Electric vehicles

Electric or plug-in vehicles come in all shapes and sizes with a wide array of technologies making up this sector. Our best practice guide on plug-in vehicles and electric car video guide explain the different types of electric vehicles and help you understand how the different fuel technologies can work for you.


Government support in the form of the Plug-in Vehicle Grant is available to reduce the initial cost. This provides a subsidy of:

  • 35% of the cost of a car, up to a maximum of either £2,500 or £4,500 depending on the category the model belongs to (see below)
  • 20% of the cost of a van, up to a maximum of £8,000

The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) has a list of eligible cars and vans. The grant is automatically deducted from the retail price when an eligible vehicle is purchased, so there is no additional paperwork to complete, and there's no need to pay the full retail price and then reclaim the benefit. For both the car and van grant, minimum warranty terms apply and pre-registration conversions are eligible.

There are three grant categories for cars, differentiating between Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) on the basis of their carbon dioxide emissions and their zero emission range, whilst retaining a technology neutral approach:

  • Category 1: carbon dioxide emissions of less than 50g/km and a zero emission range of at least 70 miles.
  • Category 2: carbon dioxide emissions of less than 50g/km and a zero emission range between 10 and 69 miles.
  • Category 3: carbon dioxide emissions of 50-75g/km and a zero emission range of at least 20 miles.
  • Vans: carbon dioxide emissions of less than 75g/km and a zero emission range of at least 10 miles.

As of 1 March 2016, 2 grant rates are available: ‘Category 1’ vehicles benefit from a grant of £4,500. ‘Category 2 and 3’ vehicles with a shorter zero emission range — such as plug-in hybrid vehicles with a petrol or diesel engine — receive £2,500.

Please note, criteria for grants are subject to change. Please refer to the OLEV Guidance for more details.  

Running costs

The lifetime running costs of an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle will be of great interest to potential purchasers hoping to offset the higher initial purchase price against lower running costs. Plug-in cars offer a number of potential savings compared to conventional vehicles:

  • a full charge will cost around £2 to £3 and will give a typical range of 100 miles. Driving 100 miles in a petrol or diesel car will cost around £9 to £13 in fuel, That is around four times the cost of the electric car. The cost savings will be greatest when owners have access to an overnight low rate electricity tariff.
  • plug-in vehicles are currently exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax).
  • plug-in cars are eligible for a 100% discount from the London Congestion Charge, worth up to £2,900 a year.
  • free parking may also be available to further encourage the uptake of electric cars in some urban areas.
  • there are fewer mechanical components than conventional vehicles so servicing costs are likely to be lower and we anticipate that maintenance costs will be lower too.

Maximising range

Most electric vehicles available on the market today have a typical range of around 100 miles. However, how far you can go on one charge largely depends on how you drive the car. Driving the car in the most efficient way maximises the car's range and ensures driver satisfaction.  

Recharging facilities

Charging infrastructure is growing across the UK. There are several chargepoint maps available that detail chargepoint locations:

Electric vehicle users can receive funding from OLEV to install a homecharger for their plug-in vehicle. The Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme provides a grant of up to 75 per cent of the eligible costs of chargepoint installation (capped at £500, inc VAT) for the registered keeper, lessee or nominated primary user of an electric vehicle from 1 September 2014 onwards. Find out more about eligibility criteria and a list of approved installers.

In Scotland, a 'Charge Your Car' swipe card or smart phone app is required to access public charge points. Visit Charge Your Car for more details.

Living with an Electric Car

The Living with an Electric Car series of three short clips is presented by Robert Llewellyn of Red Dwarf and Scrapheap Challenge fame. They cover most of the questions potential buyers may have including charging, range and the cost of fuel (electricity) for the vehicles. They offer a realistic and in-depth review of the viability of electric cars and vans.