You’re probably here because you are considering the purchase of an electric car. That’s great, because recent advances in battery technology mean that going electric is a realistic proposition for an increasing number of people.
As a result, the pros are beginning to outweigh the cons when it comes to justifying an electric car. However, these vehicles aren’t suitable for everyone – not yet, anyway.
Here, we’ve created a list of the pros and cons of an electric car, so you can decide if the time is right to ditch petrol or diesel.
The pros of an electric car
All electric cars offer zero tailpipe emissions, which is great for local air quality and the planet. While energy is required to build a car, and electricity is used to recharge the batteries, the latest research shows electric cars are less emission-intensive than their fossil fuel counterparts.
Lower running costs
An electric car should be cheaper to run than the petrol or diesel equivalent. There are a number of online tools that allow you to calculate how much it will cost to run an electric vehicle, with the option to select your home electricity tariff and car.
One such tool can be found on the EDF Energy website. Using the Renault Zoe as an example, with a 7kW home charger and an electricity price of 8p, it will cost £4.16 to charge a Zoe. This works out at 1.8p per mile.
A typical petrol or diesel car costs around 12p per mile, so the cost for driving the same distance (230 miles) would be £27.60. That’s a saving of £23.44 in the Renault Zoe.
No Vehicle Excise Duty (VED)
Electric cars are also exempt from paying Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). At the spring Budget, the government announced it was removing the ‘expensive car’ supplement from electric cars costing more than £40,000. From 1 April 2020, ALL zero emission electric cars are VED exempt.
Manufacturers are investing heavily in electric cars, so you could have access to technology absent from other vehicles. For example, it might be possible to pre-heat the car’s cabin from your smartphone, which will be handy on a cold morning. Buy a Tesla Model 3 and you’ll be able to play games and make fart noises via the touchscreen. Whatever floats your boat…
All electric cars offer smooth and immediate acceleration. As a result, they feel particularly rapid in towns and cities, offering an almost comical level of off-the-line pace. Take the Tesla Model S, which can sprint to 60mph in just 2.4 seconds – quick enough to leave most supercars for dead.
Even the more affordable electric cars feel rapid, with the Vauxhall Corsa-e able to hit 60mph in 7.6 seconds.
Once you’ve experienced the near-silent serenity of an electric car, you’ll find it hard to return to the noise of a petrol or diesel engine. It’s not 100 percent quiet – you still get wind, tyre and road noise – but an electric car is far more relaxing to drive.
The government will pay you to drive an electric car. Availability of the Plug-in Car Grant has been extended to 2022-23, as the government prepares for the phasing out of new petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles.
As a result, electric cars costing less than £50,000 are available with a 35 percent discount, up to a maximum of £3,000.
Cheaper to maintain
With fewer moving parts, an electric car is cheaper to maintain than a petrol or diesel vehicle. You can kiss goodbye to oil changes, spark plugs, belt changes, coolant changes, air filters and transmission oil changes.
However, you’ll still need to visit a garage for tyres, brakes, lights, wipers, tracking, suspension and cabin filtration.
Access to towns and cities
The introduction of Clean Air Zones (CAZ) signals a new era of penalties for driving a polluting vehicle in a town or city. At the very least, electric cars will be exempt from payment, but you could find that electric cars are the only vehicles welcome in urban environments.
Finally, there’s the feelgood factor of doing your bit for the environment. By driving an electric car, you’ll be helping to improve local air quality, which will do wonders for your image.
The cons of an electric car
This is more the perception than the reality, because there are around 35,000 charging connectors in the UK. The government wants to ensure that nobody is further than 30 miles from a rapid charging station by 2025.
However, there’s no doubt that some areas of the country aren’t as well served as cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester. But the network is growing all the time, with many supermarkets and the big charging networks at the forefront of the, ahem, charge.
There’s also the issue of arriving at a charging point to find that it’s already in use or out of operation. If there’s somebody at a petrol pump, you’ll have to wait a few minutes. If you can’t charge an electric car, you could be left stranded.
Charging an electric car will take longer than filling a petrol or diesel car with fuel. Although some EVs can be recharged to 80 percent in as little as 20 minutes using a rapid charger, you should allow up to an hour.
If you’re charging at home using a domestic socket, an overnight charge is the most realistic option. A full charge using a 3kW unit could take between six and 12 hours.
It requires a change in mindset. In the same way we’ve become accustomed to charging a smartphone, you’ll need to do the same with an electric car. If you charge a car overnight, you’ll wake up with a fully charged battery. Alternatively, you could leave the car on charge while you’re at work.
Some people struggle to come to terms with range anxiety. This is the fear of not reaching your destination without charging up. If you worry when your smartphone battery drops below 60 percent, you might struggle with an electric car.
As battery technology advances, range concerns are likely to become a thing of the past. Typically, you can expect between 150 and 250 miles from a new electric car, but others offer up to 350 miles.
Not strictly zero emissions
Even the most ardent supporter of electric cars would have to concede that they’re only zero emissions at the point of use. A great deal of energy is consumed during the manufacturing of the car, and there’s also the issue of the electricity used during the charging process.
However, if the electricity is sourced using renewable sources (such as wind, hydro and solar), the case against electric cars is reduced. Last year, more of Britain’s electricity production came from zero carbon energy sources than fossil fuels. It’s the first time this has happened since the Industrial Revolution.
For the time being at least, electric cars are rather expensive. Your cheapest options tend to be electric versions based on the architecture of conventional cars, such as the Seat Mii Electric and Skoda Citigo e iV.
At around £30,000 (before the grant), the Vauxhall Corsa-e is almost twice the price of the entry-level Corsa. Sure, the electric Corsa is better equipped and offers lower running costs, but the screen price remains high.
It’s a similar story with the Hyundai Kona Electric, which, at £29,500, is £12,000 more expensive than a basic Kona, and around £3,000 more than the flagship Kona Premium GT. Once you get into the realms of Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and Porsche, all-electric motoring gets very expensive.
Finally, although they’re very quick and wonderfully quiet, most electric cars cannot hold a candle to conventional cars when it comes to driving pleasure. They’re simply too heavy to feel light and agile when cornering, while the weight of the batteries can make for a rather lumpy ride.
There are exceptions to the rule. The Porsche Taycan is every bit as good as other cars in the Porsche range, while the Tesla Model 3 is a very capable all-rounder.