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Fully electric vehicles are probably the long-term future of motoring, with the government planning to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030 and hybrid vehicles from 2035. Electric vehicles work solely on battery power and are the ultimate eco-friendly choice as they create zero exhaust emissions.

We understand that switching to an electric vehicle can be daunting. That's why we have put together this list of facts and the most commonly asked questions surrounding electric vehicles, starting with a comprehensive guide to understanding electric and hybrid vehicle language.

Electric and Hybrid Cars: How to Speak the Language

The world of electric vehicles can be confusing and full of misleading jargon. We want to help you feel comfortable talking about EV's.

What is an electric car?

An electric car has no petrol or diesel engine, or fuel tank. It is driven by an electric motor, powered by a high-capacity battery pack. EVs are ‘refuelled’ by plugging in and recharging the batteries.

What is electric car range?

The range of an electric car is how far it will travel, on average, on fully-charged batteries. Early electric cars had a limited range, but modern ones go much further – some will drive more than 300 miles between charges.

Why is range important?

The range of an electric car is important because charging the batteries takes longer than filling a car’s fuel tank. If you simply plug an EV into the mains, charging takes hours. A home charging point is faster, while public ‘fast’ or ‘rapid’ chargers are faster still.

What is a home charge point?

A home charging point is a dedicated electric car charger. It is installed by power companies, who wire it into your electricity supply. This means they can supply more charge than a regular plug socket – they often charge electric cars almost twice as quickly.

What is range anxiety?

Range anxiety is the fear of running out of charge before you reach the end of your journey. It used to be a big issue for electric car drivers, because ranges were limited. For those new to EVs, it is also a big hurdle to overcome. However, the ever-extending range of modern electric cars means range anxiety is becoming less of an issue. Many owners of the latest models simply do not consider it a concern.

Understanding kW and kWh
Regular cars have different-sized engines: a 1.0-litre or a 1.6-litre, for example. They are rated in terms of horsepower (hp) or its European equivalent, PS. However, for electric cars, kilowatts (kW) is the all-important figure you need to understand. A kilowatt is 1,000 watts.

kW: The output of an electric car motor – its ‘power’. The output of an average kettle, for example, is 2kW. A higher figure indicates a more powerful model: a small electric car will produce 60kW; larger ones will produce upwards of 100kW.

kWh: The output of an electric car battery. It stands for kilowatt hours, and is the standard term used by electricity companies to price up power (they call 1 kWh a ‘unit’ of electricity). A small electric car might have a 17kWh battery; larger models generally start from 40kWh. The higher the kWh rating of the battery, the greater the car’s range will be.

Charging and electric car

For some, the appeal of an electric car is the ability to charge at home. They never have to visit a filling station again – and each morning they have a full battery with hundreds of miles of range. Before you take delivery of a new electric car, your dealer will help arrange the installation of a home charging point.

What do I need to know about electric car plugs?

You need to know what sort of plug your electric car uses because it will impact your ability to use public chargers. Different chargers (and charge networks) favour different plugs, although many newer units have multiple plug types. We can help you with this.

What is a public charger?

Public chargers are often located at motorway service stations, in car parks, or at the roadside. They are ‘electric car filling stations’ that allow owners to charge their batteries away from their home. A word of warning: there are lots of different charging networks, and in order to use a public charger, you need to have a subscription. It is worth researching the most popular networks and taking out subscriptions before you take delivery of your car. The dealer will be able to advise.

What are the different charging speeds?
Electric car chargers generally fall into three types: slow, fast and rapid. They signify how quickly electricity is delivered to the batteries.

Slow – 3kW (charging a 40kWh battery will take 13 hours)
Fast – from 7kW to 22kW (a 22kW charger will top up a 40kWh battery in 2 hours)
Rapid – from 43kW to 50 kW (a 50kW charger will top up a 40kWh battery in 1 hour 15 minutes)
Ultra-fast / ultra-rapid – 150kW (charging a 40kWh battery will take 15 minutes)

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is cheaper to run, fuel or electric?

Electric cars are generally inexpensive to run compared with any vehicle that takes conventional fuel – including hybrids. Charging up an electric vehicle at home costs far less than refueling with diesel or petrol. What’s more, some standard charge points are free, although rapid charging stations entail payment. Tariffs for these tend to contain a connection fee, a cost per energy consumed (pence per kWh) or a cost per charging time (pence per hour).

So what are the true costs of having an EV?

Compared to traditional fuel-powered vehicles, EVs are certainly cheaper to maintain and power. While they are more expensive to own today, we can expect this to change as they become more popular and accessible. Owning an EV can be stressful when worrying about where to charge and running out of power, so if this is something that might conflict with your lifestyle, it’s important to consider this personal cost. Home charge points are an initial outlay, but as they become more common many homes will already have them when buying or renting.

Which is better for the environment?

From an environmental viewpoint, a fully-electric vehicle is, in the main, better than a hybrid because it doesn’t have a tank for diesel or petrol. However, although electric cars don’t produce any tailpipe emissions, carbon dioxide is still emitted when the vehicle is being manufactured, so they’re not flawless. You could also argue that it all depends on the power grid being used. For instance, say you’re recharging your electric car from a purely solar-powered home, it’s far better for the environment than a vehicle that takes any quantity of fuel from the pumps. However, in the real world, most drivers recharge their cars in urban areas that use a mix of non-renewable (oil and coal) and renewable (wind, nuclear and solar) energy sources – and this makes the environmental analysis a lot more complicated.

Running costs

One of the lesser-known points about EVs is that they have considerably less mechanical parts than normal cars. This means there is a lot less to go wrong which can reduce running costs considerably. Because EVs are still so new, there isn’t a lot of information on long-term costs.

EVs don’t have any clutches or gears and they don’t have complex engines with hundreds of moving parts that wear out, so it is safe to assume that in the long run, they can cost less. That being said, the batteries that power EVs do not last forever. However, this is something the industry is looking at improving in years to come.

Don’t forget that Motability Scheme customers get a new vehicle every three years, because of this it’s unlikely that your vehicle will have any battery problems during the course of your lease. In addition, maintenance is included as part of your worry-free lease, so if something does go wrong then your dedicated dealer will be on hand to help.

How do I know where public chargers are?

Many electric cars have built-in sat nav maps that highlight where the nearest public chargers are located. Owners often use a charging point smartphone app as well, with the most popular being Zap Map. It tells you what charging plug types are nearby – and whether they are currently in use or not.

Do electric vehicles have gearboxes?

Driving and owning an electric car does require a degree of adjustment if you are used to owning a petrol or diesel model. But one part which is certainly going to be easier to use is the gearbox – because most electric cars don’t actually have one! As electric motors are different in the way they deliver power to the wheels, electric cars generally will just have a simple switch that will mimic the settings you may be used to with a conventional automatic.

It will let you select “Drive” to go forward, “R” for reverse and “N” for neutral. Some will have additional modes that allow you to change the way the car drives (such as an Eco or Sport setting) but it won’t actually change the way the transmission operates – instead it will change other functions, such as the throttle sensitivity.

Once you’ve driven off, you may be surprised to find that, as the car accelerates and slows down, it doesn’t have the feeling of shifting through gears; it’s just a smooth, linear drive right up to cruising speeds and back to a standstill instead. This is because electric vehicles (EVs) don’t need a gearbox with different speeds like conventional diesel or petrol vehicles. Instead, they get away with just a single gear and a reverse.This is possible because electric motors are more flexible than conventional, fuel-burning, engines. An EV motor produces its pulling power instantaneously as soon as you press the accelerator and it will spin up to 20,000 revolutions per minute – about four times more than a conventional diesel or petrol engine.

The electric motors are also power-efficient throughout this rev range, meaning they do not have to be sitting in a small, narrow rev band to deliver optimal performance.

Conventional diesel and petrol cars require a gearbox with multiple gears because the engine is only capable of being efficient in a relatively narrow band of engine speeds. The different gear ratios help the conventional engine keep within this narrow power band at different road speeds. That’s why a petrol car will easily accelerate to 20mph in first gear, but won’t go much faster without reaching the engine’s rev limiter, or red line. With the same logic, drivers will struggle to pull away from a standstill in sixth gear, as this ratio is designed for faster driving.

This all means an electric vehicle can reach its top speed in a single gear, which is chosen by the engineers to offer the best compromise between low and high-speed performance. Most are capable of accelerating at town speeds faster than a hot-hatchback and easily breaking the motorway speed limit, so there’s no great sacrifice involved.

​Charging Your Electric Vehicle

​​Apart from helping to make the world greener, EVs are cheaper to run than petrol or diesel cars. Sure, it takes longer to “fill” your car up with electricity than standard fuel, but if you charge up overnight at home, or on your route via electric charging stations, then it works out fine.The time it takes to charge depends very much on the power on hand, and, to some extent, the car you have.

But, generally speaking, expect around six hours for a full charge with a home wall box, or about 19 hours if you use a domestic three-pin socket. Yes, electric cars can be charged this way, too! But you only need to wait for 45 minutes if you have access to a hi-tech public rapid charging point. Tariffs for these involve a cost per energy consumed, as well as a modest connection payment.