Teaching in an electric car will be different from teaching in a petrol driven car in many respects. A learner will have to become used to the lack of any engine sound when switching on as there is no revving that you get with a petrol engine, and thus no feel of how the car is going to move. With a greater level of low down torque the electric vehicle pulls away much quicker than a petrol car and this will take practice to control. With an overall range of about 40 miles in between recharges a purely electric powered vehicle would be of little use to driving instructors who will drive well over twice that distance on an average working day. Charging of the battery takes time which should be spent giving lessons and training routes would have to be located nearby in a small area to avoid danger of power running out and becoming stranded.
The main drawback safety wise with the electric car is it’s complete lack of driving noise. People are being killed or injured when at pedestrian crossings from stepping out in front of the cars. A pedestrian will often hear a car before they see it with a late and cursory glance if nothing can be heard in advance. The cars are much quieter over the first five metres from a standing start than petrol driven engines, so driving in pedestrian heavy areas where traffic adopts a stop start pattern presents a particular problem. There is no longer a green cross code style road safety course to equip pedestrians to deal with this new danger so casualty numbers are set to rise. Cyclists have the same problem and the highway code recommends that cycles are fitted with an audible device such as a bell but this is strictly voluntary.
In terms of driver training in this type of car a number of issues must be considered. An electric vehicle does not have a traditional gearbox so there is no need for a clutch. Clutch control is one of the main elements of teaching people to drive which would disappear completely, cutting down on the number of lessons a pupil would need. It would make it easier for the pupil especially during hill starts and during low speed manoeuvres. Driving Instructors would also need to restructure hazard awareness training to place much more emphasis on pedestrians and especially those classed as vulnerable road users. Elderly people have slower reactions and need an earlier warning to stay safe. Those with disabilities involving restricted movement also rely heavily on hearing a vehicle approach. The greatest danger would be to the blind who may not have any warning at all of a vehicle approaching. Learner drivers would need to be taught to take this into account and expect the unexpected from pedestrians and vulnerable road users.