Love them or hate them, EV’s are here to stay. People are buying electric cars because they want to go green, or to be cheap to run. For others, it is due to some of the most amazing power and torque that some of them produce. There is also a large community of ICE (internal combustion engine) enthusiasts who won’t hear of any benefit in electric cars.
The big question is should I buy an electric car but the answer isn’t sensible. Electric cars are still an emerging technology and as such there are rapid changes taking place on a constant basis. As with any emerging technology, it is not ready for everyone yet so it is important that you understand if it is right for you.
In talking to many electric car owners and car dealers they appear to be very marmite to live with, you either love them or hate them. For those that hate them it is generally down to them either not being right for their circumstances or because they don’t understand enough about them. as there is still so much controversy around electric cars not everyone will agree with my thoughts below. My writing is based on my own research and many conversations with EV (electric vehicles) enthusiasts, ICE enthusiasts, and car dealers.
Cost to purchase and maintain EV’s
Electric cars are not cheap to buy although this is starting to head in the right direction. A large part of this is that they are new and manufacturers are still having to absorb research and development costs.
Despite the higher starting costs there are savings that can be made in other ways. I will cover running costs shortly but maintenance is a great saving. EV’s have far fewer moving parts and as such, there isn’t a lot to service. But then there is the big one, no petrol / diesel costs.
Cost to run and charging at home
EV’s are always sold as significantly cheaper to run than their ICE equivalents. What many people don’t consider though is how much these costs can differ from person to person.
Petrol and diesel costs are typically quite static across the country at any point in time. Yes, there will always be some deviation but and difference pales in comparison to the difference that can be found in electricity costs.
To put this in contrast, a 200 mile drive in an EV could cost you as little as £5 or more than £30. To get the best charging rate you will need to have a charger installed at home and be on a special rate for overnight car charging, similar to an economy 7 tariff for storage heaters. The most expensive costs will be if you have to charge when travelling. There will be some low cost and occasionally free chargers but these will almost always be slow.
If you shop around energy tariffs you can find some excellent rates, I managed to find a £0.075 / Kw for 4 hours overnight. On my EV, 4 hours is equivalent to around 40%. When I’m not travelling away I rarely use more than 40% of charge per day so most of my charging is at a very low cost.
The route you choose will vary depending on how far you generally travel in a day, and if you can fit a charger at home. Having renewable energy like solar panels can also reduce your charging costs but unless you have a very large installation or a home battery installation too it won’t address all your charging needs. Most home solar systems are 4Kw, but a home EV charger is typically 7Kw. It doesn’t take a mathematician to know you don’t have enough juice!
Living with EV’s in the real world
Are EV’s suitable for everyone? The simple answer is “not at this time”. The two primary reasons for this are down to limitations in current technology and charging infrastructure. These also have a significant impact into one of the main complaints for owners of EV’s, “why don’t I get the amount of miles I was told I would out of a single charge?”
Focusing on the mileage issue first, if you purchased an ICE car and told you would get 600 miles to a tank you would know that this would depend on how you drive and the type of roads you are on. You could get just 400 miles out of that tank. Well guess what, the same applies to EV’s. Just because your car CAN do 300 miles to a charge, it doesn’t mean you will. You should treat your miles available as a pure estimation only, much as you would with an ICE car.
In most EV’s, you can display range available in miles or percentage and I always tell people to set it to percent. In an ICE car, you wouldn’t want your fuel gauge to read in number of miles left, so why would you want this on an EV, it simply isn’t accurate. The fuel gauge in an ICE car is effectively a percentage of fuel left. If you operate your EV in the same way you will feel far more comfortable which will help to alleviate “range anxiety”.
Batteries are far more susceptible to environmental factors too so your estimated range could be significantly lower in cold weather than in warm weather.
Now in terms of is an EV is right for you, it really depends on your needs. Sure, it will eventually be ready for everyone but there are two issues affecting this at the moment. Battery technology is still developing but at present it can take an hour (sometimes more) to charge when on the move. In addition the charging infrastructure whilst growing rapidly is still where it needs to be yet. In fact, as a Tesla owner I rarely have an issue finding a supercharger but I frequently see people waiting at other chargers for a space to become available.
If you have charging at home or at work and you mostly drive locally, EV’s are a great option. Even road trips work out great as long as have time to wait at charging stations or like me, happy to park up for an hour to jump onto conference calls. Where they don’t work as well is if you frequently need to drive long distances and can’t afford the time to wait for charging.
In my particular scenario, I work from home. I use the car a lot particularly for driving the kids all over the place and for long trips out at the weekend but in general I never use more than 40% a day during the week so always have cheap charging at home. When going further afield, I don’t often need more than 250 miles in a single day and if I do, a supercharger is no big deal. In fact, it has just become part of the journey.
I have a friend however who frequently drives 300+ plus miles several times a week dashing quickly between airports. He doesn’t want to be spending an hour charging at 0300.
They’re also grants available for home charger installations. Information available on the UK government website https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/government-grants-for-low-emission-vehicles
Is an EV good for the environment?
Yes, no, maybe. Actually it is all of the above. EV’s have the potential to be green as the power they require can be obtained using renewable energy but that isn’t always the case. In addition there has been a lot of talk over the mining for the battery materials. This is because technology is still evolving but as more and more people switch to EV’s there will be increased research and development and I have no doubts that more environmental ways of producing batteries will come.
If you have renewable energy at home such as a good solar install or your energy tariff guarantees they source your power from renewable sources where possible then this will go along way. But, at the end of the day, if your power is coming from a coal fired power station, the answer is clearly no!
Should I do it?
So many factors to consider and it really does depend on your particular circumstances. Every year the number of people EV’s are suitable for grows but they aren’t ready for everyone just yet.
Consider the above points and make sure you understand what you are getting into. EV’s can be amazing but for some, but they are filled with disappointment for others because people don’t have the facts.