What to do if your electric car breaks down

An electric vehicle (EV) is as reliable as a petrol or diesel car. But sometimes things do go wrong. However, there's no need to panic.

Some people worry they might run out of battery power, while others wonder whether EVs need any special maintenance. If you're concerned about your electric car breaking down, here's how to prevent it from happening – and what to do if it does.


First things first

Lift the bonnet of an electric car and you're likely to see storage and no moving parts, compared to the tens or hundreds that go into a conventional engine. While EVs are still comparatively new, much of the technology they rely on has been around for nearly 200 years. It's well understood and comparatively simple.

Range anxiety is common enough, but keep your EV charged and you're unlikely to encounter the problem. There are tens of thousands of charging points in the UK, and with the ZapMap they are simple to find. It's important to avoid it: a flat battery brings everything to a halt. However, as with fuel being brought to top up a car, a remote charging can be brought to charge up your car. 


Soothing range anxiety

A flat battery is the most feared cause of an EV breakdown, but it's not as likely as potential owners might assume. Just like conventional vehicles, EVs display their remaining range and give plenty of warning when it's time to start looking for a charging point. Even so, you can reduce the chances of getting stranded by remembering three golden rules:

  1. Be realistic about range. When planning a trip, remember that weather, road conditions and the way you drive might mean you cover less – or more – than the miles displayed. If your route will take you near the limit, schedule in a break to charge up.
  2. Plan ahead. The charging network is growing fast, but some areas are low on public charging points. Check for charging with a service like Zap-Map, and consider fully charging before heading somewhere remote.
  3. Don't go low. If your range falls faster than expected, stop to recharge.


The art of EV maintenance

Regular servicing reduces the chance of your EV breaking down, and EVs require little extra attention. Make sure you follow the manufacturer guidelines, and between services keep on top of basics like topping up washer fluid.

As with all vehicles, it's especially important to check your tyres and spare for damage and wear - anyone can get a puncture, and a threadbare spare or missing repair kit could leave you stranded. Don't forget to check your tyre pressures every week or so, too. Low pressures can be unsafe and they'll reduce your range - expect roughly a 1% drop if your tyres are five pounds per square inch (PSI) below the recommended figure.

Maintenance should help you avoid problems, but it pays to be prepared for one by also joining a breakdown service. The UK's major providers all cover hybrid and electric cars, while the RAC recently announced it was equipping some of its vans with mobile recharging points capable of topping up stranded EVs.

My EV has broken down. What now?

Even the most prepared drivers get caught out. If your electric vehicle breaks down, the most important thing is to get to a safe place. Use any remaining charge to get off the road or onto the hard shoulder.

It's usually safest to leave your EV. Use the door nearest the verge or pavement, ensuring on a motorway that all passengers wait with you behind the barrier well away from the traffic. Only then should you call the emergency services if needed, or your breakdown provider.

It won't normally be possible to get an EV moving again once it's run out of battery, so don't put yourself or your car at risk by trying to get a friend to tow it - leave it to the professionals. Even if you're not a member at the time you breakdown, major breakdown services including the AA, RAC and Green Flag will come to rescue you.

Before help arrives, check in your EV handbook for any restrictions on towing, which may damage the car's systems. While some EVs can be towed as long as their drive wheels are kept off the ground, others can only be moved on a flat-bed truck. If you're not sure, insist on a flat-bed - it avoids the risk of major damage to your car.

Interested in learning more about EVs? Read all about buying an electric car with our buyer's guide.
Or find out more about our electric vehicle options: including leasing an electric car, a charger and a special tariff for cheaper charging. The future's electric, so let us take you there. Find out more today.

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