar I-Pace – NEDC range: 336 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

The Jaguar I-Pace has the Germans licked for now. Not only has it got to market months earlier, it also offers what seems to be superior range. While Audi and Mercedes are talking about between 250 and 280 miles of homologated range, Jag was there months ago with 280+ real-world miles or 336 miles on the NEDC cycle. Couple that with 400hp and startling looks to make the relatively humdrum Germans fade into the background and you’ve got a leader in this fledgling £60,000-£80,000 premium EV segment.

Tesla Model X P100D – NEDC range: 336 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

There are of course many variants in the Tesla range. The 90D Model X will get you 303 miles of NEDC driving. If you really need to make six passengers vomit profusely, but with the guilt-free feeling of using electric power, the Model X P100D is what you need. The ‘P’ stands for performance, and means a 100kWh battery pack mated to uprated electric motors. The result is a range of 336 miles, but a 0-60mph time of 2.9 seconds is the bigger party-trick for this £129,200 SUV.

Hyundai Kona Electric 64kWh – NEDC range: 339 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

Devoid of I-Pace levels of fanfare, Tesla levels of hype or E-tron levels of teasing, comes the humble circa-£30,000 Hyundai Kona Electric 64kWh. It’s a silent revolution, obviously in terms of the powertrain but also in terms of fuss. It’s delivering premium EV range for half the price. You aren’t getting better range-per-pound anywhere else. There’s also a 40kWh model that manages an NEDC-rated 214 miles for around £5,000 less.

Kia e-Niro 64kWh – NEDC range: 339 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

Borrowing much from its Hyundai Kona Electric sister car, the Kia e-Niro is just as impressive. A circa-£30,000 price point when the 64kWh model arrives seems tall for a Kia. However, as with the Hyundai, it’s I-Pace-beating range for half the price. If you value substance over style, these Korean EV twins rule the world right now.

Tesla Model S 100D Dual Motor AWD – NEDC range: 393 miles

Going the distance: electric car range from shortest to longest

Forgo the need to get ‘Ludicrous’ with your Model S and you can save £41,900 – and gain an additional 12 miles in NEDC range. The long-distance EV still achieves supercar-rivalling performance and, at present, offers the furthest you can go in an EV on a single charge. As with all the cars featured here, remember the NEDC range is purely for comparison purposes. Real-world figures will vary due to weather, driving style, and traffic conditions.

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Green plate

Government debates green number plates for ‘green’ cars

Green plate

Your ‘green’ car may soon come with a green number plate, letting the world know you’re driving a clean vehicle – and giving you access to special low-emission vehicle lanes.

A forthcoming government consultation will discuss whether green plates could work in the UK. Similar schemes have been implemented in Norway, Canada and China in a bid to promote the uptake of cleaner vehicles.

It’s not just aesthetics, either. A road network crafted to reward low- and zero-emissions vehicles could use green number plates to identify cars that are allowed to use dedicated lanes and zones in cities. Plate scans could keep EV charging bays free of smog-makers looking for an easy parking spot, too.

“This new cleaner, greener transport has the potential to bring with it cleaner air, a better environment and stronger economies for countries around the world” said Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary.

Jaguar I-Pace

“Adding a green badge of honour to these new clean vehicles is a brilliant way of helping increase awareness of their growing popularity in the UK, and might just encourage people to think about how one could fit into their own travel routine.”

The Motoring Research view

Would we drive a zero-emission vehicle if it came complete with a green ‘badge of honour’ number plate?

Although the visual aspect feels somewhat trivial, the integration of green plates into a system that rewards owners is appealing.

Anything that helps cement a comprehensive electric and hybrid car infrastructure, and offers benefits for those who go green, gets a thumbs-up from us.

Renault Zoe

The announcement of these plans comes ahead of a multi-nation summit begining tomorrow (September 11) in Birmingham. It’s to be the first of its type dedicated to the discussion of zero-emissions vehicles.

The aim is to get international agreement on the so-called zero-emissions journey, charting uptake and integration of EVs and other low-polluting vehicles across the globe.

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Jaguar I-Pace

Most Brits will wait almost 10 YEARS before buying an electric car

Jaguar I-PaceThe emphasis on the transition to alternative fuel vehicles is intense. With diesel all but circling the drain, and talk of the 2040 combustion engine ban in the air, we all have to ask ourselves when we’ll take the leap into an electric car.

For many of us, that moment isn’t going to arrive any time soon.

That’s according to research conducted by Auto Trader. It found that drivers say they plan to wait an average of nine years before buying an electric car.

The research also discovered that motorists fall on both sides of the fence as to whether that 2040 ban is a good thing. While 20 percent were undecided, the remainder of the sample was evenly split in favour and against.

However, shockingly, nearly three quarters were not aware of the government assistance packages for buyers of electric cars and hybrids, such as the money-saving Plug-in Car Grant.

As for the recently-released Road to Zero report, over a third think it’s unrealistic to expect 50 percent of new cars sold to be electric by 2030.

The perceived price premiums, and what is seen as the inadequacy of the charging infrastructure, are why only one in four drivers would consider an EV or a hybrid for their next car.

i3

So what’s needed to convert buyers? In short, awareness, education, incentive and reassurance. We need to know what’s available, know that it’s viable and have good reasons to buy over what we’re used to.

The UK’s charging infrastrucutre needs to be improved, and confusing electric car terminology eliminated. 

“There’s no doubt that electric vehicles are the future,” said Auto Trader editorial director Erin Baker.

“However, our research indicates that there are still significant barriers to adoption, with greater investment in infrastructure and technology needed.

“It’s also crucial that car manufacturers and the government alike ensure that language to describe electric cars is clear and accessible, rather than laden with technological jargon that consumers may find alienating.”

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Audi E-tron

2018 Audi E-tron first ride review: electric SUV charges (literally) down a mountain

The new Audi E-tron is all-electric SUV to rival the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X. We’re among the first to experience it

Electric car wallbox charger

Electric car owners will be encouraged to charge at off-peak times

Electric car wallbox charger

Owners of electric vehicles will be encouraged to recharge cars at times when electricity is cheaper, energy regulator Ofgem has announced. 

According to the analysis published today, Ofgem says that if owners use ‘flexible charging’, where they only top up during off-peak times, at least 60 percent more EVs could be charged up compared with ‘inflexible charging’, where EVs are only charged at peak times.

This, the regulator claims, would avoid the need to upgrade the network structure. To achieve this, Ofgem is proposing the adoption of so-called ‘time of use’ tariffs, with cheaper electricity when there is less strain on the grid.

The flexible use of the grid will also accommodate more renewable forms of energy, such as wind and solar power.

Britain braced for a ‘radical transformation’

Jonathan Brearley, executive director, systems and networks, Ofgem, said: “Ofgem is working with the government to support the electric vehicle revolution in Britain, which can bring big benefits to consumers. Our reforms will help more users charge their electric vehicles and save them money. 

“The proposals we have announced today will also harness the benefits of electric vehicles and other new technologies to help manage the energy system and keep costs down for all consumers. The way we generate, transport and use electricity – and power our cars – is undergoing a radical transformation in Great Britain.

“Ofgem will ensure that the energy system is fit for this exciting, cleaner future and at the lowest cost for consumers.”

Responding to a question about all EVs plugging in at the same time, Tom Callow, director of communications and strategy at Chargemaster, tweeted: “I hate to alarm you, but if we all boiled our kettles at precisely the same time, the grid would not cope.

“But, guess what? Just like the scenario where all EVs are charging at precisely the same time… it will not happen!”

To benefit from the incentives, EV drivers will require a smart meter installed at their home, as well as an electric charger. Ofgem says it will work with the industry to overhaul energy system rules, and hopes to put the reforms in place between 2022 and 2023.

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Jaguar I-Pace

“You can’t take an EV to a car wash” and other electric car myths

Jaguar I-Pace

For all the buzz around electrically-powered motoring, it’s something of a shock to note how many urban myths around electric cars still prevail. Go Ultra Low has published research showing the scale of the nation’s misconceptions about electric, chief among which is the belief that you can’t take an EV to a car wash.

To nip the question in the bud, you most certainly can take an EV to a car wash, or indeed expose it to water in any way you would a conventional car. According to Elon Musk, you can go further still. The Tesla boss claimed in a tweet that the Model S “floats well enough to turn it into a boat for short periods of time” with “Thrust via wheel rotation”. Amphicar, eat your heart out…

On the extreme contrary, according to Go Ultra Low, as many as 42% of Brits wouldn’t be sure if they could run a battery-powered car through a car wash. Be reassured that you can, but perhaps don’t swap out your canal boat for a Tesla just yet.

Here are a few other common misconceptions around electric cars:

EVs are slower than petrol and diesel cars

It depends what you mean by slower. From 0-62mph, Tesla’s marketing department/a short burst in ludicrous mode will convince you of the contrary. As for top speed, that’s less of a priority – you’ll have more joy cracking the two-tonne in an Audi RS6 than a Model S. All told, an EV will absolutely hold its own day-to-day in terms of performance.

EVs are more expensive to own

That likely depends on your energy tariff at home, but Go Ultra Low says EV motoring can cost up to 70 percent less over the life of a car. Nonetheless, one in four people think it’s more expensive than running diesel.

Nissan Leaf

EVs aren’t readily available

It’s not all Tesla, you know. The average Brit thinks there are nine EV models on sale – around half the actual number available. Nearly half of UK drivers also estimate the EV count on our roads as less than 15,000, when the reality is over 40,000.

The infrastructure isn’t there

The big one. They don’t drive for long enough and there aren’t enough charging points. Advances in technology are rapidly amending the former and the latter simply isn’t true. The average Brit thinks there are around 6,000 charge points, according to Go Ultra Low, when the actual number is nearer 17,000 – and rising.

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The most popular hybrid and electric cars

The most popular hybrid and electric cars

The most popular hybrid and electric cars

‘Alternative-fuel vehicles’ – hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric – accounted for just over five percent of car sales in February 2018. That’s according to JATO Dynamics, which collates car registration figures for 27 European markets. Here, we reveal the top five best-sellers in each of those three eco-friendly categories. These are Europe’s best-selling hybrid and electric cars

Hybrid no.5 – Kia Niro

The most popular hybrid and electric cars

We start with conventional hybrids: those where on-board batteries are charged solely by an internal combustion engine (i.e. they can’t be plugged in). In fifth place is the Kia Niro, finishing ahead of its Hyundai Ioniq stablemate with 1,853 sales. It’s the only non-Toyota in the top five.

Hybrid no.4 – Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The most popular hybrid and electric cars

Toyota has majored on hybrids ever since the first Prius was launched in 1997. Interestingly, though, the car many people associate with ‘going green’ is not inside the European top five. It’s outsold by the fourth-placed RAV4 Hybrid for starters, which found 3,326 new owners in February.

Hybrid no.3 – Toyota Auris Hybrid

The most popular hybrid and electric cars

Our next Toyota is the Auris Hybrid. This dull-but-worthy car offers the same petrol/electric drivetrain as the Prius, but packaged in a more conventional hatchback body. There’s also a practical Touring Sports estate. Sales of 4,408 put the Auris in third place.

Hybrid no.2 – Toyota C-HR Hybrid

The most popular hybrid and electric cars

Fashionable crossover it may be, but the C-HR’s slash-cut styling certainly divides opinion. Still, unconventional looks are no barrier to success in this sector – as proved by the Nissan Juke and the C-HR’s strong standing here. It finishes second, with 5,436 sales.

Hybrid no.1 – Toyota Yaris Hybrid

The most popular hybrid and electric cars

So the number one hybrid in Europe is – you guessed it – a Toyota. The Yaris Hybrid is the smallest and most efficient car in the top five, with official figures of 85.6mpg and 75g/km. It’s also reliable and easy to drive – particularly in town, where a ‘B’ mode for the automatic gearbox boosts regenerative braking for one-pedal driving.

Plug-in hybrid no.5 – Volkswagen Golf GTE

The most popular hybrid and electric cars

We move on to plug-in hybrids, starting with the fifth-placed Volkswagen Golf GTE. Cars in this class usually boast incredible – and not entirely realistic – CO2 emissions figures, due to the fact they complete much of the official NEDC test on electric power alone. The sporty Golf GTE, for example, emits just 40g/km. A total of 665 were sold in February.

Plug-in hybrid no.4 – BMW 225xe iPerformance Active Tourer

The most popular hybrid and electric cars

‘BMW 225xe iPerformance Active Tourer’ is a bit of a mouthful, and you wouldn’t call this front-wheel-drive MPV attractive. However, its strengths lie elsewhere, with a versatile interior and 46g/km CO2 emissions (meaning low company car tax and VED). It’s Europe’s fourth most popular PHEV, with 692 sold.

Plug-in hybrid no.3 – Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The most popular hybrid and electric cars

Mitsubishi sells diesel and plug-in petrol/electric versions of its Outlander SUV for the same price. Result: the PHEV is hugely more popular, regularly topping the charts as the UK’s most popular plug-in. In Europe overall, it finishes third, shifting 924 units in April. A updated Outlander arrives soon, promising more power and improved economy.

Plug-in hybrid no.2 – Volvo XC60 T8

The most popular hybrid and electric cars

How about this for the best of both worlds? The T8 ‘twin engine’ XC60 has a combined output of 407hp with an official CO2 figure of 49g/km. It’s also stylish, spacious and very comfortable. What’s not to like? Well, perhaps a nigh-on £60,000 price tag, although that didn’t stop 976 T8s finding buyers around Europe.

Plug-in hybrid no.1 – Volkswagen Passat GTE

The most popular hybrid and electric cars

The Passat GTE takes the number one spot, with 1,034 sales – comfortably more than its cheaper Golf sibling. Like the Golf, it’s a performance-oriented hybrid, using its 9.9kWh lithium-ion battery for extra oomph as well as cutting fuel use. The 0-62mph dash takes a swift 7.4 seconds, with CO2 emissions of 39g/km (in theory, at least).

Electric car no.5 – Smart Fortwo EQ

The most popular hybrid and electric cars

Our third and final top five, also based on Jato Dynamics data, is for fully electric cars (EVs). Times are changing, but many EVs are still small cars designed primarily for city use. The Smart Fortwo EQ is typical of the breed: a two-seat runabout with an 80mph top speed and a 96-mile range. A total of 741 were sold.

Electric car no.4 – BMW i3

The most popular hybrid and electric cars

When BMW launched its eco-focused ‘i’ sub-brand, it was the i8 supercar that stole the headlines. However, the i3 hatchback is, in truth, the more innovative car: a futuristic alternative to a 3 Series with a choice of electric or range-extender hybrid powertrains. BMW sold 1,130 electric i3s in February.

Electric car no.3 – Volkswagen e-Golf

The most popular hybrid and electric cars

The sprawling Golf range covers all bases, including the fully-electric e-Golf (1,403 sold). From the outside, this five-door hatchback looks near-identical to a petrol or diesel Golf – a blanked-off grille with a blue stripe is a giveaway – but its 24.2kW lithium-ion battery means zero emissions. For everyday driving, there’s simply no compromise.

Electric car no.2 – Nissan Leaf

The most popular hybrid and electric cars

Where Volkswagen fitted an existing car with a battery and electric motor, Nissan took the opposite approach – designing an EV from the ground up. The Leaf is now into its second-generation and the new model has a huge, 235-mile range when fully charged. European buyers snapped up 1,508 in February 2018.

Electric car no.1 – Renault Zoe

The most popular hybrid and electric cars

Renault sold 2,177 Zoes in the same month, however, putting this chic supermini comfortably in first place as Europe’s most popular EV. Not a bad achievement for a car first launched in 2012. Renault has pioneered a monthly battery leasing scheme with the Zoe, which helps keep list prices down. Opt for the beefier 41kWh battery and range increases to around 180 miles.

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Renault Zoe

Electric cars: what you need to know

Renault Zoe

In a depressed new car market, electric cars are a rare beacon of hope for the carmakers. Year-to-date registrations are down 9.3%, but sales of alternative-fueled vehicles are up 41.0%.

Sales of pure electric cars are a significant factor, with registrations up 37.3% to 11,127 units by the end of September. All of which means electric cars are emerging from the shadows of petrol and diesel cars, switching from niche to mainstream.

The threat of anti-diesel legislation and concerns over public health have led to a backlash against diesel, which is fuelling a rise in the number of people considering an electric car. With this in mind, what do you need to know if you’re considering making the switch?

What is an electric car?

The electric vehicle is nothing new. In fact, electric cars date back to the late 19th and early 20th century, and electricity was once the dominant means of propulsion. For many people, the one and only experience of an electric vehicle is the sound of the milk float delivering fresh pints to our doorsteps.

But today’s electric cars are a far cry from the milkman’s chariot. The technology and infrastructure have moved on to such an extent, an EV makes practical sense for a large number of motorists.

An electric car is just that: a car that runs on electric power. An electric motor sources power from a battery, which can be recharged by plugging the car into a power source.

Is an electric car right for you?

As the technology moves on and the infrastructure continues to grow, there’s no doubt that an electric car is becoming a realistic prospect for a greater number of motorists. But there are some questions to be asked before you take the plunge.

Do you have access to a charging point?

Realistically, you’ll need to install a home charging point if you’re buying an electric car. The good news is that some manufacturers will offer a free charging kit as part of a finance package, while grants are available towards the cost of installing a charge point.

If you haven’t got access to a garage or parking space with access to a plug socket, an electric car will be a non-starter. Trailing a charging cable across a pavement is not a good idea, while carmakers advise against using an extension lead.

Alternatively, you could charge up at work, but if a charging point isn’t available at home or the office, we’d suggest an electric car isn’t for you. Not yet, anyway.

Daily commute

Once upon a time, 100 miles was the maximum range you could expect from an electric car, but cars like the Tesla Model S, and to a lesser extent, new versions of the Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf are able to travel much further.

Even so, if your daily commute is further than 100 miles, we’d recommend a plug-in hybrid, rather than a pure electric vehicle. An EV is best suited for shorter commutes, trips to the station and predominantly urban use.

Budget

While you can buy a new petrol car for as little as £6,000, you’ll need to fork out at least £15,000 for an electric vehicle, and that’s before factoring in the cost of the battery.

And because EV technology is still relatively new, the used car market isn’t loaded with cheaper alternatives. More on this later.

Costs

Purchase price

Generally speaking, electric cars are more expensive to buy than their petrol or diesel counterparts, but the tide is shifting in favour of EVs. Taking the Renault Twizy quadricycle out of the equation, you’ll need to find at least £15,000 for a brand new electric car.

Looks good on paper, but be warned: the purchase price doesn’t necessarily include the battery, which will be leased on a monthly basis. For example, battery rental on the Renault Zoe costs from £49 to £110 per month, depending on spec and mileage. That adds between £588 and £1,320 a year.

You can purchase the battery outright on the Nissan Leaf, but it adds £5,000 to the purchase price, taking the cost of the cheapest Leaf 24kWh to £21,680. There are pros and cons associated with leasing or buying a battery – more on this later.

As a guide, these are the entry-level prices for electric cars on sale in the UK (correct as of October 2017):

Renault Twizy: £6,995
Renault Zoe: £14,245
Peugeot iOn: £15,995
Smart Fortwo Electric Drive: £16,420
Nissan Leaf 24kWh: £16,680
Nissan e-NV200: £19,403
Volkswagen e-Up: £20,780
Hyundai Ioniq: £24,995
Kia Soul: £25,495
Volkswagen e-Golf: £27,690
BMW i3: £29,570
Tesla Model 3: $35,000 (estimated)
Tesla Model S: £60,200
Tesla Model X: £66,000

Incentives

Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Government Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG)

The prices listed above include the government’s Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG), which is currently set at 35% of the purchase price, up to a maximum of £4,500. To qualify for the maximum (Category 1) grant, vehicles must emit less than 50g/km CO2 and be able to travel at least 70 miles on electric power.

Scrappage discounts

The threat of anti-diesel legislation has prompted many carmakers into launching so-called scrappage schemes, designed to encourage the purchase of cleaner vehicles. The deals can be more lucrative on electric and hybrid cars.

For example, Volkswagen is offering £5,500 off the price of an e-Golf when you trade in an old diesel vehicle. The saving is £3,300 on the e-Up and is in addition to the government’s plug-in vehicle grant.

Under Nissan’s ‘Switch Scheme’, owners of cars built before 2010 can claim up to £5,000 on top of the car’s trade-in value if they agree for it to be exchanged. It means that the Nissan Leaf is more affordable than ever.

But there’s more because Nissan is also offering a discount on an approved-used Leaf. Buyers will receive up to £2,000 on top of the trade-in value and a special three-year, 3.9% APR PCP scheme to spread the payment. You could pay as little as £87 a month and receive a free home charging kit worth £279.

Vehicle Excise Duty (VED)

The new Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) tax bands, introduced in April 2017, eliminated the zero-rate of tax for all but the cleanest of vehicles. In fact, only zero-emissions vehicles are exempt from paying any tax.

That said, all cars above £40,000 pay a £310 annual surcharge for five years starting in year two, which affects the rate of tax for the Tesla Model S and Model X.

London Congestion Charge/T-charge

The London Congestion Charge is a £11.50 daily charge for driving a vehicle within the charging zone between 7pm and 6pm, Monday to Friday. This fee can be reduced by £1 a day with Auto Pay, which costs £10 to register per vehicle.

But worse is to come for motorists entering London, with a new Toxicity Charge (T-charge) for older, more polluting vehicles. From 23 October 2017, vehicles that don’t comply with the Euro IV exhaust standard as a minimum will be charged £10 for entering central London.

This means that, in effect, all vehicles registered before 2006 will have to pay to enter central London, with the T-charge on top of the Congestion Charge. Electric cars are exempt from both fees: a potential saving of £21.50 a day.

The T-charge will be in force until the Ultra Low Emission Zone is introduced in 2019.

With politicians and local authorities seeking to clean up our urban areas, you can expect other towns and cities to follow the London lead. Soon, zero- or low-emissions cars might be the only vehicles welcome in city centres.

Buying a used electric car

With the electric car in its infancy, you’re not exactly spoilt for choice when it comes to buying a used EV. At the time of writing, only 744 of the 450,000 or so cars for sale on Auto Trader were electric, of which 696 were used or nearly new.

You’ll also need to factor in the cost of battery leasing, especially if buying a Renault electric vehicle, as 95% of the French firm’s EV product has a leased battery. Conversely, only 5% of Nissan Leaf product featured a battery purchased on a lease.

If the used electric car includes a battery purchased outright, there’s the worry of how well it keeps its charge. If the battery is past its best, the cost of replacement could be enormous, and as the car gets older, more than the vehicle is worth.

Battery: lease or purchase?

For most people, leasing a battery makes more sense, as it removes any concerns about resale value or battery life. The charging infrastructure and limited range mean that many electric cars cover limited miles and the tariffs tend to reflect this.

We’ve provided examples based on two versions of the Renault Zoe.

Renault Zoe 22kWh
Up to 4,500 miles: £49 per month
Up to 6,000 miles: £59 per month
Up to 7,500 miles: £69 per month
Up to 9,000 miles: £79 per month
Up to 10,500 miles: £89 per month

Renault Zoe Z.E 4.0
Up to 4,500 miles: £59 per month
Up to 6,000 miles: £69 per month
Up to 7,500 miles: £79 per month
Up to 9,000 miles: £89 per month
Up to 10,500 miles: £99 per month
Unlimited: £110 per month

Based on a three-year contract at 10,500 miles per annum, a Renault Zoe Expression Nav 22kWh will cost £14,245 to buy and £3,204 in battery hire, providing a total cost of £17,449. Bought outright, the cost would be £19,845.

When leasing, Renault will provide a battery performance guarantee to at least 75% of its original capacity. If it drops below 75%, Renault will repair or replace the battery. When buying outright, Renault will provide a guarantee of eight years or 100,000 miles, as well as guaranteeing the battery to at least 66% of its capacity.

Charging

Nissan Leaf charger

Charging an electric car can be done at home, at work or at a public charging point. According to Zap-Map, there are currently charging points at 4,887 different locations in the UK, providing a total of 7,535 devices and 13,971 connectors.

These figures are up from 4,003 devices and 10,839 connectors in November 2016, which proves that the infrastructure is catching up with demand. But the overall figure tells only half the story: what’s just as important is the type of charger available at any given location.

There are three types of charger available in the UK: Slow, Fast and Rapid. These can be summarised as follows:

Slow chargers (3kw)

As recently as five years ago this was the most common type of charging point in the UK, but today, the slow charger is in the minority. The clue is in the name: a full charge could take anything between six and 12 hours. Most electric cars are supplied with a charger allowing you charge using a standard 13-amp three-pin plug.

A slow charger is best reserved for charging overnight when at home or during the day at the office. A home charging point is recommended, with some carmakers incentivising purchases via a free home installation.

Fast chargers (7-22kw)

You’ll find fast chargers in supermarket car parks and shopping centres, or somewhere an electric car can be left for a more extended period of time. A 7kW charger will recharge an EV in 3-5 hours, while a 22kw charger could complete the job in less than a couple of hours.

Today, the fast charger is the most common charging point in the UK, with 7kW home chargers the norm for electric car households, especially those with 80-100A supplies.

Rapid chargers (43, 50 or 120kW)

A rapid charger can provide up to 80% of charge in just 20-40 minutes, making them ideally suited to motorway service stations. 

Chargemaster – the self-proclaimed ‘biggest name in electric vehicle charging’ – could install a charging point at your home within two weeks, with prices starting from £279 for a 3kW charger. Its entry-level Homecharge point is 60% faster than a 13A plug.

A 7kW charger is three times faster than a 13A plug and costs £354, while a 22kW charger – 10 times more rapid than a 13A plug – costs £1,200. The Homecharge points are suitable for indoor and outdoor use and covered by a three-year warranty.

Cost of charging

According to Pod Point, it’ll cost around £3.64 for a full charge when charging an electric car overnight at home. Assuming a typical range of 100 miles, that equates to less than 4p per mile.

Many public charging points remain free, although you’ll have to pay for rapid chargers, such as those found at motorway service stations. Similarly, while Tesla offers free access to its Supercharger network for Model S owners, it will introduce ‘pay per use’ charging on the Model 3.

Ecotricity claims that its electric vehicle charging network is the ‘most comprehensive in Europe’, featuring around 300 electric charging points. Each charging session costs 17p per kWh of electricity used, plus a £3 connection fee.

Polar – the UK’s largest EV charging network – provides access to 5,000 public charging points via a subscription service. The first three months’ membership is free, after which you pay £7.85 per month, which provides access to all charging points, 80% of which are free to use.

Pod Point suggests budgeting £6.50 for a 30-minute rapid charge at a motorway service station.

Range

The range you can expect from an electric car is dependent on the battery, the time of year and the style of driving. For example, the driving range will drop considerably in colder weather. Renault estimates up 186 miles in the summer and 124 miles in the winter for the Zoe Z.E. 40.

As an overview, here are the official New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) figures, as provided by the manufacturers. In all cases, you’re unlikely to achieve the claimed figures.

Peugeot iOn/Citroen C-Zero: 93 miles
Volkswagen e-Up: 93 miles
Smart Fortwo Electric: 96 miles
Nissan e-NV200: 106 miles
Nissan Leaf 24kWh: 124 miles
BMW i3: 124 miles
Kia Soul EV: 132 miles
Renault Zoe 22kWh: 149 miles
Nissan Leaf 30kWh: 155 miles
Hyundai Ioniq: 174 miles
Volkswagen e-Golf: 186 miles
BMW i3 33kWh: 195 miles
Tesla Model 3: 220-310 miles
Renault Zoe Z.E. 40: 250 miles
Tesla Model X 75D: 259 miles
Tesla Model S 75D: 304 miles
Tesla Model X P100D: 336 miles
Tesla Model X 100D: 351 miles
Tesla Model S P100D: 381 miles
Tesla Model S 100D: 393 miles

Servicing and maintenance

Electric car servicing

A pure electric car has three main components – the motor, the charger and the inverter – which meaning servicing and maintenance is much more straightforward and cheaper than on a petrol or diesel car.

Using data from KeeResources, Go Ultra Low published cost comparison information for electric cars versus their petrol and diesel equivalents. The data – based on four years and 60,000 miles – is quite telling:

BMW i3: £2,264.05 (total maintenance)
BMW 118d: £2,929.94
Cost saving for EV: £665.89

Hyundai Ioniq: £1,543.20
Hyundai Ioniq h-GDi: £2,120.88
Cost saving for EV: £577.68

Kia Soul EV: £1,203.57
Kia Soul GDI: £1,570.86
Cost saving for EV: £367.29

Volkswagen e-Golf: £1,730.69
Volkswagen Golf GTD: £2,965.29
Cost saving for EV: £1,234.60

In all cases, the cost-saving needs to be balanced with the initial outlay, which tends to be higher for an electric vehicle, but it proves that maintenance and servicing should be easier to manage.

Warranty

Electric vehicles typically have between five and eight years’ warranty on the electric motor and battery components. For the rest of the car, the length of warranty depends on the manufacturer – ranging from three years and 60,000 miles to seven years and 100,000 miles.

The battery guarantee will also depend on the manufacturer. For example, Renault will guarantee performance to at least 85% of its original capacity, or pay for repair or replacement, when you lease the battery. If you’re buying outright, the battery is covered for eight years or 100,000 miles, along with a performance guarantee to at least 66% of its original charge capacity.

As the technology improves, batteries are becoming more robust. Owners forums are a good place to discover real-world experiences of EV owners. For example, we discovered that a Tesla Model S will retain between 90 and 95% capacity, even after 93 miles. After 150,000 miles, only 15% capacity will have been lost.

Safety

Euro NCAP conducted the first crash test of an EV in 2011 when the Mitsubishi i-MiEV was awarded a four-star rating. Other EVs have since been tested, but it’s worth noting that a Euro NCAP test in 2017 is more rigorous than the equivalent test in 2011.

Here’s a list of pure electric vehicles tested by Euro NCAP, together with the date tested and star rating:

Five stars

Hyundai Ioniq (2016)
Tesla Model S (2014)
Renault Zoe (2013)
Nissan Leaf (2012)

Four stars

BMW i3 (2013)
Kia Soul EV (2014)
Citroen C-Zero (2011)
Peugeot iOn (2011)
Mitsubishi i-MiEV (2011)
Renault Fluence: 4 stars (2011)

Three stars

Nissan e-NV200: 3 stars (2014)

Latest electric car news

In what is seen as a significant step forward for electric cars in the UK, Shell is to install vehicle charging points at its petrol filling stations.

Drivers will be able to recharge 80% of their battery in 30 minutes at forecourts in London, Surrey and Derby, with a further 10 service stations to feature rapid chargers by the end of the year.

“There’s no doubt the electric vehicle market is developing fast. And we want to offer customers choice: it doesn’t really matter what kind of vehicle they’re driving, we want them to drive into a Shell station, refuel in whatever capacity the fuel is,” said Jane Lindsay-Green, future fuels manager at Shell UK.

Meanwhile, the government has introduced a bill to make electric charging points mandatory at large petrol stations and motorway service areas.

The Automated and Electric Vehicles bills will double the number of charging locations in the UK, leading to multiple points at some of the busiest areas.

Transport minister, John Hayes, said: “We want the UK to be the best place in the world to do business and a leading hub for modern transport technology, which is why we are introducing the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill in Parliament and investing more than £1.2 billion in the industry.

“This bill will aid the construction of greater infrastructure to support the growing demand for automated and electric vehicles as we embrace this technology and move into the future.”

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