Sales of electric vehicles (EVs) soared in 2019 and the biggest car names have now joined the all-electric party. A positive step, given that by 2040 the sale of petrol and diesel cars will be outlawed.

But many motorists still have unanswered questions about the cost, reliability and safety of EVs.

Tom Preston, Managing Director of Hippo Leasing has picked some of the nation’s most searched questions online about EVs to help us find out what’s what…

How do electric vehicles work?

Electric cars run off electricity which is stored in a rechargeable battery and powers the electric motor. They’re much simpler than cars with fuel engines. In fact, they have 90 percent fewer moving parts.

They’re not to be confused with plug-in hybrid and hybrid-electric vehicles which are powered by electricity and fuel.

Can you drive an electric vehicle in a storm?

Yes. We’re all told from a young age not to mix electricity and water, but in this case the rule doesn’t apply. Drivers are at no extra risk in a storm than if they owned a petrol or diesel car.

Motorists can even go through washes and drive through low-level flooding. Electric cars do not have an air intake, meaning they’re not affected by being immersed in water.

Are electric cars more expensive to insure?

When electric vehicles first hit the market, insurance premiums were expensive as insurers had no historic data to work with.

Now electric vehicles are more popular, the cost of insurance is falling and there’s greater choice of cover. Their limited range and charging time works in owner’s favour as they’re less likely to be stolen and more likely to be recovered if nicked.

Do you pay road tax if you own an electric car?

No. Electric cars are exempt from vehicle tax, unless the model is priced over £40,000 and it was registered after March 2017. If you own a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, you’ll pay a reduced rate of tax. 

How far can I drive on a full charge?

Range anxiety is a big barrier to EV ownership, especially as public charging points can be few and far between.

Depending on the model you own, how you drive and weather conditions, a battery’s range can go up or down. Many new electric cars have ranges well over 200 miles, with Tesla’s Model S holding the current record of 375 miles.

Importantly, outside temperature also affect the range of electric cars. Owners of electric vehicles can expect larger ranges in the summer because lithium-ion batteries are very temperature sensitive and can become sluggish when the mercury drops.

EV engines also produce no heat of their own, unlike a combustible fuel engine, meaning more energy is diverted away from turning the wheels to keeping occupants warm.

How long does an electric car battery last?

Just like your smartphone, an electric car loses its battery life over time. You can expect your electric car to lose about 2.3 percent of its range per year.

The amount you use and charge an electric car isn’t thought to affect things too much, it’s more about how you do it. Frequent “rapid” charging (30-60 mins) is more damaging to a battery compared to “fast” (3-4 hours) and “slow” charging (8-10 hours).

Most car makers will offer warranties for electric batteries and will replace them for free up to a certain mileage.

Can you lease electric cars?

Electric car leasing can be an affordable way to drive a cutting-edge car without the big financial hit of buying one upfront. Many electric car owners also rent their car batteries, so leasing the whole vehicle can be a better alternative.

As manufacturers expand their ranges of zero emission cars and demand grows, there’s now more choice than ever and costs are falling.