Is it time to buy an electric vehicle?

Is it time to buy an electric vehicle?

It's been a long time coming but electric vehicles are finally here - and the question on everyone's lips is: "Should I buy one?". Sadly, the answer isn't a simple yes or no.

Once-upon-a-time electric vehicles (EVs) were heavy, ugly and very, very expensive. These days, however, they are a lot better looking, and are actually perceived of as being a premium product over their petrol and diesel counterparts.

How much does an electric vehicle cost?

Even now, EVs do not come cheap. In fact, they're still considerably more expensive than petrol and diesel vehicles. That said they have come down a lot over the years and for the first time they are within touching distance of non-electric models, and finally within reach of the average car consumer.

At the top end we have the Teslas. The high-end, premium electric vehicles founded by Elon Musk - the billionaire entrepeneur who co-founded PayPal; among many other ventures. Tesla are several years ahead of most of the other vehicle manufacturers when it comes to electric vehicle technology, especially the charging infrastructure they have in place. The good news, though, is that the mainstream manufacturers are catching up fast.

Even with a mammoth price tag of over £65,000, the Tesla Model S was the best selling electric car in 2016. The cheapest EV these days will still set you back over £25,000, but prices are falling.

Cheaper Running Costs

There is an upside once you have purchased one though. Running an EV at today's electricity prices will cost several times less per mile than a petrol vehicle. So if you rack up a lot of miles in your current vehicle, it may well pay off in the long run to switch to electric sooner rather than later.

In addition to cheaper running costs, you'll find that the tax is cheaper. A LOT cheaper. In fact, there is no tax to pay on fully electric vehicles. Also, servicing tends to be cheaper too as batteries are a lot less complicated than engines, and there are fewer moving parts. This also means there is less that can go wrong, meaning fewer repairs throughout the lifetime of the vehicle. Ever had to replace a clutch, gearbox or have an engine rebuilt? These may soon be a thing of the past.

What are the different types of electric vehicle?

There are three main types of electric vehicle:

  • Plug-in electric - This is essentially a fully electric vehicle with no internal-combustion engine of any sort. It requires charging before it can be driven
  • Plug-in hybrid - This uses an electric battery - like above - but has a petrol or diesel engine as well for when the battery runs out
  • Hybrid - Uses a combination of electricity and petrol/diesel and alternates between the two depending on whether the driver wants better economy or performance

Are there enough charging stations?

It's true that there are currently not enough charging stations, which could be a concern for some buyers. And with average range of most EVs being around 200 miles (less than half the range of a similar-priced petrol or diesel vehicle), suddenly this starts to look like a serious issue.

It's not actually quite that simple, because you can't fill up your petrol or diesel vehicle at home, or at work. Whereas you could with an EV. Drivers who purchase EVs may be elligible for government grants to have charging ports fitted at their property. This means if you drive less than 200 miles on your average journey (which most people do), it's less relevant that there aren't enough charging stations because you can just recharge your vehicle when you get home. Simple.

Forget to do so, however, and you could find yourself rushing to a faraway superfast EV charging station on your way to work...

I've heard it takes an age to charge an electric vehicle?

This is both true, and false. Any EV can be charged directly from your 3-pin plug socket at home. Sound great? Until you realise that it will charge at a painfully slow rate of 6 miles per hour, meaning a full charge can take up to two days... So realistically for this to work you will need to have a proper charging port fitted, which means you could charge your vehicle in just a few hours. For most people this would just be an overnight job.

At services the charging stations are supercharged and the charge from empty to full comes down to around 45 minutes on average; just enough time to grab a coffee and read the paper (sorry I mean BBC News App on the iPad Pro in your tech-savvy palms...) And if that's not quick enough for you they're already releasing the next generation of EV chargers that will recharge your vehicle in just 7 minutes. That's not really much slower than filling up with crude-oil like we all do now. And in a few years I'm pretty sure there will be little difference.

How many people really buy electric vehicles?

According to Next Green Car, as of July 2019 there were already 230,000 registered EVs in the UK, with nearly 25,000 charging points. And that figure is growing fast.

Conclusion

Electric vehicles are coming. Fact. The government are currently aiming to ban petrol and diesel vehicle purchases completely from 2040, and there is much debate about whether this should be brought forward. As the deadline approaches I would also expect a significant increase in tax for these vehicles too.

So, it's time to start thinking about when, not if, your first EV purchase will be.

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