Convert to owning an electric car

Charging points, running costs and living with battery power: the information you need to convert to being an electric car owner

BuyaCar team
Jan 10, 2017

Electric cars are increasingly more attractive, with lower prices, bigger batteries that can go further on a single charge, and cheap charging - in comparison to rising fuel prices.

But converting to owning an electric car after years of driving petrol or diesel models will mean a few changes. Here's what you need to know.


Electric car conversion

If you’ve only owned a petrol or diesel car before, then going electric won’t be entirely straightforward, but it need not be a headache either.

With a home charging point sorted out and a decent idea of how to charge up on long journeys, you’ll be able to whir past petrol station queues with the satisfaction that charging your car costs a fraction of the price of a tank of fuel, and that you’ll be exempt from car tax for the foreseeable future.

Whether you go for a pure electric car, a plug-in hybrid or a range-extender model. Here are your options and what you’ll need to change.

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Electric car conversion: charging

The ideal solution for electric car owners is to install a charging point at home for pure electrics or plug-in hybrids, which will require somewhere to park the car off the street - a driveway or a garage. If you don’t have the space, then maybe it’s time to convince your employer to have one installed at work.

For home charging, most people will be happy with a standard 3kW charge point, which will charge an EV such as the Nissan Leaf (below) in about 8 hours – overnight, basically. And the good news is the government will help pay for it with the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS). This provides up to 75% of the cost, capped at a maximum £500. That would bring the cost of a 3kW power point to about £300.

You will need to find an authorised installer, which the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) can provide here. Even better, you should be able to charge overnight on a cheaper electricity tariff. OLEV also provides a list of approved charging point suppliers.


Electric car conversion: the cost

The chances are that you’ll still pay more or an electric car than a conventional one. Pure electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe are more expensive than their petrol or diesel equivalents, but the difference is reduced thanks to government grants.

Both the Nissan and Renault are eligible for a government grant of £4500. That brings their cost down to £16,680 and £13,995 respectively. That’s not the end of the story, though. These prices don’t include the cost of the batteris which you have to lease for a monthly fee (you can pay more to buy the batteries upfront). For the Leaf, that’s £70 per month over five years with an annual mileage limit of 7500. For the Zoe, it’s £59 per month with an annual limit of 4500 miles. These prices are similar to the cost of fuelling a car for each mileage limit.

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To charge the Leaf and Zoe (below) will cost a negligible £3.00 for a range of 100 miles, using a home charging point. The cars are also exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty and the £11.50 daily London congestion charge, and free or discounted parking in some London boroughs.

Even if you opt for a range extender model – that’s where the car has a small motor that charges the batteries when they’re depleted – you could make considerable fuel savings.


Electric car conversion: longer journeys

One of the biggest fears of potential electric car buyers is that they might be left stranded with a battery that has run out of charge. But most daily journeys are considerably less than 40 miles, which is well within the range of a modern electric car.

If you regularly make long daily journeys of 100 miles or more, then an electric car may not be for you. But if you cover long distances occasionally, then you may not mind stopping to recharge en route.

You can cover the entire country with the current charging network. Zap-map charts the location of more than 4200 public charge points (there’s also a smartphone app, which locates and navigates you to charging points). The map also allows you to find charge points with rapid charge capability (50kW), which can charge up to 80% in about half an hour. There are around 500 such charging points in the UK - mostly at motorway services.

The site will also give you information about what connectors you’ll need and what, if any, network the charging point is on. That’s important because some networks require you to use an app or an access card to charge up.

So using the map, you can plan your journey in chunks – if your EV has a range of 100 miles, for example, you could plan a journey route with stops every 75 miles or so. You may be stopping more regularly - and for longer - than if your car ran on petrol or diesel.


Electric car conversion: living with battery power

If you haven’t experienced a modern EV, you’re in for a very pleasant surprise. The first thing that’ll strike you is just how smoothly and quickly they accelerate, thanks to their instant burst of power the moment that you press the accelerator.

Without the vibrations of an engine underneath the bonnet, electric cars are smooth and quiet enough to rival a Rolls-Royce. It does mean that you have to anticipate pedestrians walking out in front of you because they haven’t heard the car coming - particularly at low speeds. It’s a big enough issue that the American government recently announced a new regulation that will require electric cars to make an artificial noise when moving at 18.6mph or less – at higher speeds, tyre and wind noise are sufficiently loud.



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