Six facts you may not know about electric vehicles

As the UK hurtles towards the 2030 fossil fuel ban deadline, demand for electric vehicles (EVs) is set to soar. 

But for many looking to make the move to electric, a lack of knowledge can contribute to delay and uncertainty. What’s more, it can lead to false expectations and a lack of requisite know-how for operating these technically advanced vehicles.

To help bridge the knowledge gap for fleets and drivers before they plug-in, we’ve looked beyond pricing, battery capabilities and model range to bring you six important facts to help demystify EVs and support the electric transition.

    1. EVs don’t have engines

Look under the bonnet and you’ll find that EVs have electric motors instead of engines to convert battery power into energy. Consequently, despite employing an array of complex electrical components, they have fewer moving parts, which can result in reduced maintenance.

These electric motors can produce instant and consistent torque over an extensive RPM, and so in most cases they are regulated by single-speed transmissions.

They are not automatic in the traditional sense of having automatic gearboxes, but at the same time, there is no manual gearbox or clutch.

    2. Charging habits matter for battery health

Despite continued advancements in battery technology, lithium-ion-powered EVs can still be prone to suffering a gradual loss in performance over time.

While this is unlikely to affect the day-to-day operations of most fleets, with battery warranties extending beyond typical vehicle replacement cycles, steps should still be taken to help minimise battery degradation.

Not only can a battery’s state of health (SOH) affect a vehicle’s residual value, from a sustainability perspective, batteries that have been well cared for offer greater potential for use in ‘second life’ solutions, such as energy storage systems.

Lithium-ion batteries last longest when they’re not fully charged (to 100 per cent) or fully depleted, on a regular basis. Such frequent, extreme charge-discharge cycles can negatively impact their ability to store electricity.

While EV battery management systems will normally prevent full states of charge (maxing out at around 90 per cent), experts advise that the optimal charge level range is between 20 and 80 per cent of the battery capacity.

Beyond 80 per cent, charging speeds also slow dramatically to protect battery cells against excessive heat build-up.

Furthermore, drivers should be aware of ‘vampire’ battery drain, a phenomenon that leads to EVs losing range when they are parked for protracted periods of time. Steps to minimise the impact of this can include turning on the vehicle’s energy saving mode, turning off features such as Wi-Fi and protecting the vehicle during extremes of hot and cold weather by keeping it in a garage, using a car cover or avoiding parking in direct sunlight.

    3. Switching tariffs can make for cheaper, greener charging

Electricity bills will inevitably increase for new EV drivers who are charging their vehicles at home.

Shopping around for a suitable low-cost energy tariff, however, can save hundreds of pounds a year.

Fleet drivers covering around 20,000 miles annually, for example, might expect to pay around £1,400 a year for charging their car on a standard tariff, but this can fall to less than £500 on a low cost EV-friendly tariff.

Electricity demand tends to peak in early evening when an EV owner might plug in their vehicle after returning home from work, but charging overnight, when electricity prices are lower, can have a notable cost impact.

What’s more, the grid tends to be at its greenest off-peak, when suppliers can take greater advantage of surplus renewable power.

    4. Preconditioning can optimise performance

One of the smartest functions of EVs is their ability to be remotely preconditioned. This means their cabins can be pre-heated or pre-cooled to the driver’s perfect temperature in advance of journeys. Drivers can even demist or defrost the windows and set heated seats.

Although electric vehicles preserve their battery power well, remote preconditioning can still help to maximise range by taking energy from the source when the vehicle is still plugged in – rather than from the battery. Once at optimal temperature, there is then less of a drain on the battery to maintain it.

    5. EVs harness braking energy

In a traditional ICE vehicle, braking converts the kinetic energy of the moving car into heat energy as friction surfaces come together. This heat then dissipates and is lost to the ether.

This can make journeys in stop-start traffic particularly inefficient.

Electric drivetrains, however, benefit from regenerative braking. This enables kinetic energy to be converted back into electricity to recharge the battery when a driver lifts their foot from the accelerator, or when they brake.

But as with ICE vehicle mpg, EV vehicle range will be improved by taking a smooth, gentle approach to acceleration and braking.

    6. EVs can benefit from a range of financial incentives

Numerous financial incentives have been made available by government for both electric cars and vans. We have summarised these below:

  • A plug-in car grant is available that offers up to 35 per cent of the purchase price of electric cars costing up to £35,000, up to maximum of £2,500.
  • New ultra-low and zero emission vans are also eligible for a plug-in grant. Eligible vans with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of less than 2.5 tonnes can receive up to 35 per cent of the purchase price, capped at £3,000. For buyers of eligible vans with GVWs of between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes the cap is set at £6,000.
  • Through the Workplace Charging Scheme, the cost of installing electric car charging points can be cut by up to £14,000. Administered by the government’s Office for Zero Emission Vehicles, the scheme gives businesses up to 75 per cent off the cost of up to 40 charge points, capped at £350 each.
  • Under the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme, drivers with off-street parking can also receive £350 for charge points installed at their home.
  • Pure battery EVs are currently exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) and are not subject to the extra £335 annual charge that drivers of cars worth more than £40,000 must pay. Plug-in hybrids are classed as ‘Alternative Fuel Cars’ and are subject to a flat rate of £145 after year one (for sub-£40,000 cars). The first-year rate is based on the vehicle’s CO2 emissions.
  • Businesses can write down 100 per cent of the purchase price against corporation tax in year one.
  • EV drivers can also enjoy significant benefit-in-kind tax savings on equivalent petrol and diesel models.
  • The Advisory Electricity Rate (AER) for plug-in cars is currently set at four pence per mile. This is considerably less than the Advisory Fuel Rates (AFRs) for petrol and diesel company cars, even those with the smallest engines.
  • Electric car and van fleets are also exempt from London’s Ultra Low Emission and Congestion Charge Zones, along with Bath’s Clean Air Zone. In some areas EVs can also benefit from free parking.

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