08 Feb Electric Vehicles – The Pros & Cons
Electric Vehicles: The Pros & Cons
The electric vehicle (EV) is a relatively new concept in the world of cars. Although a fully electric car runs solely on electricity (a battery electric vehicle), some companies also offer hybrid vehicles that run on a combination of electricity and fuel – some of these plug in, some don’t.
They may be relatively new, but EVs have surged hugely in recent years, with approximately 67,000 battery EVs (plug-in, grant eligible cars/vans) on UK roads right now. That’s an impressive 5,560% increase in just over 4 years, up from just 1,205 EVs in the UK at the end of 2011!
The basic concept is that buying and driving an EV instead of a traditional fuel vehicle will both save you money and be better for the environment. Traditional fuel cars produce a high amount of carbon emissions that contribute to pollution, greenhouse gases and climate change. The cost of running a traditional fuel car is also higher, as petrol and diesel is more expensive than electricity when considering cost per mile.
In contrast, an electric vehicle doesn’t produce any carbon emissions (advantage #9 in our list) while operating, though we still need to consider the emissions generated by creating the electricity in the first place. However, in a place like the UK, where we have less coal-based and fossil-heavy electricity generation than other countries, an electric vehicle will almost always produce significantly less carbon emissions than its traditional fuel counterpart. In other countries, EV carbon emissions can vary from similar to average petrol cars to less than half those of the best petrol hybrids.
Your electric vehicle may also qualify for Government subsidies (advantage #3) for being environmentally conscious. Although you might pay more to buy your electric vehicle, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives. However, there are still two sides to consider when you’re thinking about investing in an EV.
We’ve pulled information together from manufacturers, customers, apps, reports and guides to bring you the ultimate guide to the pros and cons of electric vehicles.
Advantages of Electric Vehicles
CHEAPER TO RUN
In most parts of the world, electricity is cheap – with a significant cost advantage over petroleum. Given the level of efficiency EVs operate at in comparison to internal combustion (traditional fuel) vehicles, on a cost per mile basis, fuelling an EV is much cheaper than fuelling a traditional fuel vehicle. For example, driving 8,000 miles in a Mitsubishi i-MiEV and charging it overnight will cost you in the region of £80 per year, according to TheChargingPoint.com.
If you drive an EV, you pay no road tax and your insurance is cheaper. If you live or work in central London, you’re exempt from the Congestion Charge. On top of this, you get free charging and free parking facilities in many towns and cities around the UK.
An internal combustion engine is complex, with a number of moving parts – a seriously complicated piece of machinery, requiring regular servicing. Electric cars are incredibly simple, with only one moving part, meaning there’s less to go wrong and servicing costs less. Nissan estimated that servicing a LEAF in the UK will cost you around £11 per month, versus £30 for a Ford Focus – that’s a saving of £228 per year on servicing alone!
In the UK, you can get a grant towards the cost of a new EV, as long as it meets certain conditions. The grant covers 35% of the cost of a car, up to a maximum of either £2,500 or £4,500 depending on the model and 20% of the cost of a van, up to a maximum of £8,000.
The amount of your grant will be automatically deducted from the price of your car or van when you buy it. The dealership completes the paperwork, so there are no application forms to fill in, but you may be asked to complete a short questionnaire.
As well as a grant towards the cost of a new EV, the Government is also offering a grant towards the cost of buying and installing a charge point at your home. The typical cost for a home charge point and installation is £1400. As part of its Electric Vehicle Homecharge scheme, OLEV currently offers applicants £500 towards this cost. Provided you meet the funding conditions, OLEV will pay this amount directly to your installer, you would then be required to pay the remainder of costs directly to your installer.
A spike in EV popularity led the Government to update the grant scheme and reduce the amount it contributes per car (it used to be higher) in order to continue the scheme until at least 2018; this reduction came into force on 1st March 2016. The Government is unlikely to offer a grant on EVs forever, so it’s worth taking advantage of the scheme while you can!
CHEAPER AS COMPANY CARS
Company car owners benefit hugely from owning an electric car. With no benefit-in-kind liability, a 40% tax earner swapping a Ford Focus company car for a Nissan LEAF could find themselves over £300 per month better off. That’s the equivalent of getting a £5,000 annual pay rise, just for driving an electric car!
Check out HMRC’s Company Car and Fuel Benefit Calculator to work out exactly how much switching to an electric vehicle could benefit you.
HOLDING THEIR VALUE
As well as all the other cost-related benefits, EVs hold their value much better than petroleum-fuelled vehicles. For example, the Tesla Model S has a value retention of 83%, 71% and 57% respectively after one, two and three years – much higher than any petroleum fuelled car in its category.
QUICK & QUIET
EVs are very quiet and smooth; they make most traditional fuel vehicles seem outdated and clunky. What tends to surprise people most is the high torque (axle-twisting power) offered by EVs – step on the accelerator and power is immediately delivered to the wheels, which makes for an exhilarating driving experience. Speed used to be a concern with very early model EVs, but this is no longer the case as faster technology’s been developed.
SAFE TO DRIVE
EVs undergo rigorous testing procedures, just like other fuel powered vehicles do. In case of accidents, airbags will open and the electricity supply will be cut from the battery.
When hybrid and electric cars first hit the road, a small group of sceptics worried about the unknown dangers of electromagnetic fields that might affect drivers and passengers, but these fears have now been completely dismissed by experts. A seven-country study argues that these concerns are unfounded with evidence to suggest that in all cases tested, exposure to magnetic fields was lower than 20% of the value recommended by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).
Electric vehicles are growing rapidly in popularity, with approximately 67,000 battery EVs (plug-in, grant eligible cars/vans) on UK roads today. With increased popularity comes more companies investing in research, more variety of EVs to choose from, reduced cost, more charge points available to use, improvement in EV efficiency, speed and reliability – and more!
Take a look at Next Green Car’s website for an up to date list of all fully electric and hybrid vehicles available in the UK.
NO CARBON EMISSIONS
The biggest argument against this is that in most cases, producing the electricity to run the EV will produce some emissions. Nearly all credible researchers agree that electric cars, even in coal-dependent regions, have a smaller environmental impact than conventional fuel vehicles. In regions with a strong mix of renewable energy sources (solar, wind, hydro etc.), or for electric car drivers with solar PV installed at their home, the emissions benefits are dramatic.
There will always be some analysts arguing otherwise, as there will be some emissions when producing the electricity in most cases, but it’s indisputable that EVs don’t have an exhaust pipe. No carbon emissions at all are produced when driving, and this can only be beneficial in the UK’s bid to reduce our carbon footprint and improve air quality.
Disadvantages of Electric Vehicles
“Range anxiety” seems to be the new buzzword in the world of electric vehicle drivers – it defines the unease EV drivers feel when they think about how far they have to travel, how many miles of range their EV has left and how long it will take to refuel if they need to. Electric vehicle advocates argue that 100 to 200 miles, the range most affordable EVs have, is plenty for most driving. The other point to consider is that the cost and range of EV batteries is improving almost on a monthly basis.
Regardless, unless your EV has a back-up, range-extending engine, you need to properly plan to make sure that routes outside of predictable local driving are within range, or allow for time to recharge. The below pie chart shows the breakdown of public charge points by region of the UK, so you can gauge what proportion of UK charge points are in your area. Zap Map is a handy website where you can search for public EV charge points across the UK, by location, charger type, connector type or EV model. Most EV owners have a charge point installed at their home for overnight charging – contact Just Energy Solutions for more no obligation advice on charge point grants and installation.
LONG REFUELLING TIME
Concerns about EV range are closely tied to issues relating to the length of time it takes to refuel and electric car. Many EVs can add around 20 to 25 miles of range in an hour of charging. So, although you can’t go to a petrol station and add 200 miles of range in ten minutes and you might not want to start planning a road trip around Europe in your EV, drivers putting an average amount of miles on their cars won’t be hindered by recharging times measured in hours – so long as they remember to plug in before going to sleep.
Charge time does vary between the types of charge points available. Public rapid charge points, capable of adding about 50 miles of range in around 20 to 25 minutes, are becoming more popular in regions with relatively high numbers of electric cars – you can search for charge points by type on Zap Map. As you can see in the bar chart below, not many slow charge points are being installed, and rapid charge points are on the rise, meaning wait time between charges is being reduced by charge point technology, as well as developments in the vehicle batteries themselves.
HIGHER PURCHASE COST
Generally, electric vehicles are more expensive to buy than the equivalent petrol or diesel vehicle. Cost range hugely from entry level, smaller EVs such as the Volkswagen e-up! starting at £10,025 and the Citroen C-Zero going for £16,995, all the way up to executive saloons like Tesla’s Model S, which will set you back in the region of £63,235 to £97,335.
Although more expensive than their traditional fuel counterparts, the range available means there’s an EV to suit any budget… Almost! When you take the Government grants for buying a new EV and installing a charge point at home (see Advantage #3), it could cost a lot less than you think.
On top of this, cost comparisons usually fail to consider a number of factors such as competitive lease rates, lower maintenance costs, a luxury feel, amenities that far exceed what’s found in those cheaper traditional fuel counterparts, and all the other advantages above!
LACK OF CONSUMER CHOICE
Consumer choice has been a concern since the launch of Government’s Plug In Car Grant in 2011, when there were only a handful of EV models available and no more than 1,500 public charge points available to use across the UK. As of May 2016 there are over 30 electric car and over 10 electric van models available, as well 10,872 public charge points spanning 3,995 locations.
Initially, the plug-in electric vehicles on the market consisted mainly of small, compact hatchback EVs and a few midsize hybrid saloons. This has now expanded to accommodate a much broader fully electric vehicle range from microcars to SUVs, executive saloons and sports cars.
Despite the growing range, in an auto market with dozens of brands and hundreds of models, the choice for buyers looking for an electric car is still limited, but this will only continue to expand over time.
Check out Next Green Car’s website for an up to date list of all fully electric and hybrid vehicles available in the UK.
Wrapping It up…
Like all things, electric cars have their pros and cons, however, the advantages do seem to outweigh the disadvantages for most drivers. To recap, here they are:
- Cheaper to run
- Low maintenance
- Government subsidies
- Cheaper as company cars
- Holding their value
- Quick and quiet
- Safe to drive
- Growing popularity
- No carbon emissions
- Limited range… But average range is more than most drivers need
- Long refuelling time… But this is quickly improving with new charge points and EV technology
- Higher purchase cost… But this is mitigated by lower running cost and government grants
- Lack of consumer choice… But this has already improved dramatically and will continue to expand