If you love to replace your ageing car with an electric model but have been put off because you don’t have a drive on which to charge it, it’s time to think again.
The latest electric cars can travel 418 kilometres between refills. This, plus improvements to the infrastructure that allow 80 percent recharges in just 30-40 minutes, means they can almost be run in the same way as conventional models — with a once-a-week refill.
Figures out this week showed that 6 percent of new cars sold in June were fully electric models — making it the fastest growing sector. There are now 300 000 plug-in cars on the UK’s roads, compared with just 3 500 in 2013, and almost 120 000 of them run purely on battery power.
This week British Gas revealed it had ordered 1 000 all-electric Vivaro vans from Vauxhall for its engineers. If it is preparing to move its entire fleet over to electric, is it time the rest of us considered electric vehicles too?
“If you’re looking to buy a new or used car, now is the perfect time to switch to an electric car,” says Ben Lane, co-founder of the Zap-Map app, which guides owners to their nearest public charging point.
“With most electric cars now doing more than 321,8 kilometres on a single charge, the range restrictions of previous models is gone. They offer huge local air-quality improvements, there is zero benefit-in-kind payments, and they cost far less to run per kilometre than petrol or diesel models — why would you still want to drive a car with an old fashioned engine?”
Lane, who owns a used all-electric BMW i3, says he is not set up to charge the car at his Bristol home and relies on a fast charger near work for a 30-minute, US$12,91 top-up once a week. If he leaves the city, he uses public chargers on the motorway network, or at his destination.
“It just takes a little bit of planning, and I schedule in a weekly charge around a lunch break. Drivers who give electric cars a serious try, rarely, if ever, go back,” Lane says.
If you have never driven an electric car, what can you expect? The biggest change for most drivers will be that electric cars are universally automatic, meaning no gears or clutch. They accelerate extraordinarily quickly — frighteningly so in some cases.
And they are generally quieter than petrol cars. The dashboard shows the remaining range and a host of other information but, apart from that, most drivers will adapt easily enough.
Recharging rather than refilling the car takes a bit of getting used to, say users, particularly if you don’t have a driveway and the ability to install a charger at home.
While the purchase costs are higher — the better new models start at about US$33 551,18 — the running costs are considerably less. Most buyers will elect to lease or long-term hire their cars with payments starting at approximately US$322,58 a month after a big upfront payment. Good models can be found secondhand, although they will not all offer the range and faster charging options of the latest versions.
Instead of paying US$64,52 to fill up at the petrol station, electric cars cost as little as US$6,46 to charge at home on a night-time economy tariff.
Electric car buyers pay no vehicle excise duty, saving US$180,72 a year compared with the average car. Annual servicing should also be cheaper — there is no oil to change, no spark plugs to check, no gearbox and fewer moving parts — and no expensive cambelt and exhaust replacements to make as the car gets older.
Electric cars typically cost a little more to insure than conventional models, because they are more expensive to repair in the event of a crash. However, LV, which is aiming to be the go-to insurer for electric cars, says the Nissan Leaf costs only £10 a year more on average to insure than a petrol Nissan Micra.
One of the biggest problems for potential buyers is the almost bewildering array of models, battery sizes and claimed ranges. Instead of listing fuel-tank sizes, manufacturers quote the size of the battery — in kilowatt hours (kWh) — and the bigger the battery the further the range. When it comes to engines, the motor’s output is confusingly quoted in kilowatts (kW) — so while the Renault Zoe comes with a 50kWh battery it also offers two motor sizes of 80kW or the faster 100kW, what would have been 1.6-litre or 2.0-litre engines in the old technology.
Buyers need to be aware that the outside temperature affects an electric car’s performance, and the range drops dramatically in the winter.
On the plus side, the latest models enable motorists to turn on the heating remotely via a mobile app, so you won’t get cold de-icing the car in January.
So which should you buy? Fortunately for you, we have read all the car reviews, talked to the people who know and crunched the numbers — so you don’t have to. Below we run through the best buys, and what you will pay to buy a vehicle or for long-term hire, which is the most likely option.
Best small car: Renault Zoe
Starting at US$33,560.02, the latest Zoe is not the cheapest electric car you can buy, but it should go almost 200 kilometres on a full charge and you get practical four-door hatchback capable of long journeys. It comes with good standard equipment, a 50kWh battery, and the company will throw in a wall-mounted 7kW home charger too.
A serious upgrade has improved the Zoe’s performance, resulting in the option of a second, faster model.
Crucially, you can also upgrade to enable the use of rapid (50kW CCS) charging points. This makes it possible to get to an 80 percent recharge in about an hour, so it is worth having if you cannot charge the car at home.
Go for the more powerful 100kW version if you do more out of town driving, plus the rapid charger option. Ling Cars will hire one to you for three years for US$303,44 a month with a US$1 820,63 payment upfront.
If your budget does not stretch to that, or you rarely leave the city and you can live with a 177-kilometre range, the Škoda Citigoe iV is much cheaper at about US$22 596,52 outright or for hire or lease from EDF Energy for US$219,51 a month. It’s smaller and less practical than the Zoe and will struggle with long motorway trips, but is ideally suited to someone taking lots of short urban trips.
Best family car: Kia e-Niro
After a long-term test and 10 000 kilometres on the road, Auto Express said the 64kWh five-door Kia e-Niro was “pound for pound” the best electric car on sale, and it remains the top choice for those needing space for pushchairs and similar items.
It typically delivers a real-life range of 402.336 kilometres on a full charge, depending on the temperature. When using Kia’s super-fast 100kW chargers, testers said they were able to add about 241,4016 kilometres of range in 30 minutes of charging. On a more common 50kW rapid charger, expect to wait an hour.
This car can be bought for about US$42 606,30, but again most buyers will probably hire/lease one. Ling Cars will hire you one for three years for US$600,36 a month, plus an upfront payment of US$1 801,08. For comparison, the cost of the petrol hybrid equivalent is approximately US$413,15 a month.
Best executive car: Jaguar I-Pace
The electric Jaguar I-Pace has won all the big awards around the world, including the UK, European and world car of the year.
The sports utility model is packed with the latest technology, has frighteningly quick acceleration, according to owners, and offers “a driving experience that will win over just about everyone who gets behind the wheel”, according to Nextgreencar.com.
It has a claimed range of 469,928 kilometres on a full charge, or 250 kilometres in real life.
Owners get a 90kWh battery, which comes with an eight-year/100 000-kilometre warranty. It also features ultra-rapid 100kW charging.
On the downside, it’s not huge inside for an executive car, but it’s the price that will halt most buyers in their tracks — a cool US$82 552,75 to US$96 112,44. Expect to pay US$968,55 a month to lease one with an upfront payment of US$8 649,87. — www.guardian.com