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Common electric vehicle questions answered

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In this guide, we review the most common electric vehicle questions asked by motorists looking to invest in a greener transport option.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming more commonplace on Irish roads, and as such, they have piqued the interest of many motorists. 

However, for some, the territory of electric vehicles remains unknown. 

Here we take a look at the most frequent questions asked about electric vehicles. From learning about EV types to motor insurance costs, this guide will help you to make a fully informed should you wish to invest in an EV.

1. What kind of electric vehicles are there?

There are two types of electric vehicles: battery electric vehicles and hybrids.

Battery electric vehicle (BEV)

These are fully-electric vehicles, which run solely on battery power. They don’t use any petrol or diesel and require regular charging. 

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEV)

Hybrid cars use two different energy sources to maximise efficiency. They combine a classic internal combustion engine using petrol or diesel, with electrical energy stored in batteries.  

You can learn more about these in our guide on what to consider when purchasing an electric vehicle.

2. What types of hybrids are there?

There are three main types of hybrid cars.

Full hybrid

  • These are the most common hybrids.
  • They use both the combustion engine and electric motors to drive the car, either simultaneously or independently. 
  • They don’t need to be plugged in, as the batteries are recharged through power from the combustion engine, and energy is recovered when the vehicle brakes. 

Mild hybrids

  • These are typically the cheapest hybrids. 
  • Mild hybrid cars use an electric motor to assist the petrol or diesel combustion engine when accelerating to save fuel.
  • The two power sources can’t be used independently. 
  • These don’t need to be plugged in.

Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs)

  • Unlike full and mild hybrids, PHEVs can be plugged in to charge their electric batteries. 
  • This results in PHEVs having a greater electric-only range.

3. Are electric cars as reliable as petrol or diesel cars?

EVs are more reliable than fuel-powered vehicles. As they have fewer moving parts, the risk of wear and tear is reduced, and issues are less likely to occur. 

If an EV does break down, usually a specialist will need to fix it. Unlike fuel-powered cars, EVs can't be repaired on the hard shoulder as easily.

Should your EV break down, avoid towing it if possible. EVs don’t have transmissions, so putting them in neutral and towing them can damage the electric motor. 

Instead, use a flatbed truck or trailer, as all four wheels are off the ground being towed.

4. Are electric cars more expensive than fuel-powered cars?

New EVs are more expensive to purchase than their petrol or diesel counterparts, even with the Government grant of €5,000 taken into consideration.

A new EV can cost anything from 15% to 50% more than conventionally powered cars.

Despite this, actually running and maintaining an EV is cheaper than petrol or diesel-powered cars.

In fact, reports show that BEVs are around 74% cheaper annually than petrol, hybrid or diesel equivalents, when fuel, servicing, and insurance costs are combined.

5. Is charging an electric vehicle expensive? 

Charging an EV is more affordable than paying for fuel, even as energy prices increase.

The price you pay to charge your EV will depend on a number of factors:

  • The battery size 
  • The range of the EV
  • Where you’re charging the car, i.e. at home or at a public charging station
  • The unit rate of electricity

Charging your EV at home tends to be significantly less than using public charging points. 

Check out this guide if you want to learn all about the ins and outs of charging your EV.

6. Are there any incentives available for buying an EV?

There is a range of grants and benefits available which can help you lower the financial impact of your EV purchase. 

From SEAI grants to toll reductions, you can discover what incentives are available here.

7. How far can a fully-charged EV travel?

The distance an EV can be driven between a battery charge is known as the range. 

Hybrid EVs don’t have any issues with the overall driving range, however, BEVs are limited in the distances they can drive without needing to be charged.  

The range can vary between models and will depend on the power of the car’s battery. For longer ranges, a larger battery is required. This, of course, comes with a higher price tag.

Typically, EV ranges go from 100km up to 500km. The average range of most new electric vehicles is between 250km and 350km. 

Some top-of-the-range EVs travel distances of up to 500km on a full charge. 

8. What determines an electric vehicle’s range?

Along with different driving modes (see question 9), there are a variety of factors that influence an EV’s range, including:

Battery size and capacity

  • The size of an EV’s battery indicates the amount of electricity it’s able to store.
  • Energy capacity is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh), denoting the battery's energy storage over a specific time. 
  • The bigger the battery capacity, the bigger the range.

Driving habits

  • Driving smoothly is the key to achieving the best range.
  • New EVs boast quick acceleration, however, taking advantage of this can greatly reduce the range.
  • Softer acceleration and lower speeds use less energy. 
  • How you brake will also impact the range of your EV. 

Weather

  • In colder conditions during winter, EVs can lose up to 20% of their range. 
  • This is partially down to motorists using the car’s internal heater to stay warm. 
  • If it’s windy, then the EV will need to use more power to reach the same speeds.
  • When the weather is good, batteries can often go beyond their stated range.

Terrain

  • The surface you’re driving on greatly impacts the range of your EV. 
  • Inclines require more energy to drive than a flat road. 
  • What goes up, must come down, and surprisingly going downhill in an EV is beneficial. As you descend and the car slows down, the electric motor goes into reverse and charges the battery. This is known as ‘regenerative braking’.

9. What driving modes are available in an EV?

When you purchase an EV, you’ll notice numerous driving modes, which will differ depending on the type of EV you have, and the car’s make and model. 

At the touch of a button, different driving modes can change the handling, dynamics, and efficiency of an EV. 

Driving modes offer you the ability to choose how you want to drive in different circumstances. However, it’s important to note that some modes are more taxing on the battery than others.

In general, driving modes can include:

  • Normal mode: Your EV will operate in this mode unless you dictate otherwise.
  • Auto EV: If you have a PHEV, auto mode is the default setting when you start your car. It switches between electric and engine operation. Energy recuperated from braking recharges the battery, maximising the electric range.
  • Eco-mode: Eco-mode aims to increase fuel efficiency and save energy by reducing the levels of acceleration. It makes your EV run more economically than it would in its normal driving mode. Eco-mode is ideal for shorter, daily trips. 
  • Sports mode: This offers a more fun and engaging experience. More power is available to the motor, the steering gets heavier and the suspension will stiffen. 
  • Comfort mode: This is the best setting for long-distance travel, as it ensures your EV runs as smoothly and comfortably as possible. Comfort mode offers a good balance between eco and sports settings.
  • Snow mode: This assists the motorists in snowy conditions which can be often difficult in winter. Braking power becomes gentler and traction control will increase grip as it becomes more active.

10. Do electric cars need oil?

BEVs don’t require motor oil, as they don’t have an internal combustion engine with moving parts. EVs are instead charged by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. 

This will help to keep your maintenance and servicing costs down because your car won’t need regular oil changes. 

Some electric vehicles have gearboxes, which occasionally need oil changes. 

Similarly, there will still be other fluids required, such as power steering fluid and brake fluid, which need to be checked and topped up regularly.

11. Will I get cheaper car insurance if I have an EV?

When electric vehicles were initially introduced to the Irish market, many insurers raised their prices due to the high cost of repairs and the many unknowns of owning an EV.

However as EVs have become more commonplace on Irish roads, many insurers have done a u-turn and offer EV owners insurance discounts, making EVs cheaper to insure than petrol or diesel-powered cars in some cases.

Some insurers even offer discounts of 10-15% in an effort to support a greener environment.

We recommend shopping around for car insurance to find the best rate available to you. 

12. Can electric cars drive through water?

It’s well known that water and electricity don’t mix well together, but don’t worry, EVs are safe to drive in water and wet conditions. 

As with petrol or diesel-powered cars, EVs are capable of coping with a certain amount of water. 

EVs have to meet and comply with international safety standards, meaning high voltage components and battery packs are designed to be safe in water, even if fully submerged. 

If you do have to drive through a flood, be cautious and always test your brakes afterwards.

Find the best value car insurance on bonkers.ie

One of the benefits of having an EV is that you can often avail of cheaper car insurance rates.

Here at bonkers.ie you can use our free car insurance service to find a policy that best suits your needs.  

If you want to cut your household expenses, check out our range of other comparison tools. We have services that will help you lower the cost of your energy, broadband, banking, and other insurance bills on our site. 

Expand your motoring knowledge

If you found this guide helpful, make sure you take a look at our other guides:

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Get in touch

We hope we answered all of your EV-related questions in this guide, but if we missed anything feel free to get in touch with us. You can contact us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

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