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Electric cars and vehicles

Electric or 'plug-in' vehicles come in all shapes and sizes with a wide array of technologies making up this sector. To find out more about plug-in vehicles, watch our electric car guide video that explains the different types of electric vehicles and helps you understand how the different fuel technologies can work for you. If you're interested in learning how to manage your fleet sustainably to save money and reduce emissions, read our fleet management essentials.

Grants

Government support for electric cars and vehicles exist in the form of the Plug-in Vehicle Grant towards the purchase of vehicles, and the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme to assist with costs of installation of a homecharger. Other grant schemes also exist for Local Authorities to install on-street residential chargepoints and the Workplace Charging Scheme.

Plug-in Vehicle Grant

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
  • 20% of the cost of a motorcycle, up to a maximum of £1,500

The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) has a list of eligible vehicles. 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 the Plug-in Vehicle 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.

  • Motorbikes: zero carbon dioxide emissions and a zero emission range of at least 31 miles.

  • Mopeds: zero carbon dioxide emissions and a zero emission range of at least 19 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 Category 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

The Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme

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 a new or second-hand eligible electric vehicle on or after 1 April 2015 onwards. Find out more about eligibility criteria and a list of approved installers.

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 which are outlined in this animation:

  • a charge giving you a range of around 100 miles will cost around £2 to £4 in electricity. Driving 100 miles in a petrol or diesel car will cost around £12 to £15 in fuel. The cost savings will be greatest when owners have access to an overnight low rate electricity tariff.
  • zero-emission vehicles that cost less than £40,000 new are exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax), whilst other lower emission vehicles still qualify for a lower first year rate.
  • cars or vans (not exceeding 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight) which emit 75g/km or less of CO2 and that meet the Euro 5 standard for air quality qualify for a 100% discount on the Congestion Charge, worth up to £11.50 per day.
  • 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.
  • some energy companies offer tariffs that would reward you for charging your car at off-peak times, such as overnight. Find out a set of tips on how to charge your electric vehicle at home for as little as possible. 

Maximising range

Most electric vehicles available on the market today have a typical range of over 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, see our guide to efficient driving in electric and low emission vehicles for our top tips.  

Recharging facilities

Charging infrastructure is growing across the UK. To find out more about how to charge your vehicle, check out our animated guide. There are several chargepoint maps available that detail chargepoint locations:

In Scotland, a 'ChargePlace Scotland' access card or smart phone app is required to access public charge points.

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.

More information

Useful resources

Learn more about domestic chargepoint grants, accredited installers and schemes available from the Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV)

Read publications

Speak with an expert

If you're based in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, call Energy Saving Advice Service (ESAS) on 0300 123 1234. Calling hours: Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm. (Calls cost no more than a national rate call).

Contact ESAS

Based in Scotland?

Read about support and funding available for electric vehicles in Scotland. Get in touch for advice by calling our advice line on 0808 808 2282 or email sustainabletransport@est.org.uk.

Scottish EV Loan