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Should I buy an electric car?

Electric vehicles (EVs) are no longer something that’s reserved for your tech-obsessed, solar-panel wielding neighbours. Plug-in cars are now the norm.

By 2035 legislation means that if you want a new car you’ll have to buy an EV whether you want to or not. The good news is that electric cars are improving at an astonishing rate. If you want a well equipped and comfortable EV with a 200-mile range, you’ve already got a variety of really excellent choices from under £30,000 such as the Nissan Leaf and Renault ZOE

Although most UK drivers could very easily live with one of the latest electric cars, plenty need to be a little careful that a pure electric car will suit their lifestyle. To help you figure out if you should plug-in or fuel-up, we’ve rounded up the pros and cons of owning an electric car.

PROS:

Low fuel costs

Electric cars are super cheap to run. Charging up a 50kWh EV, such as the Peugeot e-208, will cost around £7 on the average domestic electricity tariff. You can save more money if you take advantage of off-peak, overnight tariffs which can halve the cost. Almost all EVs allow you to set charging times so that it’s easy to do this. 

Even if you do pay full whack for your electricity, at £7 for 170 real-world miles of driving, you’re paying around 5p per mile. For some context, a petrol car doing 40mpg would cost just under 13p per mile. So, if you do 8000 miles per year you’re going to pay £1000 to do it in a 40mpg petrol car, or £350 to do it in an EV (£175 if you take advantage of cheap tariffs). Not bad, right? Find out how to get the most from a single charge with our handy guide to maximising electric car range.

Low tax costs

Electric cars offer great tax savings. They’re free of VED road tax and they get free entry into the London congestion and ULEZ zones. There are also plenty of other big cities planning to introduce fines for non-electric vehicles. 

Not only that, but the tax savings for companies and company car drivers are huge. In fact, currently a company car driver will pay only a few hundred pounds per year in Benefit in Kind tax, even if they’re a higher rate tax payer opting for a posh electric car. And, while EVs cost a lot for a company to buy or lease, they go a long way to make up for that in the huge tax right-offs.

Better for our health

Electric cars produce zero exhaust pipe emissions (they don’t even have an exhaust) so offer huge benefits in terms of improved air quality in built up areas. With smog and vehicle particulates a known factor in causing asthma and other illnesses, cleaner air is a tangible and significant benefit to adopting electric cars.

Better for the planet

That same air quality and reduction in emissions is, of course, much better for the planet. There are still emissions that result from producing electric cars themselves and the batteries and electricity needed to run them, but both of these aspects are improving as manufacturers strive to cut emissions produced at their factories as well as from their vehicles. European data suggests that an EV is at least 60% less emitting than most new petrol cars over the lifecycle of the vehicle. Not only that, but as an EV owner it’s heartening to know that, as the National Grid gets greener, so does your car.

Car driving down a road

They’re great to drive

EVs are very quiet and, often, very fast. That’s because an electric motor is inherently more efficient than a petrol or diesel engine, with fewer moving parts. Also, electric motors give you full power the moment you touch the accelerator pedal, whereas a petrol or diesel engine needs to be revved harder to get the best from it.

CONS:

They’re expensive to buy

Electric cars are still comparably expensive. Even the Renault ZOE, which is one of the cheapest electric cars you can buy, costs thousands more than an equivalent Renault Clio. The saving grace is that finance deals on new and used electric cars is becoming far more competitive, bringing the real cost of getting into an EV much closer to those of petrol alternatives for anyone looking to pay monthly. But, while the low running costs will offset the higher purchase price for many EV owners, there’s no avoiding the fact that electric cars cost more to buy than a petrol or diesel car.

You’ll need to plan your journeys

The charging infrastructure is improving at a remarkable rate but, even so, you’re going to need to plan ahead if you want to do a long journey in an electric car. While charging stations are now a common sight in most motorway services, many of them only charge at 50kW, which will take an hour to get an additional 100 miles of range. Even the faster chargers, such as the increasingly common 150kW rapid chargers, will take around 15 minutes to deliver a 100 mile top-up and that’s provided your car can charge at 150kW. 

Tesla cars may be the exception to this rule since they get the exclusive use of the Tesla Supercharger network, which is renowned for its speed and reliability and is also widespread across Europe. But even with the charging advantages of a Tesla, you’ll want to check in advance if there are chargers on your planned route.

They take a long time to charge

A 50kWh electric car can take some nine hours to fully charge from a home wallbox. Understandably, this puts a lot of people off, but do remember that most EV owners (and most motorists) only do shorter journeys on a routine basis. Far from being an issue, an EV owner tends to just plug the car in when they get home and forget about it until the next time they need to go out, meaning the full charge time is seldom a consideration. 

A man charging an electric car

You need off-road parking to charge at home

For an easy life with an EV, you need to be able to charge the car at home. And to do that, you need off-road parking. One of the biggest flaws with an electric car is that, currently, if you live in a flat or don’t have a driveway, you’re a bit stuffed. Some motorists who live near a number of public chargers, or who can charge at the office, could get away with it. But in reality, no home charger tends to make for an awkward EV existence.

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