Can I take my electric car through a carwash? EV myths busted

Sorting out fact from fiction in the often misunderstood – and sometimes downright confusing – world of electric cars

Elephant Car Wash, historic sign, Seattle USA
The elephant in the room... water and electricity mixing could be shocking, so how safe are EVs?  Credit: Kevin Schafer/ Moment Mobile ED

Plenty of us are thinking of making the switch to an electric car, right now. Between legislation changes, environmental and air quality concerns, and an influx of new electric cars (EVs) that have made a plug-in life a whole lot more affordable and appealing, it’s not hard to see why. 

But there is still a real undercurrent of uncertainty over electric cars – as much regarding the daily use as about the critical anxiety over driving range and charging. 

Before you start fretting over how far the car goes on a single charge and where to plug it in when it does need a top-up of electricity – all of which you can read about elsewhere on Telegraph Cars – here we’ll cover the basics and bust some common myths. 

Can I plug in the car when it’s raining? 

Yes, absolutely. We all know that water and electricity don’t mix but manufacturers have, of course, gone to pains to make sure that a battery-powered car can be charged in all conditions.

Electrical connectors are designed to be durable as well as keeping out moisture Credit:  THOMAS PETER/Reuters

The electrical connection sockets in EVs have multiple levels of waterproofing so that you can plug in the car when it’s raining or snowing, and leave it plugged in, perfectly safely. However, try to avoid getting water directly on the contact pins of the cable or socket. 

Can I take an EV through the carwash? 

You can jetwash it, take it through a mechanical carwash or do anything with it that you’d do with a regular combustion-engined car.

Washing an EV is no different to keeping a combustion-engined car clean

There are even plug-in off-roaders with a decent wading depth – the Range Rover Sport plug-in hybrid will wade through water up to 850mm deep; the same as the standard Range Rover Sport. 

Can I tow with it? 

None of the more affordable electric cars are rated for towing, unfortunately, but if you can stretch to the larger SUVs then you’re in luck as some of them have great towing potential.

The Tesla Model X can tow up to 2,250kg, while the BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE plug-in hybrids can tow up to 2,700kg.

The Tesla Model X has striking, upward-opening rear doors - and can also tow a significant load

Just be careful to factor in the reduced range you’ll see as a result of the extra weight when towing – it’ll drastically reduce the distance you can go in between charges in a pure-electric car, just as it will ruin your fuel economy in a petrol or diesel car. 

Aren’t electric cars really slow? 

Not in the slightest. In fact, even the really mundane ones are faster than the equivalent mundane petrol and diesel cars, while even moderately ‘sporty’ ones tend to be shockingly rapid.

For example, the MG ZS EV will accelerate from 0-62mph in 8.5sec (the 1.5-litre petrol version takes 10.9sec), while the Peugeot e-208 will do the same sprint in 8.1 compared to 9.8sec in the 1.2 petrol. Not only that, but because electric motors can deliver all of their torque in one gargantuan hit, performance EVs such as the Porsche Taycan can achieve stratospheric performance very easily.

The electric Porsche Taycan is as fast as you dare...

Just look at the Tesla Model 3 Performance, which will out-drag a BMW M3 despite costing some £20,000 less. More importantly, EVs are great to drive – and the last thing they are is slow.  

Does it need special tyres? 

Not at all. Many EVs are fitted with low-rolling resistance tyres as standard, as are plenty of efficiency-focussed combustion-engined cars, but when you need to replace them you can shop around for any tyres that are the right size just as you might with any other car.

The tyres don’t wear out any quicker, either.

Does it need maintenance? 

Electric cars need routine servicing just like any car, but their service intervals are often further apart, and some manufacturers charge less for servicing an EV since they have far fewer parts to check.

EVs such as the Jaguar i-Pace are mechanically simple. Batteries mounted in the floor keep the weight low and add to the stiffness of the chassis for good crash protection

An electric motor only has three or four moving parts, while an internal combustion engine has more like 10,000, so an EV really only needs to have its brakes, tyres, wipers and other degradable parts checked. 

There’s no fuel or exhaust system (perhaps incorporating lots of emissions equipment) to worry about either.

Are electric cars safe? 

Yes, absolutely. They are safe when you plug them in, they’re safe when you drive them and they’re just as safe as comparable petrol and diesel cars in the event of an accident.

EVs tend to score well in the industry-standard Euro NCAP crash tests

Some people worry about the batteries in an EV being unsafe in a collision, but the packs they’re fitted into are so strong (and are usually fitted low in the car between the front and rear axles) that EVs often rate better than fossil fuel counterparts in crash tests as they add rigidity.

Also, the tech-first culture of EVs means that they often have more advanced semi-autonomous driver aids than non-plug-in alternatives. 

Won’t it need a new battery pack after only a few years? 

No. Battery technology has improved a lot in recent years, and we know that those with more recent upgraded chemistry (anything from the facelifted Mk1 Nissan Leaf and onward) have much improved battery longevity over older EVs.

Battery packs, such as this Nissan Leaf unit, can be repurposed for energy storage in other applications once they're no longer powerful enough to drive a car

There is still degradation over time, though, as occurs with all batteries such as the one in your phone; as a rough estimate, most modern electric cars are likely to lose around 15-20% of the battery performance in the first 100,000 miles.

You can help to improve battery longevity by keeping it topped up between 20-80% of the battery charge in routine use, and only doing a full 100% charge when it’s needed for a long journey.

Most batteries also come with an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty for additional peace of mind, although not all cover against loss of range. Some are only covered by the manufacturer for total failure, which is extremely rare. 

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