The Company Car Drivers’ Guide to Electric Vehicles
In this guide on electric vehicles we look at some of the most common questions drivers have about making the switch to an electric vehicle (EV) from a traditional petrol or diesel car.
We have focused on EVs, otherwise know as Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), as they require a bigger shift in thinking and behaviour than hybrids or plug-in hybrids.
With a pure EV there’s no internal combustion engine to fall back on, so understanding what it’s really like living with batteries alone is essential if you’re weighing up the options for your next car.
How much will an EV cost to lease?
As with regular petrol and diesel cars, there’s no simple answer to this question. The lease cost will depend on a range of factors, including the list price of the vehicle, its in-life costs such as servicing and maintenance, and its value at the end of the contract.
The good news is that the price of electric vehicles has been declining in recent years, as manufacturers build their specialist supply-chains and volume capacity. Added to that, residual values have been rising as experience of EVs grows and trust in the durability of the technology builds. Maintenance costs for EVs are also much lower than for traditional vehicles due to the simplicity of their drivetrains.
This all means that, while equivalent petrol or diesel cars may be slightly cheaper to lease than an EV, the gap is closing all the time and there are very affordable deals already available.
Will I save money on company car tax by choosing an electric vehicle?
As a company car driver, one of the key items of cost you’ll be interested in is Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax. This is one area where EVs can make some serious savings.
From a BiK tax perspective, the key factors that are used to calculate your liability are:
- The list price of the car, along with any extras; this is its P11D value
- The vehicle’s CO2-based BiK tax rating
- Your own marginal rate of income tax
You then use this formula to calculate your annual company car tax bill:
P11D Value x Benefit-in-Kind Tax Rate x Marginal Income Tax Rate
= Annual Company Car Tax Liability
To learn more about company car tax and to see a short video explainer click here.
While EVs do currently tend to have higher list prices than their traditional counterparts, they also attract BiK rates that are much lower. In fact, in the 2020/21 tax year, EVs have a BiK rate of 0%. This means that during that tax year you won’t pay a penny of company car tax on any EV you choose.
This does rise to 1% in the 2021/22 tax year and 2% in the 2022/23 tax year, but this is still much lower than rates for traditional vehicles. Here’s part of the BiK table for vehicles registered after April 5th 2020 for you to compare rates for vehicles with different levels of CO2 emissions. See the full tables here.
If you’d like to read more about BiK tax for EVs and hybrids see our other blog post on the subject.
Will an EV save on fuel bills for my private mileage?
The equivalent to filling a tank in an EV is charging the battery to its maximum capacity; the capacity of an EV’s battery is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). So, if you had an EV with a 50kWh battery that’s completely discharged, it can accept 50kWh worth of electricity from a charger to fill it back up.
It then comes down to how much you are being charged per kWh for the electricity. A good-value overnight home charging arrangement might currently cost around 12p per kWh. This means that you can charge the car above from empty to full for £6 (50kWh @ 12p/kWh).
Charge the same car, with batteries in the same state, at one of the fastest (Rapid) public chargers and you could pay around 30p per kWh. Here the full charge would cost £15 (50kWh @ 30p). This obviously stacks up well when compared with the £60 or so that it would cost to fill up with petrol or diesel.
The other important factor is how far the car can actually travel on its fully charged batteries. Just as with a petrol or diesel, it’s important to remember that the amount of mileage you can eek from a full tank or battery depends to a large extent on how the vehicle is driven.
A Peugeot e-208 hatchback has a 50kWh battery and an official range of 211 miles. Let’s assume that you manage to do half of the charging for this car at home and the rest on a public rapid charger – this means that a full battery charge will cost £10.50. So, theoretically, you’ll be able to travel 211 miles for £10.50; that’s 4.98p per mile.
A diesel-powered Peugeot 208 might be expected to deliver around 55mpg (or 4.3 litres per 100 kilometres), so from its 45-litre fuel tank you could expect to travel 1,046km or 650 miles. With diesel currently costing around 130p per litre, to fill the tank would cost £58.50 giving you a pence per mile figure of 9p.
This comparison is between a small EV and its highly efficient diesel equivalent, move up the scale to large SUVs and the difference in running costs can be even more dramatic.
If you are able to do the majority of your charging at home, or better still, you’re lucky enough to have access to charging at your place of work, you’ll be able to reduce these costs still further.
Will an electric vehicle fit with my lifestyle / mobility needs?
By far the biggest concern here is journey range. But, with most new EVs now capable of more than 200 miles on a single charge, this shouldn’t be a concern for the vast majority of drivers. With more than two-thirds of commuting trips being less than 10 miles each way, a single charge would last many drivers more than a week.
Obviously, if you do make regular long trips you will have to factor in recharging during the journey. The UKs charging infrastructure is expanding all the time; there are currently almost 10k public charging locations and a total of over 26k connections (zap-map). This means that it is getting easier to find chargers and to plan longer journeys around them. You will have to factor in the extra time it takes to charge the car into your longer journeys, as this is slower than filling with fuel.
Where can I charge an EV?
As mentioned above, there are an ever-growing number of public charging locations. For the most up to date map of locations visit zap-map.
Most EV owners also have some arrangement for home-charging. This can be anything from a simple domestic plug socket, through to a dedicated wall-mounted charging station. If you have access to chargers at your workplace, this provides an additional (and potentially free) charging option.
How long does it take to charge an electric vehicle?
This depends on a number of factors:
- The capacity of the car’s battery (in kWh) and how discharged it has become.
- How rapidly the car’s charging system can accept power from the charger.
- How powerful the charger being used is; this is measured in kilowatts (kW).
We’ll leave the first two of these aside as they vary for each vehicle and take a look at the average charge-time for each type of charge point.
|Type||Where found||kW rating||Average charge time – empty to full|
|Three-pin domestic plug||All homes and offices||2.3kW||12 hours+|
|Slow charger||Common type of dedicated home charge-point||3.7kW||8-10 hours|
|Fast charger||Some home and workplace chargers, public chargers such as car parks and supermarkets||7kW-22kW||2-6 hours|
|Rapid charger||Mostly found at motorway service stations, close to main roads and in city centres||40kW-120kW|
(Chargers of up to 350kW are on the way)
|20-40 minutes for an 80% charge|
For more information on the location of different types of charge point see zap-map.
Will I need to ‘relearn’ to drive an EV?
The simple answer to this is, no. Driving an EV is not very different to driving a car with an internal combustion engine (ICE). The controls tend to be the same (though almost all EVs are automatic or only have a single gear) and the driving experience will not be unfamiliar.
There are some subtle differences though:
- Engine noise is minimal, so you’ll need to be more vigilant that pedestrians are aware that you are approaching.
- Acceleration from a standstill tends to be rapid as electric motors produce all of their torque (twisting action) from zero revs, unlike ICEs.
- EVs do have normal friction brakes but they also use regenerative braking. This turns the motor into a generator when slowing down or braking to charge the batteries. Many EVs allow you to adjust the amount of regenerative braking, with the most efficient setting providing a single-pedal driving experience, as regenerative braking is applied as soon as you lift your foot from the accelerator.
Is electric vehicle servicing widely available?
While it’s true that not every small garage will currently have the equipment or expertise to carry out the servicing of an EV, main dealer networks that actually sell the cars are well prepared for servicing and maintaining them.
Is there much choice of EVs?
There are already dozens of EV models to choose from, offered by a wide range of manufacturers. These cover everything from affordable city-cars to premium brand SUVs, with prices ranging from around £20k to well over £100k.
The choice will increase considerably in the next few years with all major manufacturers, and a raft of new entrants, bringing new models to market.
Are electric vehicles really good for the environment?
EVs are undoubtedly excellent at reducing the levels of air pollution that exist in urban areas, as they have zero exhaust emissions. It is true that their environmental impact largely depends on the source of the electricity you are using to charge them. However, even with power generated through the burning of fossil fuels, the overall impact is less than running numerous internal combustion engines. The UK’s power generation is gradually switching to lower-carbon sources and as this improves so will the environmental impact of electric vehicles.
There have been concerns about the carbon emissions associated with the production, transportation and recycling of the lithium-ion batteries that EVs use. While these issues remain, the consensus is that over their lifetime EVs have a significantly smaller environmental impact than tradition vehicles.
Manufacturers are also making their latest vehicles more recyclable than ever and EVs tend to have more recyclable components than traditional cars.
Should I wait for new EV technology before switching?
EV technology, as with most developing technologies, is moving so quickly that it’s difficult to pick the best moment to join the switch from traditional cars. The current technology is so good that it would certainly not be a mistake to consider one of the EVs currently on the market. That said, wait two or three years and factors such as list price and battery capacity could have shifted considerably. That’s what makes the leasing of EVs such a popular choice.
What about the durability of the batteries in electric vehicles?
This was one of the major concerns raised when EVs first appeared on the market. And, while it’s true that all batteries do lose some of their charge capacity over time, the experience of the car market is that the lithium-ion batteries used in EVs stand up very well to an extended period of use, with regular charging and discharging.
Manufacturers all offer significant warranties on the battery packs in their vehicles and they would not do this if they were not certain about their longevity. Rising residual values of EVs is also, to a certain extent, down to the used car market recognising that even after years of use, EVs batteries remain serviceable.
Does cold weather affect an EV’s performance?
Batteries do find it harder to accept charge and to deliver power when the temperature nears zero Celsius. This means that the range of an EV is likely to be around 10-20% less than in warmer conditions. Winter also brings additional battery power consumption as items such as heating and lighting are used more frequently.
Many EVs allow the vehicle to be heated while on mains power and this can make a significant improvement to winter range.
What happens if you run out of charge in an electric vehicle?
Unsurprisingly, the outcome of completely flat batteries in an EV is that the car will come to a halt. However, electric cars all make a big point of displaying of how much charge is remaining and providing a wide range of warnings as the charge drops to low levels. This, combined with EV drivers’ heightened awareness of range, means that you’re probably more likely to run out of petrol or diesel than you are to completely discharge your EV.
If it does happen then clearly you need to either get charge delivered to the car or deliver the car to a charging station. Some of the major breakdown providers do have the ability to give an emergency charge at the roadside, usually just enough to get you home or to the nearest charge point.
Interestingly, manufacturer advice differs on whether it is possible to tow an EV without causing damage to the drivetrain. For some, as long as the driven wheels are raised, it’s fine – but this doesn’t help with vehicles that have four-wheel drive. Others suggest that the car is always moved on a flat-bed. Always refer to the owners’ handbook for your specific EV before attempting to tow it.
If you’d like to know more about EVs and alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) in general, visit our AFV resources page.