With the government pledging to ban sales of new car powered solely by petrol and diesel by 2030, and banning hybrid cars by 2035, many young people and current drivers are asking if they will need to take a dedicated electric car driving test.
Here we take a look at what the law currently says and any changes that are planned for both now and in the future as electric cars have overtaken petrol power as buyers’ next planned purchase (with diesel languishing in third), according to Autovia, the UK's leading provider of automotive information.
More people will be driving electric cars over coming years, but will they need to obtain a special licence and take a different test?
Do I need a driving licence for an EV?
While some electric bikes below a maximum power output of 250 watts and top speed of no more than 15.5mph do not require a licence, other battery powered vehicles (even electric scooters by law) will require a licence and theory and practical examination.
Do I need a different licence to drive an EV?
Currently, there is no need to obtain a different type of licence to drive an EV in the UK. However, when it comes to looking forward for younger people taking their practical exam, the option of taking an automatic version could make sense because battery-powered vehicles do not have a manual gearbox.
Is my automatic licence valid for a n EV?
Yes, the automatic examination will allow drivers to use an electric-powered car at the current time.
Does my manual licence allow me to drive EVs?
Yes - as is currently the case, having passed the manual allows the holder to drive both battery-powered and conventionally powered automatic motors.
Is it worth taking a manual test when the automatic version will work for driving EVs?
It would seem that many new drivers are asking this very question and stats would suggest the manual examination may become a thing of the past over coming years. In 2011/12 just 4.5% of examinations were taken in autos, but by 2018/19, this figure had more than doubled to 11.1%.
The trend towards automatic cars - possibly with an eye on the future - has been highlighted by a large jump in sales: 24% of vehicles sold in 2011 were autos, with this jumping to 49% by 2019.
The DVSA is looking at how to preserve the manual option as people move away from vehicles with a manual transmission.
Is it easier to pass an auto practical exam to drive an EV
While battery-powered cars and conventionally powered vehicles don't have clutch control or gearshifts to worry about, the pass rate for the auto exam shows that it's not the easy option some imagine. The 2018/2019 pass rate for automatics was 39.5%, while the rate for manual examination success we 45.9%
Can you take your driving test in an EV?
Yes, you can. However, this will be an automatic version of the exam, so you will only be able to drive cars with an automatic gearbox or electric drivetrain. Internal combustion engines with automatic gearshifts account for about 40% of cars on UK roads.
Is there a different driving examination or training for EVs?
No. The current theory and practical examination remain the same for now, with no difference for motorists taking the test in battery or conventionally powered cars.
Will the driving examination change in the future?
It is likely the way tests and driver training are organised are likely to change in the near future.
With a ban on new fully petrol and diesel-powered cars less than a decade away, the waning interest in manual vehicles will see more driving instructors choosing manual vehicles for driver training.
In time, the examination is likely to evolve, including the likes of regenerative braking and how to charge vehicles in public and at home.
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Author: Pete Barden:
Pete Barden is a qualified journalist who has written and produced for publications including The Sun (thesun.co.uk), New Statesman Media Group, Whatcar? (Whatcar.com) Stuff Magazine (Stuff.tv), Fastcar Magazine (Fastcar.co.uk), Maxim Magazine and UK broadcast stations within the Heart network (Formerly GCAP). Pete specialises in motoring and travel content, along with news and production roles. You can find out more about Pete Barden on LinkedIn.