Climate change is being driven by burning fossil fuels. Electric Vehicles use electricity instead of petrol/diesel and increasingly the UK electricity supply is being generated from renewable sources. If you have solar panels at home you can charge your car 100% fossil-free. By driving an EV you are encouraging industry to get off fossil fuels and put their financial resources into developing clean technologies. You are also helping to reduce air pollution which is a major cause of illness and premature death (and no, EVs don’t give off more brake dust than normal cars as they hardly use their brakes).
Before we get into car specs, it is worth de-bunking the myth that the carbon ’embedded’ in the manufacturing of EVs is higher than emissions from their fossil fuelled equivalents. It is true that electric cars need more energy in their manufacture, however, due to their much higher efficiency and their ability to run on electricity generated from renewable sources, this deficit is paid back within a few years of average mileage driving. Electric cars in Europe emit, on average, almost three times less CO2 than equivalent petrol or diesel cars.
Beginner’s Guide to Electric Vehicles
If you are able to buy or lease the car through a business, you may be able to benefit from very low benefit-in-kind rates (0% this tax year, rising to 1% from April and 2% in 2022).
What is the mpg equivalent?
Most new cars sold in 2021 have a reliable range of at least 140 miles. Older second hand models may be as low as 60-70 miles but if, your commute is only 10 miles each way, this doesn’t matter. It is also worth knowing that the US EPA range rating is normally more accurate than the European WLTP (and NEDC range is a joke, take 20-30% off for a realistic estimate).
Charging Your Battery
- The best way to compare the charging rate of different cars is “miles per hour“. This takes into account both the electrical charge rate and the efficiency of the car. Take the electrical charge rate in kW and multiply by the efficiency of the car in miles per kWh and you will get miles per hour of charge e.g. a 7kW supply to a car that can drive 5 miles per kWh will give you a charging speed of 35 miles per hour. The same supply to a car that only does 3 miles per kWh would give a charging speed of 21 miles per hour.
- Every car has a limit to the electrical charge rate it can accept, this will be quoted separately for AC and DC charging.
- AC charging speed is typically 7kW, though older Nissan Leaf is limited to 3kW, some Teslas can accept 22kW and the first two generations of the Renault Zoe can accept 43kW (though they don’t accept DC charging).
- DC charging speed for an EV bought in 2020 or later should be at least 100kW. Some cheaper models have a lower limit and some premium models can accept 250kW or even more. Older models are often limited to 50kW.
As with petrol stations where you can fill up at Shell, BP, Tesco or any one of the others, there are many different EV charging networks. Some are run by local councils or are in private car parks, some by new businesses like Instavolt and some by fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP who are busy installing chargers at their petrol stations. The best way to find a charger and plan your route is with the Zap-map app. All new Rapid (DC) chargers are now required to accept contactless debit card payments and older chargers are being updated to support this. You can get discounted charging rates on some charging networks by using their app.
The cheapest and most convenient option is to charge at home overnight with an off-peak tariff which will cost 5p per kWh Government grants are available to install a charger at your home.
What Make and Model of EV?
- If you can buy new or lease you have a lot of options (almost all with 150+ mile ranges) from small cars like the Seat Mii, through medium sized Renault Zoe/Peugeot 208/Vauxhall Corsa/Nissan Leaf/Hyundai Kona/Kia e-Niro/VW ID-3 to larger Volvos, Teslas, Mercedes, etc.
- Christopher recommends any of the Hyundai or Kia for best efficiency and range as well as the Renault Zoe. The MGs have a bit less range but also quite a bit cheaper with dealer discounts available that you probably won’t get from Kia/Hyundai.
- Slightly bigger cars like the 2nd generation Nissan Leaf (40kwh) or Hyundai Ioniq (28kwh) will cost under £20k for about 130-150 mile ranges.
- If you are buying second-hand or on a tight budget, your options are, for now, more limited. A good starting point would be an original Renault Zoe with around 70-80 miles of range for £5,000 (but you do need to add about £50 per month for the battery lease – think of it as a warranty and it doesn’t seem so bad).
- Autotrader will allow you to filter a search by Fuel Type: select “Electric” and see what comes up. Hyundais and Kias are very good choices as they have good warranties and are very efficient.
Where to Buy?
Quite a few second hand car dealers specialise in electric cars now:
gogreenautos.co.uk (new and second hand EVs, based in Abingdon).
Issues you might have heard about
Recommended YouTube Channels
Local Electric Vehicle Q & A discussion hosted by HEAT (Hungerford Environmental Action Team) and WBCAN (West Berkshire Climate Action Network) February 2021:
Many thanks to the following who are happy to answer questions about their own experiences. Please comment below and they will respond.
Christopher de Chazal has a Nissan Leaf and a 2015 Tesla Model S. He is also happy to discuss solar panels, heat pumps and green tech in general.
John Downe has owned Renault Zoe and Tesla Model 3.
Richard Foster, Chair of West Berkshire Green Exchange has driven a Nissan Leaf, for over five years.