25 May 2021

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With all the discussions and developments around EVs in the fleet sector, it is easy to forget that a lot of drivers know very little about how electric cars and vans work. 

Here is a quick guide you can give employees who might be driving EVs soon to help get them up to speed.

What are electric vehicles powered by?

EVs mostly use lithium-ion batteries, grouped together, then linked to a motor which drives the wheels. In order to charge the batteries, the car or van needs to be charged via a cable connected to mains electricity.

Batteries vary in size and this capacity is rated by Kilowatt Hours (kWh). The higher the kWh number, the bigger the battery pack and, generally, the longer the range.

How do you plug in an EV?

Most EVs are supplied with a cable that has a special connector (the most popular one is called a Type 2 AC connector) which plugs into a socket on the vehicle. At the other end, you can either have traditional plug for use in a standard household socket, or another Type 2 connector for faster charging from specially-installed home or public chargepoints.

Once the connection is established (it’s perfectly safe to do this in the rain if you follow manufacturers’ guidance), the plug will lock in place. You cannot drive away, and only by manually unlocking it can you remove it.

How long does it take to charge an EV?

The best way to charge an EV is overnight, and then top it up during the day if needed. If you charge at home just using a cable attached to a plug socket, it is likely to charge at a rate of 3.7kW. This can take a lot of time: a 40kWh battery will take nearly 11 hours to fill completely (40kWh, 3.7kW = 10hrs 50 mins approx).

By fitting a specialist home charger, you will be able to increase that power supply to 7kW, halving the charging time.

On the road, there are even higher power chargers, often rated at 22kW (less than two hours for a 40kWh battery), 50kW (less than an hour for 40kWh) and 150kW, which would fill a 40kWh battery in around 15 minutes.

As the power rating for these chargepoints gets higher though, be aware that some vehicle battery packs will not be able to charge at such rates: they will automatically charge at their maximum speed.

How far can you go on one charge?

Generally, the bigger the battery, the further the range, and for cars now with batteries of up to 100kWh, this equates to a potential range of around 400 miles, although just like petrol or diesel vehicles, how far you can travel on one ‘fill up’ is affected by the same factors: size and weight, route, speed, weather (although EV range is especially affected by cold weather) and how the vehicle is driven.

It should be noted (as with petrol and diesel vehicles, again) there are official figures created in laboratory conditions, and ‘real world’ performance, which is often less than the official number. By how much these two figures vary depends, as mentioned previously, on numerous external factors.

Do EVs drive differently?

EVs are equipped with a single forward gear, so it is usually a case of selecting drive and then driving just as you would in an automatic. There are a couple of specific attributes EVs have though. One is that batteries deliver instant shove, unlike a petrol or diesel motor which often requires increased engine speed to deliver this. So most are initially fast accelerating.

The other main difference is most EVs have regenerative braking, where the battery is charged when you lift off the accelerator. This means they will slow down quickly, even if you have not pressed the brake pedal - although the level of slowing can be changed on some models.

These two factors require a little getting used to for the first time EV driver, but generally EVs are very simple to use. Some of the latest models, such as the Volkswagen ID.3, do not even have a starter button. You just get in, select drive, and off you go.

Are EVs more expensive?

Buying outright, EVs are more expensive than equivalent petrol or diesel versions, mainly due to the cost of the batteries: an entry level petrol Volkswagen Golf costs just over £22,300 on-the-road, while the equivalent Volkswagen ID.3 electric car (before any Government grants, which have a maximum level currently of £2,500) starts at around £31,600 OTR.

However, EVs are not expensive to charge, and you can easily work out the cost of charging an electric vehicle at home, if you know the tariff you are on. A typical off-peak tariff is 14.5p for 1 kWh. If your electric vehicle has a battery pack of 40kWh, then to charge it on that tariff could cost £5.80 (14.5p x 40kWh).

Public chargepoints can vary in price and are generally more expensive than charging at home, but it depends on many factors such as location and speed. You can find out more about this in our 5 Steps to an Alternative Fuel Fleet guide download your copy here

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