Buy an electric car

Lower your emissions and save money by buying an electric car

Chris Knapman
Jul 31, 2019

The technology to build purely electric vehicles (EVs) has been around for more than a century, but it’s taken until now for them to become a genuine alternative to petrol or diesel cars.

In fact, EVs have become the talk of the town thanks to recent legislation designed to improve inner city air quality and reduce CO2 emissions, both of which EVs are brilliant at doing. That’s because rather than using a petrol or diesel engine, which emits exhaust emissions, a fully electric car draws its power from a large rechargeable battery, using one or more motors to drive the wheels.

The benefits of such a system are not only environmental though. Whereas a petrol or diesel engine needs to build revs to deliver maximum performance, an electric motor delivers its full power from a standstill making it very responsive. They are also almost silent in operation, which can make for a very relaxing driving experience, plus there are no gears to worry about.

   

   

Examples of electric cars 

Nissan Leaf
 (above)

Renault Zoe


Tesla Model S


BMW i3


Hyundai Ioniq Electric


Kia Soul EV


Volkswagen e-Golf


 

Realistic electric car battery range

As battery technology improves so too does range - that is, the distance an EV can travel before it needs recharging. At the top end of the market a Tesla Model S can cover more than 300 miles from a single charge, while at the more mainstream level a Nissan Leaf or Renault Zoe Z.E. 40 will manage 150 miles without a problem. Other models, such as the BMW i3, Volkswagen e-Golf and Kia Soul EV can cover around 100-120 miles between charges. In the past year or so, the capabilities of electric vehicles has begun to skyrocket, with several manufacturers beginning to pour funds into their respective EV offerings. Kia quotes a 282-mile range for it's e-Niro while, while Hyundai's Kona Electric achieves 259 miles.

How to charge an electric car

In theory charging an EV is simple: you just plug it into a socket and let the car do the rest. However, in reality there are several different ways to charge, from a conventional three-pin plug to a dedicated rapid charger, so it’s worth researching charging point availability in your local area. 

Chargine time and associated costs can vary wildly depending not only on the charger itself, but also the provider of facilities and electricity. It can even depend on what kind of EV you have, as the Tesla Supercharging network is only compatible with Tesla’s own products.

Read more in our guide to Charging an Electric Car.

Range extender electric cars

As well as fully electric cars, you might come across a something called a range extender. This is a small onboard petrol engine that can kick in to charge a battery before it goes flat.

One such example of the range extender philosophy is the BMW i3 REX (above), which has an engine that can provide around 80 miles of extra battery charge. Both of these cars provide a little extra reassurance for drivers who worry an EV will leave them stranded with a flat battery. In reality, however, most EV owners soon get used to plugging in at convenient times, and increases in range along with continuous upgrades to the EV charging infrastructure, the extra cost and complication of range extenders are slowly becoming unnecessary.

Battery hire for electric cars

To combat consumer uncertainty over battery life and replacement costs some manufacturers, including Renault, offer the option of hiring the battery rather than owning it outright. Do so and the battery is replaced as part of the hire agreement should it go wrong. 

An additional benefit of battery hire is that it makes the outright purchase price of the car much lower. However, when you factor in that battery hire ranges from £49 to £110 per month, the costs do start to add up, particularly as there are also mileage limits to adhere to. 

Combine this with the knowledge that EV batteries are generally proving to last the lifetime of the car, and it means battery hire won’t be for everybody.

  

Buying an electric car: the good

  • Generous plug-in car grants
  • Low running costs
  • Congestion charge exempt

Buying an electric car: the not-so-good

  • Range still limited compared with petrol or diesel
  • Requires a fundamental shift in the user’s motoring routine
  • Charging infrastructure still growing

  

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