Beyond the high price of EVs, what economic benefits are available for EV owners?
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Beyond purchase, three financial incentives are also available which reduce EV running costs. These include Vehicle Excise Duty (aka ‘car tax’) which is zero-rated for BEVs and plug-in hybrids (with CO2 emissions of 100 g/km or less), zero-rated fuel tax (no fuel duty is added to electricity which also only attracts 5% VAT), and for drivers in the South East, EVs do not pay the London Congestion Charge as they are eligible under the Ultra-Low Emissions Discount scheme.

For a private driver with average annual mileage (around 10,000 miles), as compared to a typical small conventional car, fuel costs would be reduced by around £800, car tax reduced by around £100, and the ULED Congestion Charge discount could amount to as much as £2,000.

Businesses are also able to claim an Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) on battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles (with CO2 emissions of 75 g/km or less) if registered by a business soley for business use (excluding rental and short-term hire vehicles). To qualify, the vehicle must be brand new, and the purchase must be made before 31 March 2018.

Company car drivers also benefit from choosing ultra-low emission electric vehicles as zero-emission battery electric cars and plug-in hybrids with CO2 emissions up to 50 g/km attract the lowest BIK (benefit-in-kind) rate of 5%. While BIK rates for battery electric models and plug-in hybrids with CO2 emissions up to 50 g/km will increase to 7% in April 2016 and then 9% in April 2017, EVs will continue to attract the lowest BIK rate until at least 2020.

I need a car for work and family and drive approx 10-12k miles p.a. Does it make more economic sense for me to buy a diesel, hybrid or electric car?
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It depends where you live and drive, as well as how you prefer to buy a car. In general rule, battery EVs and plug-in hybrids are more expensive to purchase (even including the Plug-in Car Grant of up to £5,000 or the Plug-in Van Grant of up to £8,000). On the plus side, fuel costs for EVs are significantly less (by around 80%), due to electricity not being taxed as a transport fuel. With your average annual mileage, the whole life costs are most likely to be higher for an EV.

However, if you live or drive in London, or you are the recipient of a company car, then an EV could give you significant savings worth £2,000 from exemption from the London Congestion Charge, or by only attracting the 5% BIK rate (for a company cars) until April 2016. If the vehicle is for business use, under the Enhanced Capital Allowances scheme, EVs are eligible for a 100% write-down of full costs of the vehicle in the first year (excluding short-term hire and rental vehicles).

To reduce up-front capital costs, EV manufacturers (including Nissan and Renault) are increasingly offering new purchase options in which the vehicle is sold without the battery pack at the same price as a conventional vehicle. The battery is then leased over three or four years typically at around £70 per month.

In summary, for an EV to be right for you, you need to have: (1) access to home or workplace off-street parking for place to charge, (2) be looking to buy or lease a new or nearly new car, (3) be prepared to have a car with a 70-100 mile range between charges, and (4) be an early adopter who wants to have the latest gizmos – it’s going to get the neighbours talking for sure.

What sort of domestic parking arrangements and electricity supply do you need to be able to recharge an electric vehicle?
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You need access to some form of off-street parking so you can get a cable to your car. Trailing cables over the pavement is not recommended under any circumstances; and it’s not currently possible for local councils to install an on-street charger near your home. So either a garage (with power) or a private drive is required. ONS Omnibus and English House Condition surveys suggest that around 80% of UK car-owning households already have access to a garage or other off-street parking facility (<50% urban, 70% sub-urban, and > 95% rural).

You should also know that the Government has launched the Homecharge scheme which provides up to 75% (capped at £700 including VAT) of the total capital costs of the charge point plus associated installation costs.  Eligible units include a single dedicated unit rated at 3 kW (Mode 2 ‘slow’, 16A, fitted with a domestic 3-pin socket) or 7 kW (Mode 3 ‘fast’, 32A, typically using a Type 2 'Mennekes'  connector). All current EVs are currently able to use either Mode 2 or Mode 3 charging units using an appropriate connecting cable.

For more info: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/plug-in-vehicle-chargepoint-grants.

Most battery electric vehicles will accept a 13 A 'slow' supply that will charge a typical EV in 6-8 hours. In theory this could be using a standard 3-pin plug. But the industry is getting a bit nervous about EVs being plugged into old sockets that haven't seen an electrician for a few decades (or more) and want to avoid any scenario which involves a garage burning down due to bad wiring.

So as a minimum, we'd suggest a modern dedicated 16 A socket with a circuit breaker that can deliver 3 kW power as supplied by a reputable supplier of EV home charge points. However, if you want to future proof your garage for EVs, then we recommend a single-phase 32 A, 7 kW unit which will allow 'fast' charging (taking typically 3-4 hours). It's also worth remembering that, if you buy an EV, most come with a deal from a charge point supplier who will install a high quality socket for your car – typically at a cost of £500-£1,000.

What is the average range of an EV?
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The latest battery electric vehicles have a range and performance that is more than adequate for most private and business driving applications up to around 100 miles per day including: city driving, commuting, regular drive cycles (such as delivery routes), short range trips and where only zero or low emission vehicles are allowed access.

A word of warning, however, on the official driving ranges which are measures on the New European Drive Cycle test cycle. As this no longer represents real world driving, many EV owners report (and accept) lower driving ranges of around 15-20% less than the official figures. This would reduce the effective range to around 80 miles for most mid-priced BEVs.

Using heaters and air-con can further reduce range in cold or hot weather. That said, even a 60 mile range in the depth of winter with full use of on-board heater will still be sufficient for most urban based trips.

While most plug-in hybrids are capable of 15-40 miles in EV mode (depending on model), they have no range limitation as compared to conventional vehicles as the vehicle reverts to using the on-board engine if all the battery energy is depleted.

As part of the next round of EV launches, manufacturers are likely to offer different battery packages, with the option to pay less for a short range EV (<100 miles) or more for one with a higher than average range (>200 miles).