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Choosing an electric or hybrid car

The basics of low-emission vehicles

Whether you're concerned about your carbon footprint - or looking to save money on your fuel payments - electric or hybrid vehicles are becoming more and more popular in the UK.

If you're thinking about swapping your petrol car for a low-emissions model, here's the information you'll need to get started.

Electric cars

Powered exclusively by electricity (rather than petrol or diesel), energy is stored in batteries that can be recharged using your home electricity supply. Because they don’t use petrol they don’t emit CO2

Electric and hybrid cars

Hybrid cars

Also known as 'low emission vehicles' (LEVs), hybrid cars combine an electric motor with a petrol or diesel engine. The electric motor is usually used to provide additional power when accelerating or driving uphill. Because of the 2 power sources, hybrid cars use less fuel and emit less CO2 than standard comparable vehicles. 

How much do these cars cost to buy?

Generally, electric or hybrid cars cost more to purchase - typically costing around 20% more than the equivalent petrol or diesel car. This is due to the more expensive lithium batteries used in these types of vehicle.

However, they're often a lot cheaper to run than a petrol or diesel car. Electric cars costing less than £30,000 are exempt from road tax 1, with more expensive models generally falling into lower tax bands than standard vehicles.

Charging and range

One of the main reasons people are hesitant to buy electric vehicles is because the battery has a limited range, and once it’s reached, the car will need to be recharged. 

Electricity is also a far cheaper fuel source than petrol or diesel, so you can expect to pay around a quarter of the cost per mile driving an electric vehicle than a standard one. The cost of charging an electric car will depend on your electricity tariff if you charge your car at home, or the cost of a public charging point 2

Some electric cars have ranges of a little over 100 miles, while others have ranges well over 200 miles – and research has shown that most drivers don’t go anywhere near that far in a day 3.

However, range anxiety, or the fear of running out of charge, is still a major concern for people. It’s worth noting that Zap-Map currently lists over 10,000 publicly accessible charging points for electric vehicles around the UK 4, so it’s possible to recharge on a cross-country drive.

In addition to low-cost refuelling, there are also plenty of other perks to owning a low-emission vehicle. For example, electric and hybrid cars are exempt from the London Congestion Charge, and more and more public car parks allow free parking and charging points.

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