How will EVs change the driving test

5 minute read

The driving test is likely to change as more people embrace the move to electric and hybrid vehicles, but what does that mean for learners?

  • The drive towards using more electric vehicles will impact how instructors teach learners
  • There could be a shortage of EV-focused driving instructors 
  • The driving test will require a few tweaks to fully embrace electric cars
With the UK striving to be virtually carbon-emission free by 2050, change needs to happen. Experts suggest that for the UK to achieve this goal, most cars will need to be electric by 2030

But what does that mean for drivers hitting the roads for the first time? The skills learners pick up will need to adapt to the EV revolution

IAM RoadSmart, the UK's leading road safety charity and advocate, focuses on helping motorists acquire new skills. Richard Gladman, IAM RoadSmart Head of Driving Standards, believes a widespread move to electric cars is inevitable, and drivers should start planning now. 

“The average car has a useful lifespan of about 12 years, so the car buying decisions you will make in the next few years will soon start to be impacted by the timetable for banning petrol and diesel cars,” says Richard.

“EVs will have to come down in price and have the right infrastructure in place if they are really going to replace all of our current vehicles. If this does not happen, we are concerned that many young drivers will continue to drive older, polluting vehicles for as long as possible to minimise their motoring costs.”

EVs and the current driving test

One of the early challenges will be finding driving instructors that use an EV. Although there are EV-only instructors out there, the number will need to rapidly increase to support the 1.5 million people who take their test each year.

 “A limiting factor now is the short supply of training in the EV sector,” says Richard Gladman.

“Even automatic-only instruction is a niche market, which can lead to frustration when trying to source instruction. An easy route to EV purchase and use for instructors, as well as candidates, would help.”

The impact on the driving test

The core competencies for being a good driver won’t change, but, as EVs come to the fore, there will need to be a bigger focus on drivers learning to anticipate and observe maximising the range from their EV batteries.

“We’d also expect to see new content around single-pedal driving, most economic use of battery power, knowledge of basic charging techniques and networks and awareness of the limitations on battery range caused by low temperatures,” says Richard.

“The automatic gearbox and one pedal system really make it a ‘point and go’ system so you won’t have to worry too much about the technicalities. Basic ‘show and tell’ skills will still be needed, such as ‘where is the windscreen washer bottle’? Observation and anticipation will always be needed to ensure safe overtaking and negotiating bends at speed.”

Making the switch to electric will mean a mindset change for all drivers, including learners. The thought of not having any petrol or diesel in the tank might seem odd at the moment, but, with the right investment in infrastructure, it could be a smooth transition.

“The main problem will always be maximising range and planning journeys to ensure you don’t run out of charge,” says IAM RoadSmart’s Richard Gladman. 

“This will require planning and knowing how to access information about charging points. Many new electric cars will only have a single pedal and you will brake by simply finessing your foot pressure. This will make things simpler but may be a challenge for some to master.”

Electric cars and road safety

Concerns have been voiced about the risks associated with EVs because people are unable to hear them approaching.

“There will be new problems caused by silent running for pedestrians but overall, we expect electric cars to have the same crash performance as exiting models,” says Richard.

Electric cars can accelerate very fast and handling all that power could be an issue for some. Although electric cars are very safe, learners may also need to show they know what they need to do in the event of a crash.”

How would driving tests change?

  • Single-pedal driving –learners may need to demonstrate accelerating and braking.
  • Economic use of battery power – learners may need to observe and anticipate their battery usage
  • Knowledge of charging – knowing where and how often to charge the car 
  • Awareness of limitations – understanding how far an electric car can go without a charge
  • Greater awareness of pedestrians – many pedestrians listen out for cars so the potential hazards drivers need to be aware of will change 

Instructors may need to adapt their techniques to enable the next generation of new drivers to confidently drive electric cars, including using their own EVs to teach in. But apart from this there should be minimal impact on the driving test itself, meaning there shouldn’t be any new obstacles for the learner drivers of the future to overcome. 

Find out more about what it’s like to drive an EV and electric car driving tests.

 

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