Electric cars: everything you need to know

From how to charge them to whether they are really better for the environment

Electric cars plugged into a charging point. Gareth Dunsmore of Nissan Europe envisages such points becoming ubiquitous at workplaces. Photograph: Alamy

How will I charge an electric car?

The first generation of electric-car buyers have been people with homes where it is easy to plug one in.

“The vast majority of Nissan Leaf customers are [families with] 2.4 children, mums and dads, with off-street parking,”

said Gareth Dunsmore of Nissan Europe.

“Tomorrow that won’t be the case.”

Dunsmore envisages charging points becoming ubiquitous at workplaces, and at shopping centres, railway stations, hotels and cinemas. For longer journeys, rapid chargers that can recharge a car’s battery in 30 minutes will increasingly proliferate across motorway service stations and at conventional refuelling stations.

For drivers living on terraced streets, the answers are not so simple but solutions are beginning to emerge. For example, Kensington and Chelsea council is running a trial with a UK energy company and German firm to add charging sockets to street lamps.

I’m worried about the battery running out – should I be?

Most mass market electric cars today have a range of 100-150 miles before the battery runs flat. Some of the top-end cars, such as Tesla’s electric sports cars, can run for 334 miles before needing a plug socket.

While that may not sound much compared to the 400-500 miles or more that a petrol or diesel car can manage before refilling, most car journeys in the UK would easily be accomplished in an electric car. Half of journeys are one to five miles; 38% are for five to 25 miles and only 2% are for 50 miles and more.

Of course, some people will need to go much further – and that’s where plug-in hybrids come in, using a petrol engine to run an electric motor after the battery runs out.
Improving battery technology is expected to extend even pure electric cars’ ranges to about 400 miles within a decade.

Are they cheaper?

Londoners in an electric car can already enter the congestion charge zone for free. If the government’s anti-pollution drive leads to more towns and cities imposing an air quality zone, that could lead to more tolls, from which electric cars are likely to be exempt.

Read more: The Guardian

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