What is it like to Drive an Electric Car?

Steering wheel and dashboard of an electric car

Electric cars are green, clean and silent but what are they like to drive?

When considering an electric car it may seem that there is a steep learning curve from battery capacity and charging speed to driving range but in reality, it's all very simple to get to grips with and once behind the wheel, there is nothing daunting about driving an EV.

Silent and Smooth

The first thing to know about driving an electric car is the silence and that makes for a different driving experience. Press the start button and you are met with, nothing. As a result, the cabin of an electric vehicle is an oasis of calm for all occupants.

However silence inside is one thing but silence on the road is another and electric cars can pose risks when travelling at low speeds, such as in urban areas with lower limits as the lack of engine noise means other road users, particularly pedestrians and cyclists cannot hear them approaching. Regulations were introduced that mean all new electric cars sold after July 1, 2021, regardless of model, must make a noise when travelling at low speeds. The acoustic vehicle alert system (AVAS) cannot be turned off.

No Gears

Once on the road, electric cars drive just like an automatic car so there are no gears, no clutch and just two pedals, an accelerator and brake. You just press a button for drive, reverse, neutral or park. Park is used when you’re stopped and getting out of the car and while it locks the transmission you also need to apply the hand brake. Reverse works exactly the same as in all cars and Drive allows the car to move forwards. Finally, Neutral can be used if you’re stopped for a short period of time.

Instant Torque

The next thing you notice is the instant torque or peak torque that is available from zero rpm. Unlike an electric car, a petrol or diesel car will have to build power when you press your foot on the accelerator as the engine needs time to warm up and get running. In an electric car, there is no waiting time instead you get an instant surge of power as energy goes straight to the wheels. If it is your first time driving an EV, you have been warned they are extremely fast at accelerating.

Regenerative Braking

Braking in an EV is also slightly different due to what is known as regenerative braking. Moving cars create a lot of kinetic energy, and when brakes are applied to slow a car down, all of that kinetic energy has to go somewhere but on a normal car, braking simply wastes energy. However, with regenerative braking, some of the energy can be reused. Essentially regenerative braking captures energy that is otherwise lost during braking and then uses this power to help recharge the car's battery. In many electric cars, you can adjust the amount of regenerative braking others will adjust the level automatically.


“Range” refers to how far an electric car can travel before the battery needs to be recharged. The distance that can be covered depends on the capacity of the battery in the same way that the size of the fuel tank in a petrol or diesel car determines how far you can go before refuelling. So when it comes to range, you need to be realistic about how much you drive. Travel data from the Central Statistics Office would suggest most people don’t stray too far from home; according to the National Travel Survey in 2019, the average journey distance was just 13.7km. Most new EVs on the market have a range in excess of 300km and there are many that will travel 400km on a single charge. When planning a longer trip remember to include time for breaks, ideally you should take a 15-minute break for every two hours of driving so use these breaks to top up, parking should mean charging.

Electric vehicles do necessitate a changed driving style as smooth driving is rewarded but it's worth remembering not only are they clean and cost-efficient they are also great fun to drive.

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