How to choose the best EV for you – Things to consider!
Electric vehicles are fast, are fun to drive, require little maintenance and produce no tailpipe emissions, a major contributor to climate change. But even if you’re sure you want one, there are many to choose from. That’s why it’s important to understand what you’re looking for.
There are three types of electric vehicle on the market these days: all-electric Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), and conventional, non plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs):
Powered just by a large battery
Fill with electricity only (no petrol or diesel)
Best for the environment
Greatest fuel savings
Part electric, part traditional ICE engine
Powered by both a medium size battery and a petrol/diesel engine
Fill with electricity and petrol or diesel
Helps the environment (if charged daily)
Moderate fuel savings (again, if charged daily)
Traditional engine + a very small battery
Powered by a petrol/diesel engine + some support from the battery
Fill with petrol/diesel only
Few environmental benefits
Minor fuel savings
Each car type works in a different way and it’s important to choose the EV that suits your life-style and beliefs:
Do you just want convenience?
Or low monthly costs?
What about impact on the environment?
Or do you want it all?
BEVs are ideal for environmentally conscious drivers who want to lower their monthly fuel costs substantially. They are the new world of cars and where we are all headed in 10-15 years’ time.
PHEVs are aimed at people who want to dip their toe into the EV world, but still require the safety blanket of a petrol/diesel engine to fall back on. Fuel savings can be achieved, but require strict daily charging of the battery. High mileage drivers will see lower fuel savings, as the internal combustion engine will be used more.
HEVs are typically advertised as ‘self-charging hybrids’, can’t be plugged in, and don’t benefit from cheap electricity. HEVs are like traditional cars, but can be electric only at low speeds and for short distances.
TIME TO CONSIDER THE COST AND POTENTIAL SAVINGS
EVs generally have higher purchase costs than their petrol and diesel competitors, but lower running costs as fuel, tax and maintenance costs are all generally significantly cheaper. The lowest cost new EVs currently available in the UK start at a little under £20,000 once the government funded purchase grant has been deducted, though for this price you’d also need to lease the batteries monthly.
The lowest price EVs with owned batteries start at around £25,000. Used EVs can be purchased in the UK from around £10,000.As with conventional cars, buying second-hand is a much cheaper option, but then you’ll have to consider a potentially deteriorated battery life and buying a new battery is nearly tantamount to a write off.
Your EV will cost nothing whatsoever in VED (Vehicle Excise Duty), it shouldn’t cost as much to maintain and filling up with electricity is far cheaper than filling up with petrol or diesel. For example the Mini Electric uses 15.5kWh/100km, which costs around £2.20 if you charge at home. Meanwhile, a normal Cooper S auto uses, at best, 5.6 litres of fuel to cover the same 62 miles. That’s £7 in unleaded.
Compared with petrol and diesel vehicles, EV servicing and maintenance costs are considerably lower than their petrol and diesel equivalents.This is down to electric motors containing much fewer moving parts than internal combustion engines. In addition, EVs don’t have other familiar car parts like a gear box, clutch, exhaust, catalytic converter, starter motor and more.
Even the brake pads and discs on an EV receive much less wear and tear because much of an EV’s braking is achieved through regenerative braking.
Nissan says servicing a Leaf costs just £11 a month and Tesla boasts that it can perform many servicing functions remotely via software updates.
If you rent the battery, Renault will guarantee performance of at least 75% of its original capacity or pay for repair/replacement.
ENSURE THE VEHICLE’S RANGE IS WELL WITHIN YOUR NEEDS
This is arguably an electric-car shopper’s biggest concern. Today’s electric cars cut a wide swath in this regard, with driving capacities that run from around 100 miles to more than 300 miles, with the sweet spot being the mid-200-mile range. Do you even need that much? The average commute in the UK and Ireland is 24 miles round trip, though those living in distant suburbs and rural areas tend to clock a higher-than-average number of miles each day.
It pays to choose a vehicle with an operating range that exceeds your expected needs, and here’s why: Estimated ranges for electric cars are just that – estimated – and will vary based on a number of factors. For starters, you’ll drain the battery quicker while driving on the motorway than you will around town. That’s because it takes more energy to propel an electric car at higher speeds. You should also be prepared for the possibility that at some point during your ownership you may take on a new job that requires a longer commute.
HOW WILL YOU CHARGE YOUR EV?
If you have off-street parking, get an EV charging point installed and charge your vehicle on a low-cost tariff. Each hour of charging typically adds 25-30 miles of range.
By charging at home, you can wake up each day to a ‘full tank’ of electricity – in other words, you start the day with maximum range. When you are out and about, you will come across public charging points at supermarkets, carparks, hotels, restaurants, etc. Take your charging cable with you and top up if you need to.
For longer trips, stop at service stations and rapidcharging ports. Depending on which electric car you have and the charger itself, you can usually add between 60-120 miles’ range after 20 minutes of charging.
You can expect electric car batteries to last for around 10 years. However, battery capacity will decline with age and use, potentially to around 60% of its original figure after a decade of typical use. That means an EV with a 100-mile range would only be capable of 60 miles on a full charge. But as electric car technology improves, so too does the battery life. A 2017 report found that a Tesla Model S will retain between 90 and 95% capacity, even at 93,000 miles. After 150,000 miles, a Model S can expect a reduction of just 15%.
ENSURE THAT PASSENGER ROOM AND CARGO SPACE MEET YOUR NEEDS.
Aside from paying attention to an electric car’s price and range, you’ll want to choose a model you can live with as a daily driver. For example, a subcompact model’s interior may be too confined for taller motorists. Some electric cars are inherently easy to enter and exit for some drivers than others. Back seat leg and headroom would be a concern or if you regularly carry multiple passengers. If you have small children, you’ll want to determine how easy or difficult it might be to get them in and out of their car seats. You’ll also want to make sure the room in the boot (if it’s a sedan) or behind the back seats (if it’s a hatchback or crossover sport-utility vehicle) can hold a sufficient number of grocery bags or cover your typical warehouse-store purchases. Also check the car boot volume with the rear seatbacks folded flat, and make note of how easy or difficult it is to load and unload bulky items.
MAKE SURE THE ELECTRIC-CAR DRIVING EXPERIENCE IS TO YOUR LIKING.
No matter what type of vehicle you’re looking for, new or used, gas petrol, diesel or electric, you’ll want to take a thorough test drive before signing a bill of sale. It’s essential to ensure the vehicle is acceptably comfortable, and with all accessories easily operated and in good working order. Importantly for those who have never driven an electric car, you’ll notice there’s a somewhat different driving experience involved.
Since there’s no engine or exhaust, an electric car is whisper quiet, which can be off-putting to some motorists. An electric car delivers 100 percent of its available power immediately, which can make higher-powered models feel twitchy until you learn how to modulate the accelerator. Electric cars use one-speed transmissions, so there’s no sensation of gearshifts. Also, the vehicle’s regenerative braking function, which helps recover energy that would otherwise be lost through decelerating and braking, can be quite pronounced depending on the model. What amounts to a high level of engine braking may feel unnatural. Some electric cars allow the driver to choose more or less regenerative braking as desired, and even enable so-called “one pedal” driving that will all but bring the car to a complete stop without having to use the brake pedal.
TRY OUT THE TECH
It’s not unusual for a car to come with a dedicated smartphone app nowadays. Especially if it’s an EV. The best of these apps let you schedule charging to take advantage of low energy prices, help with journey planning (should it be a long one and you need to charge halfway) and give you complete control over the air conditioning. Tell your car what time you want to leave in the morning, and it’ll have all the windows defrosted and the interior stable at 21 degrees by the time you open the door. If you are visiting a dealership don’t be afraid to ask about the technology available and ask or a demo to get a feel for the app and interface.
BE PREPARED TO WAIT
The demand for EVs has increased rapidly in recent times and many now have waiting lists. It is widely reported that the global supply of lithium ion batteries is struggling to keep up with the increased demand.
However, this is generally seen as a short-term problem, perhaps reflecting an industry caught off-guard by the rapid increase in demand, and both battery production and the production of lithium and other precious metals is being ramped up rapidly across the globe.