Could Electric Cars Be the Future?

By: Lisa Harper

Less than a decade ago electric vehicles (EVs) were not a viable alternative to conventionally fuelled vehicles, but now that’s a totally different story. There are now over 137,000 plug-in cars (EVs and hybrids) on the road in the UK up from just 3,500 five years ago. With more manufacturers bringing out electric versions the trend looks set to continue, so now is the time to discover how an EV could fit into your lifestyle.

How an EV Works

EVs use electricity stored within a battery pack to power an electric motor which turns the cars wheels. When the energy within the battery is depleted the battery can be recharged using electricity from the grid.

EVs like hybrid cars make use of regenerative braking, the conversion of the vehicle’s kinetic energy from braking into chemical energy which can be stored in the cars battery. Regenerative braking cannot be used to solely charge an EV but can recover up to about 15% of used energy for acceleration, which helps to improve range.

The EVs battery is also used for other activities within the car for example the functioning of wipers, the heating and powering the lights. Functions like heating can mean the battery depletes quicker and reduce the range, so many EVs can be pre-conditioned, for example in cold weather they can be ‘heated up’ whilst still on charge.

Electric car charging

Driving an EV

Be prepared for a quiet cabin; many EV motors make so little noise artificial sounds have been added to help alert pedestrians to their presence. You’ll also experience quick off the mark performance with EVs having almost instant torque delivery. What’s more if you’ve only ever previously driven manual transmission vehicles you’ll notice the lack of gearbox. But otherwise drive experience is largely similar. 

The battery and electric motor take up very little space compared to a combustion engine meaning the cabin space is roomier. It also means manufacturers will be able to be more adventurous with design as they won’t be stuck with a front engine mounted model to follow.

A big plus for EVs is that safety has been prioritised by manufacturers. Most EVs come with all the driver assistance features you’d expect from any modern car and score highly in Euro NCAP ratings.

Why Buy an EV?

With the government set to ban all conventionally fuelled vehicles by 2040, finding an alternatively fuelled vehicle is becoming more imperative. EVs emit no tailpipe emissions so they are cleaner for the environment. Studies suggest that even if the electricity required to power an EV was produced in the least eco-friendly way (coal powered fuel station) EVs would still be greener than conventionally fuelled vehicles.

Buying an EV

Whilst EVs are becoming a more common sight on UK roads, many consumers still have concerns about EV ownership. Energy supplier Ovo conducted a study into the lack of uptake on electric vehicles and have found the 10 top reasons people are put off electric cars:

top 10 reasons people are put off owning an electric vehicle

Many of these reasons are no longer real problems given the vast development of EV technology. However there are some considerations to bear in mind when purchasing an electric vehicle:

Do you have off-street parking?

If you want to charge your electric vehicle at home you really need access to off street parking to charge. However the government has recognised this problem and in towns and cities the number of on street chargers is increasing, meaning people with no off street parking can still access chargepoints.

How long is your daily commute?

Most affordable EVs have a maximum range of around 100 miles. Manufacturers are constantly looking to improve range with Nissan, Hyundai and Renault producing vehicles with a range of up to 235 miles. Longer journeys are also becoming easier as the public charging network increases, with more than 13,629 charging points in the UK.

However journeys in an EV will always come with some limitations and you will need to plan your journey and factor in stops to enable you to fast charge your vehicle. If you want a car that can travel further without having to stop to recharge then a hybrid might be more suitable for you. Whilst if you regularly cover a lot of miles a hydrogen fuel cell car or conventional diesel might be a better option.

Are you looking to buy a new or nearly new vehicle?

The used EV sector is relatively small at the moment as EVS are still quite new, so for the majority of people buying a new EV is the only option. There are a number of good leasing, PCP and PCH options available for EVs making them more affordable.

Due to the small number of used EVs currently on the market, newer used model EVs have a low rate of depreciation. However as an EV ages the battery depletes, losing capacity and taking longer to charge. This means the market for older EVs is unlikely to stay strong. Some manufacturers are looking at ways around this for example when you purchase the Renault Zoe you can rent the battery rather than owning it. 

electric car charge point

Charging your EV

Charging your EV is simply a case of plugging the car into a charge point. Many owners liken it to plugging your mobile phone in to charge at night.

Government grants and manufacturer offers on home charging points make charging your electric vehicle at home more affordable. A full overnight charge of the Nissan Leaf on a specific home charger takes around 7 hours and costs around £2-3. Choosing an electricity tariff that is lower at night time can help to save you even more money.

Fast chargers are now available at many service stations and can provide up to 80% charge within around half an hour at a cost of around £6.

Top-four EVs at Stoneacre

- Hyundai Ioniq Electric

- Hyundai Kona Electric

- Nissan Leaf

- Renault Zoe

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