A beginner’s guide to driving an EV

15 / 03 / 2023  |  Driver Guides

An electric vehicle (EV) might seem like a step into the unknown, but we’re here to show you that they’re nothing to worry about. In fact, they’re extremely enjoyable to drive!

EVs are going to be playing a very significant role in motoring over the next few years. You can keep the same kind of driving patterns in an EV that you’re used to with a petrol or diesel-driven car with only a few considerations.

Why choose an EV?

There are many reasons why you might have chosen an EV as your next vehicle. The Government is keen for drivers to make the switch ahead of the ban on new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in 2030 and has made it financially beneficial to choose an EV as a company or salary sacrifice car. They have also proposed an effective ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2035.

There’s also the extremely positive environmental impact of EVs. They run on renewable energy rather than limited fossil fuels; they’re made from more eco-friendly materials, and they don’t emit a thing from their tailpipes. Even their batteries can be recycled, reducing the need for more components to be made on future production lines.

As well as being good for the environment, the zero emissions of an EV are great for our collective health too.

Types of EV

There are three different types of EV:

  • Hybrid, which still contains an ICE that is linked to an electric motor. As you drive, the battery charges when you slow down. This is known as regenerative braking
  • Plug-in hybrid (PHEV), where the battery is charged by plugging the car into a charge point as well as by regenerative braking
  • Battery electric vehicle (BEV), which has an exclusively electric motor and a battery that is charged by plugging the car into a charge point.

While the hybrid is designed to be environmentally friendly, it is given extra propulsion by its mix of the petrol motor and electric battery. Its ICE is the most important of its two power sources, with the battery complementing the engine and giving additional, rather than primary, support.

Pollution and emission levels are lower in PHEVs than in traditional ICE cars, but they’re still a consideration because fossil fuels are burned in them.

Driving an EV for the first time

When you sit in the driver’s seat of an EV for the first time, you’ll notice straightaway that there are some things that are different to an ICE car.

Almost all EVs have automatic or single-speed transmissions and are incredibly quiet compared to a more traditional car. There’s also no lag between pressing the accelerator pedal and the car moving off.

Your EV will almost certainly have different driving modes. You can learn about these from its owner manual and by watching the coaching tutorials which might be displayed on its infotainment system.

You’ll also find that going easy on the pedals will also improve your car’s efficiency and that the range will increase as your driving technique in the car improves.

Understanding your charging habits

Most EVs have a smartphone app linked to them which allows you to monitor not only how you’re driving but also how you’re charging your car.

Making sure you’ve always got enough power to get you from A to B is the biggest difference between driving an ICE and an EV. When the fuel gauge needle on a traditional car is approaching the ‘E’, you need to pull into the nearest petrol station. When your EV’s battery is losing power, you need to plug it into a charger.

It’s a common misconception about EVs that there aren’t many charging points around the country. In fact, there are more than 60,000 charging point connectors in over 20,000 locations. You can use this free charging calculator to estimate the cost of public charging.

Your car’s app will likely contain a map which shows your nearest public charging point locations based on your GPS. You can also use a resource like Pod-Point.

EV drivers who live in a home with off-road parking can claim a grant from the government towards the cost of a home charge point, though there are eligibility criteria which you need to fulfil. The EV chargepoint grant provides funding of up to 75% towards the cost of installing electric vehicle smart chargepoints at domestic properties across the UK.

If you don’t have off-road parking at home or you need to charge away from it, the charging location tools that are available online will tell you the cost of using them.

Charging etiquette

There’s a lot of common-sense etiquette surrounding the use of public charge points. You don’t have to fully charge your car to travel anything but the longest distances. Others may need to use the charging point too, so try not to leave your car plugged in longer than is necessary.

How long?

If you’re driving a hybrid or PHEV with regenerative brakes, you’ll find that these work harder for you in urban locations where there’s a lot of stopping and starting. The brakes’ settings will be less aggressive on motorways and other long stretches where you can travel at a constant, good speed, especially if you anticipate any slower-moving vehicles ahead.

It’s important to be aware that not all EVs and charging points charge at the same rate. You can only charge your vehicle at the maximum charge rate your vehicle can accept. If, for example, this is 7kW, then the car won’t charge any faster if it is plugged into a 28kW charger.

Similarly, you also have to accept the maximum charging rate of the charge point too. Even if your vehicle can charge at 11kW, it will only charge at a rate of 7kW on a 7kW charger.

The larger your battery, the longer it will take to charge. Likewise, the more you’ve run it down, the longer it will take to reach full capacity again. A typical EV battery is around 60kW which would take just under eight hours to charge using a 7kW charger.

With most journeys being under five miles long, you could only charge your car in full once per average week. However, most drivers choose to top up their charge at regular intervals. The choice is yours.