An electric car being charged up

Electric car questions answered

Is it time for you to make the switch to an electric car? Here are answers to some common questions that people ask.

Cazoo Editorial Team Byline Icon

By Cazoo editorial team

Published: 08 August 2022

New to the world of electric cars? If so, you’ll likely have lots of questions. Here’s our guide to the most common queries about electric cars.

1. Can electric cars drive through water?

We all know that electricity and water generally don’t mix, but you needn’t worry – car makers didn’t forget to make electric cars waterproof. You can drive them through a certain amount of standing water in the same way as you would a petrol or diesel car.

Just like petrol and diesel cars, electric cars can cope with different amounts of water depending on the model. If you want to know how much water a car can safely drive through without having problems, you need to know its wading depth, which is listed in your car’s handbook.

Generally, you’ll find that an electric car and its petrol or diesel equivalent will have around the same wading depth. Remember, however, that driving through floods is risky whether your car runs on electricity or conventional fuel. It’s very difficult to know how deep standing water really is, but if you have to drive through it, be cautious, drive slowly and always test your brakes afterwards to make sure they still work.

Jaguar I-Pace

Sign up for exclusive offers & advice

Receive regular car-buying tips, selling advice and more, straight to your inbox.

2. Are electric cars as reliable as petrol or diesel cars?

Electric cars are normally very reliable because they have fewer moving parts under the bonnet that could go wrong or wear out. However, if they do break down you’ll normally need a specialist to fix them. You won’t be able to mend an electric car on the hard shoulder as easily as you could a petrol or diesel car.

Nissan Leaf

3. Will I get to park for free if I drive an electric car?

Some towns and cities operate clean air zone initiatives, which offer you preferential parking rates if you drive an electric car. In London, many boroughs offer electric car drivers a free 12-month parking permit and many councils across the UK have similar policies. For instance, Milton Keynes’s Green CMK parking permits allow you to park free of charge in any of the council’s 15,000 purple parking bays. It’s also worth checking with your local authority to see if they offer free parking while you charge your electric car at a public charging point. Most large supermarkets now have reserved spaces for electric cars to charge while you shop, so you could snag a parking space when your diesel-driving neighbour can’t.

4. Can electric cars be towed?

Manufacturers generally advise against towing electric cars because most models don’t have the same neutral gear as traditional combustion-engined cars. There are a few exceptions that have a dedicated towing mode, such as Tesla cars, but you should check your car’s manual to be sure.

Broadly speaking, you can damage an electric car if you tow it, so if you break down, you should always call for assistance and let a recovery service load your car on a flatbed truck or trailer instead.

5. Can I take an electric car through an automatic car wash?

Well… maybe. But it’s complicated. Some automatic car washes move your car through the washing process and require the car to be in neutral. For the same reasons described in the towing section above, this can be problematic for some electric cars, but fine for others. Some may have a dedicated Car Wash mode, but you will need to check the documentation for your particular electric car.

In general, we recommend avoiding automatic car washes if possible – they can be harsh on a car’s paintwork, and risk damaging external sensors.

6. Can electric cars use bus lanes?

This really depends on the area or city. Some councils, like in Nottingham and Cambridge, allow electric cars to use bus lanes, but other local authorities don’t. London used to let electric cars use bus lanes, but that trial period ended. It’s best to check locally to make sure you are up to date with any rule changes.

7. Can electric cars tow a caravan?

Yes, some electric cars can tow a caravan and their inherent pulling power from electric motors tends to make them well-suited to hauling heavy loads. A growing number of electric cars are legally able to tow: these range from the affordable Volkswagen ID.4 to the more luxurious Audi e-tron and Mercedes-Benz EQC.

Pulling a caravan can use a lot of battery power, which means the range of your electric car will decrease faster. While that can be a bit inconvenient, a petrol or diesel car will also guzzle a lot of extra fuel when towing. Plan your stops at public chargers on long journeys and you can top up the battery while you stretch your legs.

8. Do electric cars need oil?

Most electric cars don’t need oil because they don’t have an internal combustion engine with moving parts. This helps to keep your maintenance and servicing costs down because you don’t have to worry about regular oil changes. That said, some electric cars have gearboxes that occasionally need oil changes and you’ll still have to keep other fluids, such as power steering fluid and brake fluid, checked and topped up regularly.

9. Are electric cars quieter?

Electric cars will reduce road noise because they don’t have engines, which tend to generate traffic noise. While there’ll still be some sound from tyres, wind and road surfaces, the din outside your window could reduce significantly. The health benefits from less traffic noise are great, from improved sleep to reduced stress – a huge plus for everyone.

A Kia EV6

10. Are all electric cars automatic?

Basically, yes. Most electric cars don’t need a gearbox in the way that petrol or diesel cars do, so there’s no manual gear stick or clutch pedal in any of them. A small number of more powerful electric cars have two-speed gearboxes, but you still drive them in the same way as an automatic – just put the car into Drive, then use the accelerator and brake as normal.

11. Do electric cars need to be charged every night?

You don’t need to charge your electric car every night, unless its battery is nearly empty at the end of each day. Most people’s daily mileage is far less than the range of a fully charged electric car battery, so you should only need to plug it in every few days.

12. When will all cars be electric?

The short answer is “not for a while”, but within a couple of decades, the vast majority of cars on the road will be fully electric. In the shorter term, you’ll see lots more of them on the road – sales are increasing rapidly.

By law, all new cars sold in the UK must be electrified by 2030 – that means either hybrid or fully electric – and fully electric by 2035. Most major manufacturers are moving towards making solely electric cars before then. However, used petrol, diesel and hybrid cars will stay on the road for years after that.

13. Are electric cars better for the environment?

Ultimately, yes, electric cars are better than petrol or diesel cars for the environment. But there are some caveats and conditions.

There’s more to environmental impact than just the day-to-day driving of an electric car. There’s also the construction and disposal of the car at the end of its life. Experts agree that the whole-life impact of electric cars on the environment is, overall, less than equivalent petrol or diesel cars. While more resources are needed to build electric cars, they’re much cleaner when driving. That means there’s a crossover point, where the lower day-to-day impact of electric cars makes up for that higher construction impact.

When exactly that point is reached will vary – it depends on the model of car, how you drive and on the source of your electricity. Energy from renewable sources like wind or solar will be much cleaner than electricity from, say, a coal power plant. But electric vehicle expert Auke Hoekstra, of the Eindhoven University of Technology, suggests an average figure of around 16,000 miles is a good guide. Drive your electric car more miles than that and it will have a lower overall impact on the environment than an equivalent petrol or diesel car.

14. Why do electric cars cost more?

There are several reasons that electric cars tend to be more expensive – new and used – than equivalent petrol or diesel cars. Firstly, the technology is newer and more complicated, with fewer suppliers than in the very well-established combustion engine industry.

Secondly, there’s the economy of scale – far more petrol and diesel cars are built around the world, which means they don’t cost as much per unit to produce. However, this is likely to be less of a factor as electric cars grow in popularity.

A third factor is demand. With plenty of incentives to buy an electric car, not least the high cost of petrol and diesel, used models command a premium over petrol and diesel cars. Customers are willing to pay more up front for the lower running costs that an electric car can give them.

A Skoda Enyaq iV charging

An easier way to find or sell a car

You’ll find lots of used cars for sale at Cazoo, all available to buy through our trusted dealers.

Cazoo makes selling a car just as easy – just enter a few details for an instant online valuation. If you accept the offer our partners will get in touch to arrange payment and collection of your car at a time that suits you.