Posted by Jim Martin 11 July 2014
5 reasons to buy an electric car and 5 reasons not to
I've driven only a couple of electric vehicles (EVs), but it really doesn't take long to get used to the absence of engine noise. In fact, it's blissfully silent and much more relaxing than living with a combustion engine.
Sure, there's more planning involved in longer trips because of the limited range and the need to find a suitable recharging point, but you quickly get used to that too.
At the moment, electric cars aren't suitable for everyone, but if you commute a relatively short distance every day, the savings quickly mount up. See also: Nissan e-NV200 first look
5 reasons to buy an electric car
1 Cheap to run
Obviously, the number one reason to switch from burning fossil fuels to an electric motor is running costs. You already know it costs a small fortune to fill a tank with diesel or petrol, but the cost to recharge a battery is much lower. Even a full battery won't give you the same range as a tank of fuel, but when you compare like for like, an electric car such as the Nissan LEAF could cost as little as 2p per mile, compared to the average of 16ppm for a petrol or diesel car.
Yet another longer-term benefit of all-electric cars is that you don't have to pay for a tax disc each year.
Purely electric vehicles - as opposed to hybrids which still have a combustion engine as well - have zero emissions, or as near-as-dammit when you can't rely on charging from green sources of electricity. Less CO2 is good for the environment (particularly in towns and cities) and your health.
3 Lower maintenance costs
Without a clutch, gearbox and other mechanical engine parts, maintenance costs are anything from 20 to 40 percent lower for an electric vehicle. Naturally, there are still servicing costs, but it's yet another factor that makes EVs easier on your wallet.
4 A quiet, comfortable ride
With no engine noise, EVs offer a very quiet ride which is considerably more relaxing and comfortable than a noisy engine and exhaust, plus the associated vibrations and rumbles.
5 Fewer worries about ever-increasing fuel prices
Just a decade ago, we were all furious that petrol had broken through the £1 barrier. Now, we'd be over the moon if a litre of Unleaded cost that much. Prices are only going one way, but although electricity prices may rise, EV owners won't feel the pinch nearly as much.
5 reasons not to buy an EV
1 Expensive to buy
Even with the government's now-extended Plug-In Car Grant, which offers 25 percent off the list price (up to £5,000), electric cars are expensive. The entry-level Nissan LEAF Visia, for example, costs £16,490, and that's after taking the grant into account. Plus, that's the cost when you lease the battery for £70 per month. Buying a LEAF and battery outright will set you back a minimum of £21,490 - £5,000 more for the equivalent model.
Renault's Zoe is one of the cheapest EVs but even the entry model costs £13,995, again plus £70 per month for hiring the battery.
2 Limited range
The best electric cars have a much more limited range than any petrol or diesel car. Typically you can expect around 100 miles, but this is affected by temperature: the colder it is, the less range you'll get. Of course, using climate control and other electrical systems will reduce range yet further
3 Recharging time and availability
Although it's possible to charge an EV to around 50 percent of its capacity in 30 minutes, this requires a 'rapid' charging station and corresponding socket on the car itself. If you're charging at home - the most common situation - then you can expect it to take around eight hours, depending on the vehicle and charging socket.
Compared to the number of petrol stations, recharging points aren't nearly as prevalent. This means planning your journey and checking that your intended charging station is actually working. Then there's the worry that charging bays may already be in use when you arrive. Others might leave their EVs charging for hours.
4 Battery lifespan
There's uncertainty over how long the lithium ion batteries will last, and how quickly their capacity will diminish. This will clearly depend on how much they're used and how old they are, but it could well affect residual values when it comes to sell your EV, since replacing a battery costs thousands of pounds - more than replacing an engine in a car. Battery warranties are therefore an incredibly important factor when buying an EV, whether new or used.
5 You live in a 7th floor flat
In the UK, a surprisingly large proportion of people have off-road parking or garages. However, there are still plenty of homes that don't. It isn't only a problem for those who live in flats: houses in town or city centres often lack a driveway or any kind of parking.
To own an EV, you really need to be able to park close enough to plug in and recharge overnight. Trailing a cable across a pavement isn't ideal, and may even land you in court when a neighbour trips over it.