Electric Cars: Things to think about before buying!

Electric car

Electric Vehicles (EVs) have been out for quite some time now. Just like Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars, EVs come in all different shapes and sizes. Where does one even begin when looking into EVs? It’s hard to get a proper feel for EVs at manufacturer showrooms as the staff are not there to teach you about the means it takes to own an EV, they are literally just there to make money out of you.

What is the difference between BEV, ICE and Hybrids.

  • BEV

    These are Battery Electric Vehicles. These cars are powered by 100% battery and use absolutely no petrol or diesel. This is the ‘deep end’ of electric cars where you have nothing to rely on except private and public electric charging points. These cars only come in automatic transmission as they do not have gears. Once you get one of these, you will become intimately accustomed to the feeling of range anxiety as you frantically search across the UK for electric charging points. You also get a cool green sticker on the left of the license plates to show that you are a visionary into the future of electric vehicles, neat huh?

  • ICE

    These are Internal Combustion Engine Cars. These cars are powered by 100% fuel - whether it be diesel or unleaded. These cars are loud and they release CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. However, as there are petrol stations everywhere, you never have to worry about running out of fuel, except that one time in 2021 where there was a massive fuel crisis. Plus, ICE vehicles enable you to rev your engine at traffic lights signalling intent to commence a quick 0-30mph racing sprint with the neighbouring vehicles.

  • Hybrids

    As the name suggests, attempt to bridge the gap between BEV and ICE vehicles by giving you both fuel types within one vehicle. These generally have a better fuel economy than ICE vehicles as they use battery electric power at lower speeds and then use ICE power at higher speeds and motorway driving. There are plug-in hybrids that require you to plug the car in and manually charge the electric motor. There are also self-charging hybrids that automatically charge the electric motor using the energy from the ICE engine.

Now, in this guide, we’re going to focus on Battery Electric Vehicles or BEVs.

Electric car charging
Source: Kindel Media / Pexels.

Top things to think about before buying an Electric Car

What is the range?

When driving a BEV, the first question you ALWAYS get asked is, how far does it go. How much range will it get on a single charge? 

Unfortunately, although the question is quite simple in itself, the answer is intricately complicated and convoluted. The staff at manufacturer showrooms are trained to always give you the maximum range an EV is capable of. However, they do not explain the strict conditions which have to be met for you to achieve the advertised range. 

For example, with a Honda e, the maximum range is 135miles. However, if you opt for the bigger 17” rims, the maximum range is reduced to 125miles. Then there is the weather factor. If it is summer or a warm day it’s much easier for you to achieve that 125miles to 135miles range as the battery does not have to work that hard when it has already been warmed up. In the winter, however, that 125 -135miles of estimated range can easily drop to 70-90miles. This can then drop even further when turning on the heater in an EV. The Honda e will actively give you a warning explaining that

if you were to turn off your heater, you would get up to 14miles more range! It can often become a case of making it to your destination with hypothermia, or being warm and toasty, whilst you wait for your breakdown to rescue you because you have run out of electricity. Furthermore, one thing your manufacturer salesperson may ‘forget’ to tell you, is that electric cars burn through their power much faster when achieving speeds above 54mph. Again, using the Honda e as an example, if I were to drive on a cold snowy day, on the motorway at national limit speeds with the heating on, I’m looking at an honest maximum of 60-70 miles range down from 125-135miles. 

Long story short, when you are given the maximum range of an EV, knock off about 70miles - If you are still happy with the range, you’re good to go. 

What is charging like?

Contrary to popular belief, charging an EV is quite simple, but first we need to discuss which types of chargers are available and which type your car is compatible with. 

The most basic type of charging available is called Slow charging aka the ‘granny cable’. This is a slow charging cable - usually 3kwh - which is designed to charge your car overnight due to the length of time it takes to charge. You literally plug one end of the cable into your car and the other end into a domestic 3-pin socket just like how you would charge your mobile phone. It takes around 12 hours plus, to charge from empty to full. This costs an average of £3 on the household electricity bill per charge. 

After this, you have fast chargers. These chargers will usually be fitted to your home or office building by a qualified electrician. They come in 3,7 and 22kwh charging speeds - depending on the maximum electric power your housing/ office building can output. These can charge your car in 4 - 8 hours which is perfect for charging when you’re at the office or quickly charging at home before you need to go out. These chargers usually cost upwards of £600 to be fitted to your home and an average of £3 on the household electricity bill per charge. However, this may not be a viable solution if you live in an apartment as you may not be able to obtain permission to have a fast charger installed into your shared building. 

You then have Rapid Chargers. These chargers can only be found in the public domain and they range from 50 - 300kwh of charging speed. Rapid chargers are quite often found at motorway service stations as they can potentially allow users to charge their EVs from 20-80% battery in less than 30mins! The annoying issue with Rapid Chargers is that they can often be found ‘out of order’ and in some areas, are completely unreliable. When you do happen to find one, it’s likely that it is already in use, which means you now have to wait for the driver currently charging to finish. These chargers tend to charge at an average rate of 30p per kWh which is roughly £3 - £16 per full charge. You usually have to fight with some kind of Smartphone app to get these working too as some vendors do not accept Pay-As-You-Go. 

Now, the rest is as simple as plugging one end of your charging cable into your car's charging port, and plugging the other end of the cable into the charging station itself. The real question is what do you do whilst waiting for your car to charge? Are you going to continue that novel you’ve been reading, or are you going to have a quick social media binge at the local Costa Coffee? 

electric home charging
Source: Ed Harvey / Pexels.

What is the EV like to drive?

EVs are some of the easiest cars to drive. Think bumper cars but bigger. They’re all automatic too which means if you’re just learning to drive now, you may as well go for an automatic license as the way of the clutch will soon be extinct! 

The ride is extremely smooth as EVs do not have any gears to change through. EVs can also be crazy fun to drive too because they are extremely nippy - most EVs will do 0-60mph in an average of 8 seconds which is good enough to beat most ICE vehicles at the traffic lights. 

Be prepared to see pedestrians mindlessly walk out in front of your car because they can’t hear your engine coming - many EVs deploy a mechanical sound that operates at lower speeds to warn pedestrians of your approach. 

There is the range anxiety, which is the feeling you get when you aren't sure of whether you will make it to your next destination before you run out of battery. There is also the depression and anger you feel when you realise that the charging infrastructure in the UK is quite poor in some areas and it is quite hard to find a public charger that actually works reliably. There have been many times where I would drive to an EV charging station with 10miles of range left (5 miles with the heating on), only to find that it was out of order and I then had to find another charging station before my car completely died on me. 

Are EVs for You?

Now, this is the ultimate question. I personally would not recommend an EV to anyone who does not have access to home EV charging or reliable public EV charging. When I say reliable public EV charging, I’m thinking of at least a minimum of 10 working charging stations within 5miles of your home. 

If you do not have a reliable charging network in your local area, owning a BEV can become an extremely tedious process which I would not wish on my worst enemy. If possible, you also want to find all the FREE charging stations in your area. These are usually based in supermarkets. If you’re lucky enough to live near one of these, you’re essentially charging for free and living the ‘good life’. 

Do you take long motorway journeys? If you do, you’re going to need an EV with a range of at least 250 - 300 miles of range minimum, to get anywhere on time. Any EV with fewer miles and you’ll be in trouble. 

For example, in my old ICE Citroen C1 57’ it used to take me 3 hours and 15mins to travel from London to Nottingham. I now own a Honda e, it takes 4 hours plus for me to travel the same journey due to having to make a stop for 45-60mins to charge, and having to drive at 54mph in the slow lane on the M1 to squeeze the most range out of the car. 


Do electric cars pay the congestion charge?

No, not if you go online and register your EV for the Congestion Charge Exemption. This costs £10 at the time of writing. Please be aware that without completing this process, your EV will have to pay congestion charges as per normal.

Are electric cars cheaper to run?

Do electric cars pay road tax?

Do electric cars need an MOT?

Do electric cars need servicing?

About the author

Joel is a YouTuber from South East London. He is the founder and main presenter of Tech Jamo Youtube Channel, a channel focused on all things Tech and Video Games.

Check out the TechJamo YouTube Channel!

He also is the owner of a Honda e. Check out TechJamo's Honda e review on YouTube!

Wondering how to finance your EV purchase, read TechJamo's guide on electric car financing.