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Electric vehicles

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Electric vehicles are an increasingly attractive option, due to their lower running costs, the expanding choice of models available and intensifying concerns about air quality and climate change. Learn more about the types of electric vehicles, their benefits and the what financial support is available to help buy one.

If you represent a business or public-sector organisation, take a look at Switching to electric vehicles, which forms part of our Fleet Management Toolkit.

Find out more about charging your electric vehicle.

Electric vehicles explained

Learn more about the ins and outs of electric vehicles with Robert Llewellyn of Red Dwarf and Scrapheap Challenge fame. This short video explains EVs and answers common questions.

If you are considering an ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) as your company car, our animated guide  can help.

BEV (Battery-electric EV)

A vehicle powered only by electricity, and also known as ‘pure’ or 100% electric cars.  The vehicle is charged by an external power source, i.e. at a chargepoint. They do not produce any tailpipe emissions.

Currently typical battery-electric cars have a real-world range of over 100 miles, with many of the newest travelling up to 200 miles on a single charge.  Examples include the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, Renault Zoe and Kia Soul. 

PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid EV)

A vehicle which has a battery, electric drive motor and an internal combustion engine (ICE). It can be driven using the ICE, or the electric drive motor, or both, and can be recharged from an external power source.

Typical PHEVs will have a pure-electric range of up to 30 miles. Once the electric battery is depleted, journeys can still continue in hybrid mode, meaning that there is no range limitation. PHEVs are only efficient if there are regularly charged, otherwise they can be more expensive to run than a conventional petrol or diesel.

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Audi e-tron and VW Golf GTE are all examples. 

E-REV (Extended Range EV)

These are a version of plug-in hybrids. An E-REV combines a battery, an electric drive motor and a small petrol or diesel generator. The electric motor always drives the wheels with the ICE acting as a generator when the battery is depleted.

The range can be between 150-300 miles. An example of an E-REV is the BMW i3 range-extender.

Benefits of electric vehicles

While the initial upfront purchase price of an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle can be higher, this is offset by lower running costs. Electric vehicles offer savings including:

  • A full charge in a pure electric vehicle will give a typical range of over 100 miles and  will cost approximately £4 to £6 if charging at home, and £8 to £10 if using public chargepoints. Driving 100 miles in a petrol or diesel car will cost around £13 to £16 in fuel, which can be two to three times more than the cost of charging the electric car. The cost savings will be greatest when owners charge at home and have access to an off-peak overnight electricity tariff - Citizens Advice have published a great analysis of the EV tariff market.
  • There are fewer mechanical components in an electric vehicle compared with conventional vehicles, which often results in lower servicing and maintenance costs.
  • Pure EVs costing no more than £40,000 have a zero rate of Vehicle Excise Duty.
  • Plug-in cars emitting 75g/km CO2 or less are eligible for a 100% discount from the London Congestion Charge. A regular user of this zone could be saving over £2,000 a year.
  • The lower or zero emissions of plug-in vehicles means that they will attract lower charges from Clean Air Zones being implemented around the UK and the Ultra Low Emission Zone in London.
  • Free parking for electric vehicles is available in some towns and cities.

OLEV Plug-in Vehicle Grant

Grants are available to reduce the initial purchase cost of eligible plug-in vehicles and the cost and installation of chargepoints. The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) is responsible for these grants.

The Plug-in Vehicle Grant provides up to:

  • 35% of the cost of a car, up to a maximum of either £3,500 provided the car has CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and can travel at least 112km (70 miles) without any emissions at all 
  • 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

OLEV maintains the 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. Please note, criteria for grants are subject to change.

If you live in Scotland, an interest-free Electric Vehicle Loan is also available.

Maximising range

Most electric vehicles 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. Discover helpful top tips in our electric vehicle driving guide.

More information

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

Struggling to charge your vehicle at home?

Local authorities can receive up to £7,500 per chargepoint installation, helping residents transition to green transport.

Read more