- Journey length. If you do lots of short journeys returning home after each, or if your drive to work is comfortably within the range of your battery and you can charge at work, then an EV may be for you. If you charge at home, you need to be able to install a domestic chargepoint.
- Pure EV or hybrid? If hybrid, it should be a plug-in, otherwise all the energy to drive the car is from fossil fuels. Plug-in hybrids typically have smaller batteries than pure EVs but that may not matter if you do mainly short journeys with occasional longer ones.
- Price. The price new may seem high, but some dealers offer nearly-new cars at considerably less than the advertised price if you are prepared to take what they have available.
- Buy or lease? When I bought my Nissan Leaf in 2014 Nissan only sold outright, but they guaranteed the battery for 5 years. The other main competitor then was the Renault Zoe where the battery was leased.
- Battery range. Manufactures quote mileage ranges which are achieved under perfect conditions. They are no more achievable by you or I than mpg figures given for new petrol and diesel cars. A realistic range is probably two thirds of that quoted by the manufacturer. On the positive side, after 5 years I have not noticed any significant reduction in my Leaf’s battery’s range.
- Charging and cables. Different chargers charge at vastly different rates. “Rapid” chargers are in all motorway service stations. They are DC to DC whereas slower chargers are AC and require conversion from AC to DC. Rapid chargers used to be said to charge to 80% in 20 minutes. With larger batteries, the charge time has increased, but the miles added per hour of charge is probably about the same. The cable with rapid chargers is integral with the charger (known as tethered). “Fast” chargers are a lot slower than rapid ones, typically 2 – 3 hours. They are the type found in public streets or car parks. You provide the cable, which can cost upwards of £100. My Leaf can charge from a 13 amp socket but not all EVs can, so that’s worth checking. Note that there is a government grant for installing a domestic chargepoint but this may end in July 2019. For information click here.
- Public charging. You will need to to register with a provider. Some impose a regular membership charge, others do not. Examples include ChargeMaster POLAR, Ecotricity, Source London, ChargePoint Scotland, Plugged-in Midlands, Northern Ireland, Charge Your Car, InstaVolt, and POD Point. Once a member, EV users have access to all charge points in networks with which they are registered.
- What make and model of EV? It’s best to look at the nextgreencar.com website for the latest models. Tesla are perhaps the best known manufacturer but their EVs are top of the range, costing sometimes over £100,000. Their new Model 3, though, is priced at $35,000, but the order book is large and the lead time is long. The Nissan Leaf and the Renault Zoe were two early models but now most manufacturers have an electric model.
- Ethics. By driving an EV you are not burning a fossil fuel, but the electricity you use may be generated from burning a fossil fuel. You can switch your electricity supplier to one which generates from renewable sources to be truly fossil-free. Some people say that if everyone drove EVs, that would not be sustainable, which may or may not be true, but by driving an EV you are encouraging industry to get off fossil fuels and put their financial resources into developing clean technologies.
Chair of the West Berkshire Green Exchange
WBGE is a voluntary group that acts as an umbrella to individuals and groups concerned to take action against man-made climate change.