Your electric-car questions answered: DrivingElectric reader queries

We're here to help! Send us your questions about hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric cars and we'll do our best to answer

Electric cars

Here at DrivingElectric, we're on a mission to help people make the switch to a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or fully electric car. But there's lots to learn about this new automotive technology. Where do I charge? How is insurance affected? Will I see less range in the winter?

We've put together comprehensive answers to some of the most commonly asked questions, so have a look through our advice section to see if we've answered your query already. But if not, just get in touch via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter and we'll get back as soon as we can.

You can also come along to one of our DrivingElectric Showcase events to ask questions about electrified motoring in person, as well as a have a good look around some of the latest models on the market. On this page, we're posting questions readers have asked us to date, together with our answers, building towards an even bigger database of electrified motoring knowledge.

Replacing a Kia Picanto with an electric car for a 100-mile commute

Question: I'm looking at buying an electric car. I currently own a Kia Picanto and use it to get to and from work, 100 miles a day, five days a week. I'm currently looking at the the Peugeot e-208 or Kia e-Niro. There's a charging point at work and I'll need to get a wall charger installed at home. I have read that if I charge the car at home then at work, this could damage the battery?

My current thinking is that I'll have to charge the car every evening with at least 60 miles left? I assume it would be better to get it down to 10 miles of charge, however, ‘range anxiety’ kicks in. Additionally, would charging the battery every evening reduce the number cycles? Does this mean I would have to replace the battery or car every five years?

With a new car, I assume the latest charging will apply. I have read that the updated technology charges the car faster and the the computer program in the car protects the battery from over harging. Is this true when leaving the car charging over night?

Answer: You're right to say that you shouldn't charge the car more than is necessary, so charging only at home for a 100-mile round trip every day is more than enough. As with a phone or laptop, it's better not to constantly top it up from 80 or 90 to 100%, rather, you should let it run down further and charge for longer.

It'll be fine to charge the car every evening with about 60 miles left. Charging slowly overnight at home is the 'kindest' method of charging for electric-car batteries, so it shouldn't have a severe impact on battery life. Also, manufacturers guarantee their batteries well beyond five years, so if the battery capacity were to deteriorate significantly in that time, you would be entitled to a replacement free of charge – but we haven't heard of many people having to do this.

Using a 'smart' wallbox (which all new wallboxes have had to be since last summer) and the phone apps that come with the cars, you can programme them to charge up overnight, during the hours when electricity is at its cheapest, without any manual intervention from you beyond plugging in when you arrive home. They will always stop charging automatically before 'overcharging', overheating or damage occurs.

Can I charge my Kia at a Tesla Supercharger?

Question: I have a Kia e-Niro on order for delivery in March 2020 and will be travelling to Scotland end of April. Trying to plan my journey via Scotch Corner, I note public chargers at Scotch Corner services which seem to be frequently in use. Across the road is a Holiday Inn with a bank of Tesla Superchargers. Will I be able to charge up there with my e-Niro?

Answer: Unfortunately, only Teslas can charge up at Tesla Supercharger locations, so you'll have to go for the public chargers.

Free public charging points?

Question: Are some public charging points free to use? Do all suppliers have tariffs that offer cheaper charging periods?

Answer:  Some public charging points are set to 'free vend' when they first open or for promotional reasons by the operator. But as electric cars and charging points become more common, this is happening less and less, and will probably become as unusual as someone giving away free petrol! However, some businesses such as hotels and supermarkets may continue to offer free or reduced-cost charging to their customers as an incentive. Generally, all domestic electricity suppliers will offer cheaper rates overnight during 'off-peak' hours. Electric cars and home charging points can be set to automatically draw charge at these times in order to minimise your running costs.

Cost per mile of an electric car

Question: How much 'bang' (mileage) for your buck (£) does an electric car provide? Especially for countrywide" driving, not just city.

Answer: The answer varies somewhat depending on exactly what make and model of electric car you're driving and where you choose to charge up. Charging from home on cheaper overnight electricity rates will obviously result in a more favourable figure than using the public 'rapid chargers', which charge the car quickly but can also be quite expensive.

As a rough indication, you'd be looking at 'fuel costs' of between 3-4p per mile if you mostly charge at home, possibly even lower if you always use cheaper off-peak electricity during the night. The car and charger can be set to automatically charge during these hours. On a longer journey where you have to make use of rapid chargers, the numbers will be more in the region of 7-8p per mile.

VED on a Tesla Model 3

Question: If I bought a Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus, with its list price reduced below £40,000 by the Plug-In Car Grant, which figure would be used to determine whether I had to pay the £320 'premium' road tax for cars with list price over £40,000?

Answer: Unfortunately in this case, the original list price before the grant is used to determine tax liability, so you would have to pay the 'premium' road tax of £320 the first five times you taxed the car.

Registering a PHEV for London Congestion Charge exemption

Question: Please advise if I need to register my Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV for the London Congestion Charge exemption? I can see the vehicle is exempt and recognised.

Answer: Yes, you do need to register for the exemption, TfL does not apply it automatically. You can do so here.

Leaving an electric car parked for several months

Question: Can we leave a fully charged electric car standing without being plugged in for three consecutive months and expect it to start? What if it did run out of juice – does it get a jump? Any tips on storing my electric car while away?

Answer: Manufacturers' advice is generally to use a trickle charger if leaving an electric car idle for several months, and don't leave the main charging cable plugged into a charging point or socket during that time.

The 'main' electric-car battery that powers the motor isn't the concern (although it may lose some charge if left idle for a long period), rather it's the small 12v battery (the same as you get in a petrol or diesel car) that may run down if left for several months.

Charging without off-street parking

Question: I want to buy a Renault ZOE electric car but do not have off-street parking and the nearest public charging costs 3p a minute, costing about £28 for a full charge, which is much more than a tank of petrol for my Audi A1. I have a front garden which could be changed to make a hard standing, but there's a lot of resistance to paving over front gardens in my area. Do home chargers come with a cable long enough to stretch about six metres and is it okay if I have a cable cover on the pavement?

Answer: It is possible to get longer charging cables, but we wouldn't advise running a cable across a public pavement as a permanent solution to charging your car, even with a cable cover. It would probably be no more popular with your neighbours than paving over the garden, plus in the event that somebody did trip or fall over it, you could be held liable.

Have you had a look on Zap Map to see if there is a more affordable charging point in your vicinity? With the latest ZOE capable of nearly 250 miles, you may not have to charge that often, depending on your mileage, so a one-off trip to an affordable charging point once a week or so may be sufficient. You could also enquire with your local council about getting a lamp-post or kerb-mounted charger installed outside your home – although you'd have to bear the cost of this.