There are many fantastic reasons to buy an electric car not least because they are the future of motoring.
Electric cars are undoubtedly the next big thing - thanks to an extensive choice, standard ranges of over 100 miles and improving economic benefits to owners, plus a massive public charging network that is continually expanding.
Governments too are making strides to support this revolution with a grant for all new electric cars, no car tax and a commitment to ban sales of all petrol and diesel cars by 2040, if not sooner, to tackle toxic air quality and climate change.
If you are planning to buy a new or nearly-new car and considering an electric car what do you need to know?
There are already over 40 electric car or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) models available and a growing number in development so there is almost certainly an electric vehicle (EV) to suit your budget and needs. In 2013, there were only 3,500 plug-in vehicles on UK roads, today there are over 120,000 and demand is continuing to rise.
Are electric cars really better than petrol or diesel cars or even hybrids?
The short answer is Yes. Absolutely. Electric cars are really better than petrol or diesel cars.
Electric cars are cheaper to run than petrol or diesel cars, easier to drive and offer better performance. The cheapest new electric vehicles start from just £12,500 and the ever-popular Renault Zoe starts at £14,000.
Electric cars don't have engines. They have a motor that is charged by an on-board battery. That battery is topped up by electricity from the grid. The national grid is increasingly being powered by renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. And there are zero tail-pipe emissions so an electric vehicle produces considerably lower carbon dioxide emissions, which is good news for combating climate change.
This also means lower air pollutants, such as particulate matter (PM) and oxygen nitrides (NOx), which are known to increase rates of heart and lung disease, cancer and asthma.
Seven Reasons Why Electric Cars Are Better Than A Diesel or Petrol Car?
Electric cars are definitely better than petrol or diesel cars. Society has recognised the need for environmental action and car manufacturers are responding by delivering state of the art electric vehicles.
The reason for their growing popularity is that electric cars are;
- More efficient
- Much cheaper to operate
- Significantly improve air quality
- Perform better than traditional petrol or diesel cars and
- Produce much lower carbon dioxide emissions.
Electric vehicles offer a more relaxed driving experience; there is no combustion engine noise, no gear changing, no fear of stalling at the traffic lights or hill starts and are cheaper to maintain as there are no moving engine parts!
But this does not mean that electric cars are boring.
Acceleration is faster than a petrol or diesel car, so performance is enhanced. They offer all the modern technology you'd expect, such as inbuilt satnavs and smart communications, as well as super comfort styling and one pedal driving.
A beginner's guide to electric cars by the Energy Saving Trust including pure battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid cars and extended-range electric vehicles.
Are Electric Cars More Expensive?
Electric cars are not more expensive. In fact, research shows that electric cars are in fact cheaper to own and run than both petrol and diesel cars.
Electric vehicle battery costs have fallen by 70% since 2010. As battery technology evolves the price of electric cars will continue to reduce in line with technology improvements and scaling-up of global production.
Up-front costs may be higher for some comparable models but the cost of running an electric car is significantly lower because electricity is much cheaper than petrol or diesel fuel. A simple design, with no spark plugs or oil to change means that service and maintenance costs are reduced and the cars are easier to maintain.
What Is the Cheapest Electric Car?
The cheapest electric car is the Peugeot iOn. Prices for a new electric car start at around £12,500. With growing public awareness and interest, car manufacturers are set to launch more low-cost models within the next 12 months.
Ironically, the resale value of some electric cars has increased, due to such high demand. But that doesn't mean there isn't a great bargain to be found. It is always worth checking the range and warranty for second hand electric cars or demonstration models.
For more detailed analysis of the costs of running an electric car read Hybrid, Plug-In and Electric Cars Explained.
How Far Can You Travel in An Electric Car?
The simple answer is most electric cars can easily travel to wherever you need to go. As electric cars become more mainstream, 'range anxiety' will become a thing of the past. The majority of car journeys are short; to work, the shops, the school run or driving to leisure activities. The average car journey in England is less than eight miles!
A range of over 100 miles per day is standard and top models can travel over 200 miles on one charge. The 'real' range of a battery in an electric car depends on the make and model but the range is improving all the time.
For those who regularly drive 200-300 miles a day, there are plenty of fast charging stations on the UK road network. The number and availability of these public charging stations is growing rapidly. There are also extended-range electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids for those who consistently do long journeys.
Ironically, it is more likely the human bladder rather than the battery range of the plug-in car that will determine the number of stops on a long journey.
How Do I Charge an Electric Car?
You can charge an electric car wherever electricity is available - at home, at work or on the go.
Charging an electric car is the same principle as charging your mobile phone. You monitor the battery level and plug it in when it is running low or when you arrive home. With some cars, software allows you to monitor your charge level on your phone and other mobile devices as part of the growing 'internet of things'.
All electric cars come with a weatherproof cable that you simply plug into a socket to recharge the battery. As cars are parked for well over 90% of the day, charging at home or at work is generally far more convenient than the traditional method of 'filling up' at a smelly petrol station.
How Much Does It Cost to Buy a New Electric Car?
As with all cars, prices vary considerably depending on the style and model. There are currently over forty models of electric cars on the market. When choosing to buy a new electric car, there are other cost benefits to take into account however, the cheapest new electric vehicle starts from £12,500 and the ever-popular Renault Zoe is £14,000.
The Government will pay a grant of 35% towards the cost of the best electric cars up to £4,500. The grant is managed by the car dealer and automatically comes off the purchase price so there is no hassle involved. The full plug-in car grant applies only to the best, battery electric cars as listed on this website https://www.gov.uk/plug-in-car-van-grants/what-youll-get.
These Government grants also apply to purchasing new electric mopeds, motorcycles, taxis and vans that produce the lowest CO2 emissions. There are also grants available for other types of electric vehicles and the best hybrid cars but these grants are set at a lower level. For more information on hybrids and plug in hybrids see Hybrid, Plug-In and Electric Cars Explained.
Electric vehicles pay no car tax (vehicle excise duty (VED)). They are also exempt from the congestion charge in London and can freely enter ultra-low emission zones. Some towns are even offering free parking to electric vehicles as an added incentive to ditch the diesel!
It is worth noting that at the more affordable end of the electric car market there is also a battery lease cost of around £70 a month to include in the overall cost.
This quick reference table indicates the cost of some of the more popular electric cars.
Indicative Costs of Electric Cars for Sale
|Car Make and Model||Indicative Price New, after the Grant|
|Kia Soul EV||£26,000|
|Mercedes Benz B Class||£28,800|
|Tesla Model S||£65,600|
Prices quoted are based on the most basic model and after the Government grant is applied. Prices were obtained from Next Green Car website in March 2018 http://www.nextgreencar.com/new-car-search/
Where Can I Charge My Electric Car?
For the vast majority of drivers, electric car charging takes place at home overnight, where it's most convenient.
Drivers on longer journeys or away from home, can simply plug-in at any of the 15,000 public charging stations across the country. The location of charging stations for electric cars are listed via publicly available maps, apps, sat navs and directories, eg. https://www.zap-map.com/live/. Many are located at supermarkets, hotels and service stations, as well as leisure and shopping centres.
Several thousand new public charging stations are being added to the network each year whilst more and more petrol stations are closing each year. Interestingly, charging point availability already exceeds the number of petrol stations, which is around 8,500, by a factor of two!
Charging stations are often classified as slow, fast or rapid. This indicates roughly how long it will take to charge your car battery. And of course, you only pay for the amount of electricity you use, which normally costs a few pounds. This is far cheaper than the £15 or more that a petrol or diesel vehicle would cost.
Some charge points in public places are even free to use and can become a habit for some drivers to locate and only use these complimentary charge points!
How do I Charge my Electric Car at Home?
Around 60% of people have access to off-street parking, so they can charge their car at home via a standard 3-pin plug in their garage or an outdoor electric socket.
Alternatively, a specially fitted, faster charging station can be installed, utilising the existing electrical wiring in your home, for around £300. This is a relatively straight-forward job and there are grants available for this cost (see information at the end of this article).
How do I Charge my Electric Car if I don't have a drive?
If you live in an area where on-street parking is the only alternative many residential streets in cities have charging points. These are listed on the maps but it is worth asking local councillor officers what their plans are for expanding on-street charging units.
Local authorities can often access grants from the Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) to cover the cost of installing public charging stations. This scheme aims to increase the availability of plug-in vehicle charging infrastructure in areas where off-street parking is limited. This should see more residential streets becoming part of the national charging network.
Three Types of Charging Plug for Electric Cars
To charge your car will require a portable charging cable. Some cars have two leads. One for domestic plug charging and one for fast charging units.
The simplest way to top up your car battery is to connect the lead to the socket in a garage or an outdoor electric socket. This requires a charging lead with a domestic plug (the normal 3-pin plugs we use on kettles, hairdryers and TVs).
On 'trickle' charge it can take up to 8 hours to fully recharge the vehicle. For faster charging, use a dedicated charging station. It takes around 3 to 4 hours to fully recharge using a cable with a specific plug but some rapid charge stations take less than an hour.
The most usable Charging Station to install is called a Type 2 (socket) as it is works with both Type 2 and Type 1 electric vehicles with a compatible cable. These are known as faster home Charging Stations and are either 7kW or 22kW (if 3 phase electrics are available).
The only exception are Teslas as these have a unique socket. However, they also have an adaptor so drivers can use the full range of charge points.
Is There A Government Grant for Fitting A Charging Station for my Electric Car?
There is a Government backed grant for fitting the faster home Charging Stations. It is a 75% contribution of the cost of one charging station, including installation. The grant is capped at £500 including VAT per eligible vehicle. This effectively brings the cost of a standard 3kW unit (including installation) to around £300. The higher the kilowatts, the faster the charge. A faster, more powerful unit (7kW system) would cost in the region of £400.
You may find some purchase deals for electric cars include a home charging station as part of the new car deal, so it's definitely worth asking the car dealership about charging requirements and costs.
As with every purchase please check the specification of your car with the car dealership before installing a home charging point.
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