Driving electric

Whether you’ve driven electric before or not, if you choose to buy, it’s a big investment. Once you’ve researched range, performance, and options, then it’s really important to take a test drive to make sure the car meets your needs and wants.

Test drive different electric models

Electric is different to drive than conventional petrol or diesel. But each electric car is different too. So it’s worth test driving a shortlist of choices, to get a feel for driving electric, and to note any differences or preferences between models.

Ask for the EV expert

Some manufactures might only sell one or two all-electric models, so it’s worth booking a test drive well in advance so the car is ready with a full charge, and asking if you can take the test drive with the person who has the most knowledge about the model and EV.

Take a look at the charging port

When you see the car in person, decide how you feel about how it looks, as your first impressions matter. Then find the charging point and take a moment to decide if it’s situated well enough for you to charge from your garage etc.

Enough space for storage?

Before you test drive, look in the boot to see if you have enough space. And look in the second boot too, if there is one.

Space can vary greatly between different electric cars, some will have a large boot, and the battery under the floor that means the front section (where an engine would typically be) has a little front boot too. But in other cases, the batteries and electronics may take up the space where the boot and luggage space would usually be. So, see what type of luggage and storage space is on offer, and if it fits your needs and dimensions for anything important.

Enough space for passengers?

This shouldn’t be affected by whether the car is all-electric or not, and more so by the body style and general size of the car. But like any vehicle you’re interested in, if you have to carry passengers, make sure they have enough space. You can bring your kids along for the test drive, or whoever, or whatever you need to (your golf clubs, for example, if they have to fit).

Easy for you to get in?

Take notice of whether it’s easy to get in and out of the car. If the driver’s seat and steering wheel is at a good position for you, and can be easily adjusted if needed. Sometimes new (or ever-so-slightly futuristic designs) are used for some electric cars, so make sure the door shape, seat shape and feel, and the steering wheel are all comfortable and feel right for you, rather than just looking good.

Does the dashboard make sense?

Again, with some electric cars, the design can be a little different or slightly futuristic. This can mean large and complex touchscreen controls, instead of the more traditional (and intuitive) dials and switches. So, you’ll need to get used to the car’s instrumentation, to see if it makes sense from the start. Or otherwise ask the salesperson for a quick run-through, especially for speed, and battery range.

Get to grips with the infotainment system, so you have a decent understanding of it, and decide if you feel like you could use it every day or at least get used to it.


The biggest difference between a traditional petrol or diesel, and an electric, is how it feels to drive. It’s easy to get used to, but it’s a definite change. Firstly, it’s silent. You may be used to (consciously or unconsciously) the sound of the engine telling you the car is on, and the sound of putting it into gear (telling you you’re about to move), and the first gentle press of the accelerator and the combustion engine growl that comes with that (telling you that’ll move forward). Meanwhile, for electric, you’ll just go.

What’s more, is that electric driving is much more lively than a combustion engine, as the electric motor delivers all of its available power instantly and continuously via a single-speed transmission. Like a Scalextric, when you press go, the car will zip off instantly. This is why electric cars typically have a much faster 0-60mph than traditional petrol cars.

Try every type of road

It’s worth driving the roads that you’ll typically drive on, if you can, but also trying it on the motorway, as well as small village streets or country roads, just to get the full spectrum of feel and performance.

Take it easy to begin with, but on the appropriate roads start to push things a little harder (while staying safe and within the speed limit) to see how the car responds, and then to see how you respond.

By driving on a motorway, you can get a feel for how easy it is to merge into fast-moving traffic. And see how it feels to take over. And determine its stability and feel at higher speeds.

Get used to one-pedal driving

All-electric cars come with two pedals: stop and go. But thanks to the characteristics of electric motors, you don’t always have to use the brake pedal. By easing off the accelerator, you can come to a complete stop without touching the brake. This is enabled by the car’s regenerative braking system.

When a driver lifts off the accelerator, the regenerative system temporarily converts the electric motor that powers the car into a generator, which then converts the kinetic energy of the car’s forward momentum back into electricity and feeds it into the battery pack. This is experienced from behind the wheel as the car decelerating as if the driver had dropped it into a lower gear or braked moderately.

Different electric cars have different strengths of this regenerative function. The BMW i3 was set up with a strong regenerative system that could bring the car to a stop without the driver ever needing to touch the brake pedal. This feels strange at first but proves particularly useful in heavy traffic, and most people who’ve driven cars that allow one-pedal driving come to love it.

Many EV manufactures now let you set the strength of this function to your own preference. Though this is done differently on different models, for example the Volkswagen ID.3 slows more promptly if the shifter is engaged in a position marked B. While for the Tesla Model 3 and the Jaguar i-Pace, the adjustments are offered via the vehicle’s touchscreen infotainment menu.

So, you’ll want to get used to how the accelerator modulation works, and try different settings to see what works best for you.

Try every setting

As well as regenerative braking, the car may offer different driving modes that let you go for more or less performance. So, it’s worth trying all of these, and trying the different settings on corners and curves and rough roads, to see what’s on offer, and determine what you prefer in different settings.

Check the range

While driving and towards the end of your test drive keep an eye on the range indicator, to get a feel for how strong acceleration and use of accessories drains the batteries, and to see range in action.

Do some serious parking

When you test drive any car, it’s important to park it (reverse and parallel if you can) to check what the visibility is like (and use of any parking tech if it has any) as well as to get a feel for a car with different dimensions (especially if you’re going up a size).

And for electric cars it’s even more important, to note the ease or difficulty of its low-speed steering, acceleration for steering, and the tightness of the car’s turning circle. Reverse into a spot and see if you feel comfortable, or if there are blind spots, or any issues for you.

Explore every detail

Familiarise yourself with all of the controls, buttons and gadgets. You’ll be using the lights, wipers, air con, stereo, Bluetooth, and lots of other bits on a daily basis, so get to know them and check you understand how they work, and that you’re happy with them, rather than left confused or frustrated.

Try more than one car

This is mentioned above, but worth stating again. Test drive different types of electric cars (or compare electric to hybrid if you’re considering both) to feel the differences between them, and to make a more informed choice.

If you have a shortlist of three car from different manufacturers, try them all, and compare and contrast. If you have your heart set on one brand, then try the different electric options they have in the body style you’re considering, to see which one feels best for you.

By trying different models, you’ll get fully used to driving electric, and you’ll be able to make an informed choice about what model is best for you, in how it drives, or any other elements that are important to you.

Book your test drive here

You can book a test drive for any electric car through us, for any make and model that you’re interested in. Our free and easy service connects you with the most relevant local dealership(s) and lets you book whatever test drives you have in mind (with one or several brands). Just follow the link and get behind the wheel of new electric car to see if it feels right for you.