Planning a long journey in an electric vehicle

If you’re considering an electric vehicle (EV) or have already made the switch, it’s worth reading these top tips for planning a long car journey. Mark Smyth shares his advice on route planning, charging anxiety and more – read more below.

The technology of electric vehicles is improving rapidly and so too is the ability to charge them, especially when away from home. With more people choosing to go electric, it is becoming increasingly possible to undertake longer journeys across the UK and even into Europe.

Do you need to plan for a long journey in an EV and why?

Just as people used to plot their route in a map book, planning your journey today is still a sensible thing to do, especially in an EV. Most electric cars can go for over 200 miles on a single charge – but if you are planning on driving those longer distances, you’ll need to know how and where to recharge.

Range anxiety – the fear of running out of power in your electric car – is declining, but it is being replaced by something called charger anxiety. Charger anxiety is when you’re unsure where and even if you can charge your electric car when out and about, although there are now thousands of public chargers across the UK to make things easier.

Charging can still be a bit of a grey area for some people. Different EVs charge at different speeds and some charging providers offer subscriptions that can save you money, plus it is useful to know where there are more chargers in one place to avoid having to queue. 

How can I find an electric car on the Motability Scheme?

Motability Scheme customers can choose to pick from fully electric cars by ticking the ‘Electric’ box under ‘Fuel Type’ in the Car Search tool.

Search for electric cars

Use our Car Search tool to tailor the choice of cars available on the Scheme to your specific needs. You can filter by brand, transmission type, boot size and more – helping you find the right car for your needs.

Tips for planning a long drive in your electric car

1. Understand what chargers your EV can use

The first thing is to understand what charging speed your EV can handle. This will make not only choosing a charger easier but also knowing how long you will need to stop for.

Urban EVs such as the Honda E and Mini Electric have limited range and slower charging speeds, so they are not ideal for travelling long distances. However, there are also lots of EVs with higher range and faster charging speeds – you can use our Car Search tool to see what the range and charge speeds are for different cars on the Scheme. Also, charging costs can vary quite a bit, so it’s important to know which charging networks fit your budget.

2. Use the right tools to help you plan your journey

There are lots of apps and websites to help you plan your journey. Some of them will even allow you to input the type of car you have, so that they can tailor their advice based on the range of your car. The most popular charging maps include Zap-Map and A Better Route Planner, both of which are available as a website or an app. Some charging companies such as BP Pulse also have their own EV charger maps.

It’s important to also understand that the costs involved can vary quite a bit. Charging an electric car is much cheaper than refilling a fuel tank, but it’s worth looking at the apps and websites mentioned to make sure you get the best deal possible. Some of them can provide information on how much an EV charger costs per kWh, as well as giving you live information on whether they are available to use.

3. Consider the other facilities you need while charging

If you are going on a long journey, it’s worth trying to time your charging stop with a driving break for you too. Many chargers are located in motorway services where you will have a choice of restaurants and shops, while others might be close to a shopping centre or high street.

There are still quite a few charging points tucked away behind offices or pubs, so if you don’t want to spend an hour sitting in the car waiting for it to recharge, then you might want to avoid those.

If you need to stay in a hotel or guesthouse overnight, then be sure to check if it has vehicle charging facilities as well, so you can head off the next day with a full charge.

Read our step-by-step guide to EV street charging

4. Account for journey time

Refuelling a petrol or diesel car takes just a few minutes, but if you are driving an electric car and need to recharge on route, you will need to add more time to your journey.

Many electric vehicles can charge quickly between 10-80%, so try to avoid dropping below 10% battery, or it could take longer to recharge. Also, that last 20% to a full charge can take longer too, so if you don’t need to fully charge your car then you will also save some time.

Some EVs have a setting that can be accessed through the infotainment screen or an app that changes how much charge the car can take as well as what charging speed it can use, so be sure to check that.

5. Take the scenic route

The quickest route is not always the best with an EV. Motorways might seem the quickest and shortest, but they also drain more power from an EV due to the speed and the inability of the brakes to add a bit of energy to the batteries. Instead, consider using A-roads and you may even find an interesting place to stop for a break.

Is EV charging the same in the UK and Europe?

Essentially, yes – charging an EV works in the same way, whether you’re driving in the UK or in Europe. Many charging operators in the UK such as Ionity and Shell also operate across Europe, which really helps you to plan (especially if you have a charging subscription).

While your RAC Motability Assist will help you if you run out of charge in the UK, it’s worth adding RAC European Breakdown Cover if you plan to drive abroad. You can do this at no extra cost, when requesting a VE103 (a certificate that allows you to drive your Scheme car in Europe).

Read this article to learn more about driving your Scheme car abroad

Do I need an EV with a very long range?

EVs are no different to a petrol or diesel car when it comes to variation in how far they can drive. Many people think they need a really long range for that big holiday trip, but the reality is that most of the time they only travel a few miles a day.

If you do travel long distances regularly, then it’s worth opting for an EV with a longer range. Most of the time though, it’s easier and generally cheaper to choose a car with the range you need for regular use and just plan in advance for that occasional long trip.

About the Scheme

The Motability Scheme makes leasing a car an easy, hassle-free experience. With the Scheme, you can exchange part or all of your qualifying mobility allowance to lease a brand-new vehicle of your choice. Insurance, breakdown assistance, servicing and maintenance are already arranged and included in the price you pay, so you can enjoy the freedom that comes with a worry-free lease.

Related articles

Electric Cars: Information and Driver’s Guide

Electric car charger basics: connector types and charging cables

6 tips to maximise your electric vehicle’s range

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