28.12.2016Top 5 reasons to buy an electric car
You've had your interest piqued by electric cars, but are not sure what you've heard is fact and what 'facts' are fiction. Next Green Car has drawn up a simple guide to explain the benefits of owning and running an EV, so that you can judge for yourself whether plug-in car ownership is right for you.
Guilt-free green motoring
With zero-tailpipe emissions, EVs are significantly cleaner than conventional petrol or diesel cars. This has a huge effect on the surrounding environment in which you drive - particularly in built up areas where large numbers of vehicles are emitting pollutants such as CO2 and NOx. With air quality and the VW emissions scandal making a number of headlines recently, the ability for an EV to run without any tailpipe emissions is an important attribute for many.
Whether this reduced environmental impact in itself is enough to sway buyers into choosing an EV as their next car or not is a personal choice. There is however a direct link between clean cars and running costs in the UK - Vehicle Excise Duty, also known as road tax - that will certainly appeal to all buyers. Cars are taxed according to CO2 emissions levels at the tailpipe. For models without any emissions, there is no charge to tax the vehicle for road use, saving buyers money. Company car tax rates are also the lowest available, while fuel costs are minimal too.
As for exactly how green electric cars are is difficult to determine, with an accurate figure greatly depending on a number of different circumstances. Electricity generation is the most obvious with huge differences in emissions between electricity sourced from renewable sources, to that from coal or gas power stations. What is clear is that, no matter where the electricity comes from, an EVs CO2 emissions are much lower than fossil-fuel burning machines - even factoring in power station emissions to the mix. The EV also has a significantly smaller impact on surrounding air quality. With increasing amounts of the National Grid's electricity being sourced from renewable sources, the EV's 'green' rating is only going to improve from good to exceptional.
Refinement is a word often used by car manufacturers as a key adjective in their advertising - and EVs are on the whole much more refined than rival petrol or diesel cars. Starting with how quiet they are, the electric motors in EVs produce very little noise. This is to the extent that systems have been developed - and laws looking at being introduced - to create extra noise for EVs when at low speeds so that they are safer around town; otherwise they are just too quiet.
Even when at higher speeds, the noise of an electric motor is usually less than that of tyre and wind noise - which is all the more impressive considering that EVs are typically more aerodynamic and use lower-rolling resistance tyres than other cars to help maximise range.
Noise isn't the only measure of refinement though, with cabin comfort coming into the mix too, though this is greatly dependent on what model of car you are looking for. On the whole though, most EVs are set up more comfortably than conventional cars as there is little incentive to create a sense of sportiness. High speeds hit range after all. Powertrain vibration is another factor, and again EVs have far less vibration reaching the occupants than petrol and diesel models because the powertrain doesn't have millions of tiny explosions taking place in order to turn the wheels.
In comparison, putting a VW e-up! up against a Rolls Royce Ghost would be unfair to look at in terms of refinement - and not just because you could buy ten of the little VWs for the cost of one Rolls. The little VW would hold its own pretty well though. More direct comparisons are favourable to EVs across the board however. An electric up! is quieter than a petrol one, an electic VW Golf sees the same results, while an electric Kia Soul is - you guessed it - more refined than a diesel version. Even cross-manufacturer comparisons work, with Tesla's Model S much quieter than any of the mid-sized German executive saloons.
Frugal fuel costs
Electricity is cheaper than petrol and diesel - and by a long way. Should you charge your car at home, it would typically cost between £2.50 and £5 for a full overnight charge - depending on electricity tariff - giving you around 100 miles of range. This will soon add up and, should you give the car a full charge five times a week, it would add around £25 per week, or £100-£125 per month onto your electricity bills. However, there are very few models out there that can be driven 500 miles on £25 worth of fuel - Fiat's popular 500, even with a frugal 0.9 litre petrol engine, will cost around £40 for 500 miles of driving, or almost £200 per month. Therefore, using an EV can save you about £100 per month in fuel when charged at home, easily giving you an additional £1,000 per year in fuel savings.
We have used 100 miles per day in the above calculations simply as an easy figure and because an average EV can cover that range on a single charge - some more and others less. The vast majority of EV drivers don't cover anything like 100 miles per day, so electricity bills will be much less than that original calculation since drivers won't need a full charge every night. Granted, that also means that petrol bills will be less too, but the electricity costs remain significantly cheaper than petrol or diesel prices. Likewise, although the majority of EV charging is done at home, a decent amount is carried out on the road or parked at work - which further saves drivers money. Some EV drivers are able to charge their car at work for example and very rarely rely on home charging, getting the vast majority of their fuel costs covered for them.
A large number of EVs use advanced technology systems that aren't normally found on conventionally-powered rival models. For example, being able to control a number of vehicle features such as charging times, pre-conditioning the car's temperature, locking & unlocking the vehicle, and accessing driving information are commonplace for EV drivers - but not for conventional car owners. It's not just remote access that is available either. Sat-navs usually offer EV specific functions including a range radius, and the ability to direct to charge points should your destination be out of range, or your battery is running low.
Then there's the more driving specific functions that help make the most of your range. Variable strength brake energy recuperation that harvests energy that would normally be lost under braking, and 'Eco' modes that limit auxiliary power drain and deaden throttle response for more economical driving both help with range. Electrically heated seats and steering wheel are features that are normally seen on more prestigious cars, but they are included on EVs because it is much more efficient to heat up contact areas than a large volume of air.
Almost all EVs have the ability to set predetermined charge start and stop times, with the option to charge vehicles up to a certain time limit or battery percentage. They also have the ability to store this information so drivers don't have to keep inputting it, with the vast majority able to set up a few different profiles - weekday, weekend, early start etc. - to make things easier still.
Finally, EVs are - funnily enough - designed to be recharged. This means that your car can be refuelled from your home, while few households have their own petrol pump in the back garden. Yes EVs might take longer to refuel than a petrol or diesel car, but you can recharge them at far more locations. There are around 4,000 charge point locations compared to around 8,000 petrol stations, but the first number doesn't include all the most convenient points that buyers use - their home, workplace, friend or family's house . . . the list goes on. Many drivers will have headed home and either popped into the petrol station on the way back because they know they need the car tomorrow, or left home a little earlier than usual to allow for time to fill up. EV drivers get home, plug their car in and forget about it till morning.
All too often the case for EVs is presented as a financial or environmental consideration. But it must be said that EVs tend to be fun too. The torque from the electric motor means that pick-up is instant and feels extremely fast. Looking at 0-60mph times, petrol or diesel cars tend to win the sprint compared to EVs, but that doesn't tell the whole story since drivers very rarely complete a 0-60mph run. More common is 0-30mph, 30-50mph, and 40-60mph, as this is how the UK's roads are set up. In these instances, the short burst of acceleration from an EV is much faster and more efficient than building revs as needed in a car with an engine.
It's not just the quick flashes of speed though that make EVs fun. Because of different packaging requirements, EVs often have the wheels pushed out into the far corners of the car, maximising space in the cabin. This - combined with the fact that the heavy batteries are usually placed in the floor of the vehicle - means an EV's centre of gravity is very low. Even city or family cars can be driven with gusto and enjoyably, with no 'hot-hatch' style uncomfortable suspension. This makes for a comfortable car, but one that can indulge a buyer's inner racing driver when the mood takes and the situation allows. There are very few drivers that will climb out of an EV after a test drive without a smile on their face.