Electric cars vs petrol cars: What’s the difference

What makes electric cars different from petrol cars? We explain how both types of cars work, how much it can cost to run and maintain them, and how an electric car subscription with Onto could make all the difference to your driving experience.

Electric cars may look nearly the same as petrol cars, but the internal systems of the two cars couldn’t be more different. In this article, we’ll take a look at how each car has been built, examine the ways their unique power sources can affect the cost of driving, and share how Onto offer a different way to access an electric car.


  • Electric cars are powered by a central battery, while petrol cars burn petrol to power an internal combustion engine.
  • Electric cars have less complex internal systems and can have much lower maintenance costs than petrol cars.
  • Onto make running and maintaining an electric car even easier - every subscription includes insurance, maintenance, and a range of free public charging options.

How do internal combustion engines work?

A petrol or diesel car is powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE). ICEs burn petrol or diesel to convert the energy it stores into energy that can power the car. That may sound simple, but it’s a complicated process that involves hundreds of moving parts.

The combustion process provides consistent power to the car, but the reaction also creates and emits a byproduct: exhaust. While some diesel and petrol cars have processes that regulate the amount or quality of these gases, ICE cars will always produce emissions.

How do electric cars work?

An electric car is powered by one central battery. Without getting too technical, the battery powers an electric motor, and the electric motor powers the car. It’s a streamlined process, and it involves far fewer components than powering a petrol car.

There’s no fuel to burn, so there are no emissions. Electric cars don’t produce any exhaust and their electric motors run quietly, so they don’t contribute to air or noise pollution - they’re a much cleaner way to drive.

A red Renault Zoe parked by the side of the road, with an electric charger plugged in the front of it

Are electric cars less expensive to run?

As we mentioned above, powering a petrol car involves countless different components. If one of them fails, it needs to be replaced because the car won’t run correctly without it.

As a result, petrol cars can have high maintenance costs. There are so many parts that can fail or work incorrectly that it can feel like you’re constantly bringing your car in for repairs - and all of those visits can add up.

Electric cars are much easier to maintain. Their internal systems have fewer components, so they’re less likely to need frequent servicing. When they do need repairs, they’re usually fairly simple. 

Although there used to be fewer mechanics who could work on electric cars, as the cars have become more popular, it’s become much easier to find qualified technicians.

Electric cars are also much cheaper to drive in cities. Petrol cars can run up hundreds of pounds in Congestion Charges, and Ultra-Low Emission Zone and Low Emission Zone charges - but electric cars are exempt from all of these.

Finally, charging an electric car is usually cheaper than filling your car with fuel. What’s more, choosing Onto is even more cost-effective as our all-inclusive subscriptions include free charging at over 14,000 chargers in the UK.

Onto: Electric car subscription with a difference

Electric cars are easier to run and easier to maintain - and now they’re easier than ever to start driving with an all-inclusive subscription from Onto. Simply sign up online, complete your registration, and book your first electric car!

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