Set the Wheels in Motion- What’s it really like to drive an EV?


Thirty practitioners from member organisations headed over to the Green Britain Centre in Norfolk earlier this month to attend our Set the Wheels in Motion event. The topic was all things sustainable transport and travel planning, with  EV myth-busting and test driving in the afternoon. Some interesting questions were raised about what it’s actually like to drive an EV, and were answered by members of our expert panel, Paul Gambrell (Energy Saving Trust), Helen Taylor (Ecotricity’s Electric Highway) and Alex Sims (Zero Carbon World). Here’s a summary:


Green Britain Centre event

What’s the range of an EV?

If fully charged, EVs typically have a range of between 70-100+ miles, depending on model, driving conditions and speed. It’s about getting to know the car and its limits. As with a petrol or diesel vehicle, your display will indicate the level of charge remaining as well as the range, so you will know when it’s time to visit a charging point.

How easy is it to find a charging point?

A lot of people’s daily commute is less than forty miles, which is well within the range of most modern EVs. Day-to-day, it would therefore be a case of charging the vehicle at home or at work, so you wouldn’t need to find a charging point on the road. There is, however, charging infrastructure for EVs across the UK for those times when you’re taking a longer journey. Ecotricity’s Electric Highway covers almost Britain’s entire motorway network, and they are now branching out onto A roads. Some retailers such as Waitrose and Ikea have also installed charging points in carparks. It’s therefore relatively easy to find somewhere to charge your EV, but worth sussing out where the points are before setting out on a longer journey.

electric van

How do you pay to charge and can you use any charging point?

There are a number of regional and national charging networks, and there is not yet one standard way to join and pay for all of them. At the moment, you’ll need to register for each individual network and will then receive a swipe card that can be used only  at those particular charging points. Registration ranges from completely free to costing around £20. You’ll then need to pay for each charge.  It’s a good idea to register for several networks and carry the cards with you so you don’t get caught out. Obviously, one standard card for all charging points would make things much easier. The panel discussed how this may well happen in the future as EV numbers increase and the infrastructure evolves.

What happens if someone is already using the charging point I need?

At the moment you can’t reserve a charging point or find out if it is in use. It isn’t currently a common problem for there to be a queue at charging points. It can, however, occasionally be an issue that a non-EV is parked in the designated space.  The Electric Highway team are currently working on a way to display info about whether a pump is in use online.

electric car motor

How long does it take to charge an EV?

Times vary depending on the kind of charger. Slow chargers, like the ones typically installed at people’s houses, can take between 6 and 12 hours to fully charge an EV. This may seem like a long time, but isn’t a problem for people who charge their car overnight or when at work.  There are now rapid charging points at service stations across the country, which can charge an EV  to 80% or more in around 30 minutes.

Is there a breakdown service for EVs if I run out of charge mid-journey?

Some of the major breakdown service companies now cater for EVs. Fleets carry portable fast chargers that can be brought out to re-charge an EV at the roadside.


Have any more questions about what it’s like to drive an EV? Ask us on Twitter, @F4F_Network, and we’ll try to find the answer from one of our members. We host events like Set the Wheels in Motion and smaller site visits throughout the year. Check out what’s coming up and find out how to become a member.