Insurer calls for driving test change to meet move to electric cars

One of the UK’s leading insurance companies has called for an overhaul of the driving test to better fit the requirements of electric cars.

LV= General Insurance has claimed that the current test isn’t relevant to “green drivers” and wants to see it altered to reflect the move towards electric cars.

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Electric car ownership is growing across the UK, with EV registrations up nearly 150 per cent last year. The Government also recently announced plans to move the ban on new petrol and diesel cars forward to 2035, forcing motorists into EVs.

But LV= GI claims many drivers are still confused around the differences in driving an EV compared with a regular combustion-engined vehicle. That’s despite the fact that there is virtually no difference between taking the wheel of a petrol/diesel car or an EV.

Driving an EV like the Kia e-Niro is virtually no different to a petrol or diesel car and the skills needed to pass the driving test are the same (Photo: Kia)

It wants to see better education of drivers, involving potential changes to the theory test and the “show me, tell me” section of the practical test. However, the DVSA, the agency that oversee the driving test, has said that there is already provision for EVs in the current format.

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Tom Clarke, head of electric vehicle strategy at LV=GI comments: “As the UK moves towards becoming net-zero, UK drivers need to have a greater understanding of electric cars in order to have the confidence to make the switch.

“The fact that nearly two-thirds (72 per cent) of electric car drivers say taking their driving test in an electric car would have been a benefit to them highlights the reality that the driving test in its current form is no longer relevant for the new wave of ‘green’ drivers.”

Among Clarke’s suggestions are that the topics such as the location of charging points and activating a car’s eco mode could be covered by the “show me, tell me” section of the test instead of existing questions related to combustion engines such as how to check oil levels.

Provision already in place

Responding to the suggestion, the DVSA pointed out that learners are already free to sit their test in an EV and that examiners can tailor the show me, tell me questions to electric vehicles.

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DVSA chief driving examiner Mark Winn said: “DVSA’s priority is to help everyone through a lifetime of safe driving. “Drivers are free to choose which type of vehicle they take their test in, including electric cars, as long as it meets the requirements. We welcome any feedback on driver training and our testing regime is kept under constant review.”

The DVSA also confirmed that examiners are able to adapt the ‘show me, tell me’ vehicle safety questions candidates are asked on test, to make them relevant to an electric car when driven by a candidate.

It also said that it would look to introduce theory test questions which are relevant to both combustion engine and electric vehicles.

Maximising potential

Neil Greig, director of policy and Research at IAM RoadSmart, believes that changing driver training could help people get the most out of EVs.

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He said: “Maximising the potential for electric cars means that the driving test needs to be modernised as soon as possible. New drivers need to be able to access the skills required to use these new vehicles as safely and efficiently as possible. Availability of electric car learner driving courses are very limited and financial support may be needed to spark interest in supplying them. In our view it is vital that the government doesn’t forget the role of training in helping to get drivers to adopt new technology.”

The LV= GI research found that many drivers were confused over the noise made by EVs, how to charge them, how long it takes and how to check battery levels. It also found that as many as one in 10 drivers would “never” buy an EV because of fears over driving a “silent” car or switching to an automatic transmission.

Tom Clarke added: “It’s clear that more education is needed to encourage drivers to make the switch to electric. The nervousness around these vehicles can be tackled by ensuring prospective drivers are fully equipped to drive an electric car, and current drivers are fully educated on the differences between electric cars and ICE. We understand that a driving test overhaul is a big change that cannot happen overnight but making small alterations to the theory test, or ensuring that certain ‘show me, tell me’ questions are adapted for electric car drivers will be a huge step towards encouraging future take-up.”

What are the driving differences between EV and ICE?

Many of the biggest differences between EV and regularly fuelled cars are more related to ownership - range, charging time and infrastructure - than the actual business of driving.

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However, driving a pure EV does present some slight differences. Firstly, they use regenerative braking to gather energy that would otherwise be wasted and return it to the car’s battery. This means that even just lifting off the throttle can cause an EV to slow down quicker than an ICE car, which can take a little getting used to.

Electric motors also deliver their power differently, with 100 per cent of the torque available instantly, making them more responsive and quicker to accelerate than many ICE vehicles.

And EVs don’t have regular manual transmissions. Because electric motors can produce most of their power almost instantly and across a broad spread of their rev range, there is no need for a multi-speed transmission so they use single-speed automatics. If you’re used to shifting gear yourself or to a traditional multi-speed automatic it’s a slightly different feeling.