A Beginner’s Guide to Electric Cars

 As the owner of an EV, Richard has written this article based on his own knowledge and experience as a guide to anyone considering the purchase of an EV. Any facts herein should be independently verified by any such person.
 
I am genuinely surprised that more people do not drive electric cars, or EVs (electric vehicles) as they are known. I have driven one myself, a Nissan Leaf, for the past five years, have covered over 50,000 mile in it and I still get a thrill from the silence that results from having no engine.  And I save lots of money: only 3p a mile for fuel, zero road tax, servicing at only £125 pa (there’s no engine to service). But EVs are not for everyone. I will try to set out here some of the considerations to be made by anyone embarking on the silent journey of owning an EV.
 
Have a look at nextgreencar.com and in particular their buying guide at nextgreencar.com/electric-cars/buying-guide . This will answer some of the questions about whether an EV is suitable for you etc. The profile of your journeys and the ability to charge at home or at work are key. 
 
Here are some things to think about:
 
  • 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.

Richard Foster
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.

 

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2 Responses

  1. We have a BMW 530e plug in hybrid which is excellent for relatively short commutes (up to 23 miles), were only able to choose from certain marques so I choice was limited. We considers the pure electric BMW but it just looked too ugly, Teslas don’t look ugly at all, not sure what the BMW design brief was, list an electric model but make it so aesthetically unappealing that it won’t sell? The effortless torque and acceleration from a
    standstill in our 530e (in electric mode) is amazing and very quiet!

  2. We now have two Nissan Leafs and can’t recommend them enough! They are fantastic cars. They are small and if budget is no issue then obviously a Tesla is far better for comfort and range but we love our leafs and love driving them. You really do feel better driving an electric car. Good for the environment and good for your well being. AND you don’t have to go to a petrol station again, which is a joy in itself. Go fully electric as soon as you can. You may have to occasionally plan any longer journeys a little more and may have to make one extra stop but where’s the harm in slowing our lives just a tiny bit? Life is way too frantic as it is. It will be one of the best decisions you make, I’m sure. Be brave and go for it. If we can do it, you can too 🙂

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