Volkswagen ID.4
Beth Twigg

Beth Twigg

Beth is our Content Marketing Executive, tasked with creating great articles to keep you both entertained and informed. She has two years previous experience, but has been writing and scribbling for much longer.

Read time of 10 minutes.

If you're thinking about moving from an ICE vehicle to an electric car, this is the guide for you

Electric cars have been around for longer than you might think.

The first attempts at electrifying transport can be traced back to the nineteenth century when several brave inventors experimented with electric-powered vehicles.

From the French physician, Gaston Plate, who created the first rechargeable battery in 1865, to William Morrison who, in 1891, built an electric car featuring an incredible top speed of 12mph, the idea of an electric-powered vehicle isn’t a new one.

Even Porsche was in on the action, producing its first electric car in 1898. This attempt featured a 50-mile range, a 3bhp electric motor, and a top speed of 22mph. Just a year later a Belgian electric car became the first road vehicle to reach speeds of over 62mph – a record that wasn’t broken until 1902 by a steam-powered car.

But though interest in electric vehicles grew during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, innovation stalled as petrol-powered cars grew in popularity and accessibility.

It wasn’t until the 1960s and ‘70s when electric cars came back on the scene, fuelled by the beginnings of the climate crisis. Consumers wanted an alternatively fuelled vehicle, and businesses began to invest in electric technologies.

These days you’ll find a whole range of electric cars on offer, each offering something a little different. From the microcar Renault Twizy – perfect for city living – to the family favourite Volkswagen ID.3, or the ever-popular Long Range high-performance Tesla Model 3, there’s an EV out there for everyone.

If you’re interested in switching from an ICE vehicle to an electric one, this is the guide for you. We’ve put the hard work in so you know exactly how to pick the right electric car lease for you.

Skoda Octavia Estate

Skoda Octavia PHEV

PHEV vs electric

The first decision to make is whether you want to dip your toe into the electric world, or whether you want to dive right in.

A plug-in hybrid (or PHEV) vehicle is a combination of a combustion engine and an electric motor and makes the perfect compromise between the two.

Offering the best of both worlds, opt for a PHEV if you want to take advantage of the benefits of electric driving, but you’re not quite ready to let go of the traditional combustion engine fun.

The engine will initially fire using electric power if the battery is charged and can then switch between fuel types. The combustion engine will kick in on longer journeys or when the battery runs out of power; whichever comes first.

With a lot of PHEVs like the fan favourite, Skoda Octavia boasting claimed ranges of up to 50 miles, you might find that you only ever need to use the electric engine - helping to keep both your fuel emissions and running costs down.

Vauxhall Mokka-e

Vauxhall Mokka-e

What does an EV cost?

Electric cars tend to be more expensive initially than their ICE counterparts. A big chunk of this can be attributed to the battery, which is a lot more expensive to produce than a combustion engine.

The good news? 

Once you’re behind the wheel, an EV typically tends to be far more affordable to run. Research has shown that electric cars can cost as little as 4p per mile to run, while an ICE vehicle costs around 9p per mile on average. The size of the battery, the energy tariff you’re on, and whether you're using a home charger or a public one all factor into the ongoing costs. 

More public charging points are popping up around the country, with many workplaces now offering electric charging – and often for free.

You’ll also save on tax. The total cost of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) is calculated on the CO2 emissions that your vehicle produces, which means electric cars don’t pay any road tax. And with the 2021 Budget announcing a rise in the price of VED, you could start to rack up some major savings.

Often drive in London? You’ll enjoy some major savings on the Congestion Charge – EVs are exempt, and with the charge costing around £12.50 a day, if you regularly drive through an Ultra Low Emissions Zone, you could see some real savings.

And if you’re looking for a new company car, you’ll want to consider an electric business car lease for your next vehicle.

Since April 2020 businesses and company car drivers have paid zero tax on Benefit in Kind. Although this is set to increase to 1% or 2% in the next couple of years, it’s still a fraction of the cost you’d end up paying on some of the most popular combustion engine vehicles.

Nissan LEAF

Nissan LEAF

Electric acronyms: kW, kWh, and WLTP

When it comes to energy consumption, it can be easy to get kilowatt (kW) and kilowatt-hours (kWh) mixed up – but it’s easy to get to grips with.

Imagine the battery like a lake.

kWh is the amount of water the lake can hold, while kW is the rate at which the adjoining river flows into (or out of) the lake. In other words, kWh is the size of the battery, and kW is used for both the measurement of energy used for chargers or the output of the electric motor (the equivalent of horsepower or brake horsepower).

The larger the kilowatt-hour capacity, the more powerful the electric motor is. Take the Nissan Leaf – it has either a 40kWh battery model or a 60kWh model. The claimed range of the 40kWh battery is 168 miles, while the 60kWh variant boasts a claimed range of 239 miles. If the range is your biggest priority, you’ll want to look for electric cars with big batteries.

The only downside of this is that the bigger the battery, the longer it takes to charge.

WLTP, on the other hand, stands for Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test and measures the efficiency of a vehicle. ICE vehicles go through WLTP testing too, but when it comes to EVs, the WLTP test gives you a pretty realistic idea of the claimed mileage.

Knowing the top mile range of a car makes it a lot easier to make an informed choice about the right vehicle for you. Since it was introduced in 2017, all new electric cars now come onto the market with WLTP certification. If you're looking at leasing an electric car through us, the WLTP data (along with other useful stats like boot size and Euro NCAP safety score) is available on all our electric lease deals. 

Volkswagen ID.3

Volkswagen ID.3 charging

The EV battery – explained

Electric cars have come a long way over the last decade or so and can now go a long way on a single charge. At the moment, EVs have an average range of 193 miles and this will only get better.

And by making an incredibly powerful car, you’re also making an incredibly efficient one. Take Tesla, for example. Widely known for its extensive lineup of powerful cars, Tesla models boast some of the longest ranges, able to travel between 300 and 400 miles between charges.

Worried about the battery starting to die over time, as smartphones do? The short answer is yes, it eventually will. But not in the same way, and over a much longer timeframe. Luckily, dramatic failures are unheard of thanks to sophisticated battery management systems protecting the batteries from overcharging or charging too rapidly.

Individual manufacturers offer different timespans when it comes to battery life; Nissan, for example, guarantees that the Leaf will last for 100,000 miles or a total of eight years.

big upside to an electric battery though is instant torque.

Torque is the rotational power of the engine; the more torque produced, the quicker the car accelerates and the faster it hits top speed. With a combustion engine, torque delivery gradually increases to a peak before declining again. But with an EV, instant torque results in fast acceleration speeds that, in some cases, outperform their traditional counterparts.

If you’re behind the wheel, this results in some very rewarding driving and it's particularly great if you do a lot of stop-start town driving.

Hyundai Kona charger

Charging cable for the Hyundai Kona

The difference between chargers

Having to charge an EV versus being able to fill up at a petrol station is one of the biggest changes. But there are several options available.

If you want to charge your electric car at home, you’ve got the choice between using either a three-pin domestic plug socket (the most inefficient way of charging your car – but useful in a pinch) or installing a wall box.

Though there is an extra charge that comes along with the wall box installation, the 7kW charger typically produces around 30 miles of charge in an hour. If you plug your car in at the end of the day, you’ll wake up each morning to a fully charged, ready-to-go vehicle. It is also when electricity prices are at their lowest.

The best bit about overnight charging? You can pre-set your car to heat up before you get in, making the change between warm bed, freezing morning air, and car cabin a bit more bearable.

If you want to fuel on the go, there are currently over 10,000 charging points across the UK and you can utilise apps built for EV users like ZapMap to find these. Dependent on which operator the charging point belongs to, you might have to use a specific app or become a member to unlock the charger.

These chargers – both free and paid – can be found in a variety of places, including service stations, car parks, supermarkets, cinemas, and even just at the side of the road. Chargers at service stations are best for longer journeys and have more rapid chargers available; they allow the EV to recoup 80% of the battery in around half an hour but are generally more expensive.

The Tesla Supercharger network is not only the most extensive, but is also one of the best, with the rapid charging times unbeaten by anyone else. It’s currently only open to Tesla drivers, though Elon Musk has confirmed this is set to change.

Peugeot e-2008 in woods

Peugeot e-2008

The environmental impact of electric vehicles

The biggest environmental impact of an EV occurs before it has even left the manufacturing floor.

One report from the European Environment Agency pinpointed the fact that, though vehicle life cycle analyses have shown that EVs are greener than ICE vehicles, the emissions from electric vehicle production do run higher than emissions from combustion engine production.

This can be attributed to the battery manufacturing process; it uses a lot of base metals like copper, aluminium, and iron, as well as other critical raw materials (CRMs). These CRMs are not only high-risk and have high economic importance, but the extraction process is energy-intensive.

As time goes by, electric car battery production will inevitably get greener as the world shifts further towards renewable energy sources, and battery production gets smarter and relies less on critical raw materials.

But once the car has left the factory, its zero-emissions status means it has a very small ongoing environmental impact.

On the flip side, when a traditional ICE vehicle leaves the factory, that’s just the beginning of its long life producing tailpipe emissions that have a serious impact on pollution and the environment.

The electricity used to charge the car does have an impact on the environment, though this will vary depending on the method of power generation. An electric car has the potential to be 100% when it comes to the power it uses to keep trucking on if that power comes from renewable energy sources.

And when the electric battery does eventually die, it will need recycling or replacing. Though there's currently no standardised process across the industry, already reports have suggested that material recovery can lead to a 23 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases when compared to virgin material production.

Jaguar I-PACE

Jaguar I-PACE

The future of EVs

We are in the middle of the biggest automotive revolution since Henry Ford introduced the production line in 1913.

Some industry observers argue that we’ve passed the point where electric car sales will rapidly overtake petrol and diesel cars. Many manufacturers are already on board, with brands like Jaguar, Volvo, and Ford pledging to pivot and sell only electric vehicles.

The UK Government has already announced that come 2030, there’ll be a complete ban on new sales of petrol and diesel cars, which means a much larger chunk of people in the UK will soon be driving electric cars.

But for the 2030 ban to be a success EV technology needs further improvements to get everyone on board.

Developments in battery technology will make a big difference, with Chinese manufacturer CATL announcing last year that it already has the technology available to create a battery that will last for a million miles.

Stronger charging infrastructure is also a priority in eliminating range anxiety and making EVs more accessible. Though there has been a sharp increase in the number of public charging points available, this technology still pales in comparison to the well-established fuelling stations.

Wireless charging pads are already on the horizon, with the technology there and ready to be used. Nottingham won a £3.4 million grant in 2020 to trial wireless charging for its taxis, and if this trial is a success, it might not be long before wireless charging becomes widespread.

Currently, it works a lot like wireless charging for your smartphone does. Simply park the car over the pad – which can theoretically be placed under the road surface – and the battery will charge.

The next step will then be bigger, longer pads placed underneath roads that can charge the car battery on the go, so you never have to worry about stopping to charge your vehicle again.

If you’re thinking about making the switch, an electric car lease is one of the best ways to experience electric driving for yourself. Browse our full range of brilliant electric cars, and if you've got any questions, just get in touch with one of our leasing experts.