On this site you will find details on:
- What is an electric car?
- Why buy and electric car – the benefits?
- Why not to buy an electric car – the negatives?
- What are the main concerns with electric cars?
- What electric cars are currently for sale in the UK?
What is an electric car?
An electric car has a number of unique features compared to a conventional diesel or hybrid car. In place of an engine, fuel and exhaust system an electric car features rechargeable batteries coupled to an electric motor that drives the wheels. This type of electric car is also called a Battery Electric Vehicle and is different from a Hybrid Electric Vehicle (such as a Toyota Prius) that features both an electric motor and a conventional engine.
Why buy and electric car – the benefits?
The main benefit of owning an electric car is reduced running cost in terms of fuel, tax and Congestion Charge. Electricity, especially off-tariff rates, are extremely competitive compared to petrol and diesel costs. Electricity is also exempt from the duty imposed on fuels. This is also coupled with the fact that electric motors are more efficient than their internal combustion counterparts. So, depending on your electricity tariff you could see an electric car costing under 5p per mile to “fuel”.
Electric cars are also exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty (car tax), however, many modern efficient petrol and diesel engines are also in the £0 VED bracket.
Owners of electric cars only have to pay the £10 annual London Congestion Charge fee and are exempt from the £10 daily charge. This could represent a significant saving over a year.
Our About Electric Cars UK view: “if are regularly (daily) commuting into towns or cities, especially Central London, then an electric car could be for you. Just consider though that an efficient diesel or small capacity petrol engine could also be cheap to run…and to initially purchase.”
Why not to buy an electric car – the negatives?
Generally electric cars cost considerably more to purchase than there petrol/diesel equivalents. So it’s important to think about how much you will save versus a “standard” car. For example, a Nissan Leaf might cost £10,000 more than a diesel car of similar size. Over 3 years this is £3,333 extra so you need to compare this with you current fuel bill. There is also a lack of electric cars for sale on the second hand market, so if you want to buy an electric car then you most certainly have to buy new.
This is another important aspect to consider. Electric cars face criticism for their lack of range versus a standard car. So if an electric car has a range of 50 miles then you need to be close to your place of work (under 20 miles) or have charging facilities at your place of work. Unfortunately the range restriction generally means you cover less miles and therefore impacts on the costs savings. The fact is that electric cars are more suited to low mileage (between 50-100 miles) daily commuting.
The typical full charge time for an electric car is between 6 to 8 hours. This significantly reduces your flexibility as your car either needs to parked charging at work all day and/or at home all night. That said, faster chargers are available which reduce the full charge time to around 4 hours.
Charging point access and cost
Basically, have you access to a plug? Sounds stupid but if you have on-street parking then you cannot simply trail a cable from you house, across the path to your car. You need an on-street charging point and unless the council has (or will) provided this then you are stuck…unless you charge at your place of work or at a municipal charging point.
The majority of electric cars can simply be plugged into your 3 pin domestic socket. However, we would strongly recommend you ask a qualified electrician to assess your socket and circuit suitability as the car will be connected for long daily durations. Better still, have a dedicated charge point professional installed, costs vary but expect to pay around £300 to £1,000. Forget having your own fast charging point installed as these typically cost in excess of £5,000!
What are the main concerns with electric cars?
In addition to range and cost concerns, battery life and replacement costs are also a major consideration for potential electric car purchasers. Electric cars are still relatively new so data on battery life is limited, however, many reports predict that batteries will need replacing after about 10 years. The cost? Budget about £10,000! This can be avoided though as some manufactures allow you lease the batteries on a monthly basis which takes away the replacement cost risk.
What electric cars are currently for sale in the UK
Several electric cars are now on sale from mainstream car manufacturers. The About Electric Cars UK chart below provides information on electric motor output (kw), range (miles), charge time (hours), top speed (mph) and price (£). The chart can be sorted by clicking on any of the column headers.
Battery lease (per annum) £
Nissan Leaf Review