With electric vehicles increasing in popularity and availability, potential electric converts may wonder how an electric car will drive.
Will it be slow to respond or feel odd to handle? Do you have to learn to drive differently for it to work properly?
The simple answer is no. Although there are some differences in the electric driving experience, there are plenty of similarities. This guide explains what it’s like to drive an electric car and answers many of the questions buyers might have.
Are electric cars difficult to drive?
Electric cars are actually incredibly easy to drive, and the reason for this is precisely because they’re electric. To start with, there are no gears to worry about, so you simply climb in, press the start button, choose drive on the gear selector and away you go.
But this isn’t like a conventional automatic, where you put the car in drive and let the transmission shift through gears. There are no distinct gears for the car to select, simply because an electric motor doesn’t require gears. The motor spins in one direction to go forwards, and the other to go backwards – and that’s it.
The key reason they don't need gears is that an electric motor’s torque – the engine’s rotational force – is available instantly. With a normal petrol or diesel engine, you have to get the car into a peak power band before all the potential performance is available. In an electric car, you only have to touch the pedal, and the power is immediately there as if by magic.
So it’s simple to speed up, but there’s an even better design for slowing down again. Every time you lift off the throttle or push the brake pedal, the car not only slows down, but also tops up the battery a little.
In many electric cars, this means you can drive almost entirely on one pedal, relying on taking your foot off the pedal and the car’s built-in energy capture system slowing you down enough for most situations.
Of course, there are conventional brakes for when you need to stop more quickly, but often these are only necessary when parking.
This regenerative braking is one of an electric car’s greatest differences from a petrol or diesel model, but also one of the attributes that make them so easy to drive. In fact, when you get back into a car with a conventional engine, braking can feel wasteful because you’re not capturing and reusing some of that energy.
In terms of outright acceleration, an electric car will often ‘win the traffic light Grand Prix’, getting off the line far quicker than any non-electric model.
Are electric cars slow and dull?
The responsiveness of an electric motor means even the most humble electric car offers a fun driving experience. With a punchy motor delivering all its power as soon as the throttle is pressed, an electric car can be both nippy to drive and one of the fastest cars on the road.
In terms of outright acceleration, an electric car will often ‘win the traffic light Grand Prix’, getting off the line far quicker than any non-electric model. When already on the move, electric cars are fast to respond, with rapid pick-up during the acceleration phase in a non-electric car. This makes life when driving an electric car much easier, particularly in busy traffic.
Another essential feature of an electric car is the battery. Despite adding weight to the vehicle, it’s position in the car’s floor between the axles keeps the centre of gravity as low as possible and improves driving dynamics. As a result, most electric cars have stiffer suspension fitted to account for the additional weight and make for a firmer ride.
What other benefits are there to driving an EV?
Electric cars are zero emission at point of use, responsive, agile, comfortable and easy yet fun to drive. That’s a long list of benefits, and there are more besides – not least their sophistication. EVs can run almost silently because of a motor that makes very little noise – in fact, all electric cars must have artificial noise added to alert pedestrians and other road users they’re approaching. Safety first!
Do I need to drive an EV differently to how I normally drive?
Although you can drive an electric car in exactly the same manner as a petrol or diesel car, you wouldn’t be making the most of its features.
Driving just as you would in a petrol or diesel car is possible, but it’s better to use the brake energy recuperation technology to boost the car’s range, and improve your driving at the same time.
By reading the road ahead, you can make greater use of this ‘regen’ system, which offers several benefits. Letting your foot off the accelerator a little earlier can improve the car’s range by topping up the battery, and you'll be using less energy to start with.
Making the most of an electric car’s braking means you could also become a smoother driver and, by extension, a safer driver. By looking further ahead to judge when and how much you need to lift your foot off the pedal, you may see potential problems sooner.
Essentially, driving an electric car is very similar to a conventional car. In some ways, electric cars are different to drive – but many prefer the electric driving experience.
Of course, it’s always worth trying before you buy. Why not go to a dealer’s and have a test drive for yourself? Don’t forget to protect your EV with electric car insurance.
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