Buy an electric car

Times are changing and electric cars have come a long way. Could it be time to actually think about buying one?

Simon Ostler
Mar 27, 2020

It's been a long time coming, but electric cars are finally beginning to represent a realistic alternative for drivers who want to lead the charge into an emission-free and environmentally friendly future.

Over the last decade, we've seen some very primitive technology implemented for the first time in cars that were never really going to catch on. The original Nissan Leaf was a novelty act that was never really a car you could actually use on a day-to-day basis. It had a range of 151 miles - which was OK - but the infrastructure surrounding it meant finding a place to charge up was near on impossible. Not to mention the fact it could take up 20 hours to charge completely.

Things have come on leaps and bounds since then, though. Technological advancements have made it so the best electric cars on sale now can manage nearer to a 300-mile range, while charging times have been reduced ten-fold.

While the very best on offer are still wildly expensive, perhaps the most important change in the past few years has been the introduction of electric car tech into much more affordable models. Not to mention the wave of brand new electric cars due to hit the market over the next 12 months.

Why would you buy an electric car?

First things first, the most obvious reason anyone would buy an electric car is to reduce their carbon footprint. It's becoming increasingly prevalent in our daily lives, and society is becoming more focused on cleaning up the environment, driving an electric car is but one way to go about it.

Their use of electric power means there are no emissions produced by the car itself, so swapping your old petrol motor in favour of a shiny new electric car would see you sending much less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Perhaps the second most obvious reason for making the jump to an electric car would be to save money. Now this is a slightly more complex issue. While yes, it is true that driving around in a car that uses electricity instead of burning fuel is going to be cheaper to run by virtue of the fact electricity is much cheaper than petrol or diesel.

However, while we've stated that electric cars are becoming cheaper, in the grand scheme of things, they're still much, much more expensive than a petrol or diesel alternative. Take the all-new Peugeot 208 for example: the cheapest petrol model in Active trim costs Β£16,250; the electric e-208 in the same trim level will cost you Β£25,050.

That's the best part of Β£10,000 more, and when you consider 10,000 miles in the petrol model will cost you just shy of Β£1,000 that could be 10 years of petrol in the tank before you've saved any money by opting for the electric version.

Aside from fuel savings though, an electric car will save you money in other ways, too. For a start, road tax is free, while their status as zero-emission vehicles means they're also exempt from city-centre ULEZ charges. So if you're regularly driving into the middle of London, an electric car might be of worth to you.

Electric cars currently available on BuyaCar

Electric car range

As battery technology improves, so does the distance an electric car can travel on a single charge. This distance is known as an electric car's range.

The best models out there such as the Tesla Model S are capable of covering more than 300 miles, while some of the more affordable models such as the Hyundai Kona Electric or Nissan Leaf can manage over 250 miles. Even the smaller electric cars arriving this year such as the Honda e or Seat Mii Electric will be able to stretch beyond 150 miles with one charge.

So where 'range anxiety' was one of the main objections to buying an electric car, this issue is very rapidly being addressed - along with improved capacity and infrastructure for charging the batteries.

How to charge an electric car

In theory charging an electric 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.

Charging 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 electric car you have, as the Tesla Supercharging network is only compatible with Tesla’s own products. You can learn more about electric car charging with our expert guides.

Battery hire for electric cars

To combat consumer uncertainty over battery life and replacement costs some manufacturers, including Renault, were initially offering the option of hiring the battery separately to owning the car itself. This meant you would pay a separate monthly amount for use of the battery, which would not only cover your use of the battery itself, but also any issues that would require the battery to be replaced.

An additional benefit of battery hire was that it made the outright purchase price of the car much lower. However, when you factor in that battery hire prices ranged anywhere from Β£49 to Β£110 per month, the costs did start to add up, particularly as there were also mileage limits to adhere to.

Combine this with the knowledge that electric car batteries are generally proving to last the lifetime of the car, and hindsight tell us that battery hire was never much of a good idea. Renault agreed, and has now removed the option for battery hire, meaning all electric cars bought as of 2020 will come with the battery included.

Electric cars: pros and cons

Pros

βœ” Plug-in car grants
βœ” Low running costs
βœ” Zero road tax
βœ” Eco friendly
βœ” ULEZ exempt

Cons

✘ Relatively limited range
✘ Requires charging capability
✘ Very expensive
✘ Lack of exhaust noise

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