Electric car

With the UK’s government target of ending the sale of ‘conventional’ petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, an emphasis has been placed on going electric when it comes to purchasing new vehicles.

Yet with this movement comes consumer uncertainty, as the car buyers of today may be sceptical of the performance, efficiency and costs associated with opting for an electric car. Figures have revealed increases in the number of electric cars being registered in the UK, but for the government’s targets to be met, consumers need to be made more aware of what it means to own a non-gasoline car.

This guide from Unsuburbia covers all the main questions you might have when it comes to buying an electric car.

What’s the difference between an electric car and a hybrid?

There is a great deal of confusion when it comes to car buyers knowing whether an electric car or hybrid is for them, purely based on the fact they don’t know the difference between the two. To influence a purchasing decision though, there are distinguishable discrepancies.

e-Golf - Volkswagen

Volkswagen e-Golf

An electric car is a vehicle which runs 100 per cent on electric power and is refuelled at a charging point either at your home or a specialist charging station. There is absolutely no use of fossil fuels (i.e. petrol or diesel), which means no emissions are emitted from an exhaust – a benefit from an environmental perspective – and these cars are often much quieter when driving.

Similarly, a hybrid car also uses electricity for power, however this vehicle will also have a petrol or diesel engine. It uses a combination of electricity stored in batteries and a fuel tank to propel the engine forward, with the details of this combination varying from car to car.

There are two types of hybrid cars: a mild hybrid, where the use of electricity to power the wheels is limited and the batteries are charged via the petrol engine, and a plug-in hybrid which is more aligned to a classic electric car and can be charged on the national grid.

How do you charge an electric car?

The two most prominent ways to charge an electric car are either by having a charging point at your home or by visiting your local charging station.

If your home has off-road parking, the easiest way is to have a charging point installed. All you need to do is simply plug in your electric car overnight and, in the morning, you’ll have a fully-charged battery. Plus, with government initiatives paying for up to 75 per cent of installation costs, it is also a cost-efficient method too.

BMW i3

BMW i3

Away from the home, there are over 14,000 charging points across the UK and this is an ever-growing number. Services such as Zap Map highlight where these are, so finding a charging station isn’t an arduous task. Some car parks and supermarkets offer free charging services, whilst motorway service stations now have super-fast charging points – these can charge a battery up to 80 per cent full in 30 minutes, however using these comes at a higher price. Energy companies are also exploring new opportunities to incorporate charging points into everyday touchpoints, such as in street lamps.

How practical is an electric car?

One of the biggest worries of anyone purchasing an electric car is its mileage range.  In 2015, only one electric car was able to do more than 100 miles per charge – the Tesla Model S. Now, three years on, that number has increased massively to upwards of 250 miles, thanks to improvements in both the cars themselves and the accessibility of charging facilities.

The range of an electric car changes from model to model, so it’s best to find one that is well suited to how you plan to use it. For example, if you’ll be doing longer trips on a regular basis you’d be best opting for a longer range, such as the Nissan LEAF which gives you 150 miles per charge. Whereas if your car will be used for shorter trips, the entry-model BMW i3 would be suitable with its range of 81 miles per charge.

What sort of environmental impact does an electric car have?

Electric cars aren’t carbon neutral, although manufacturers may lead you to believe they are, but from an environmental aspect, they are better than gasoline and hybrid vehicles. In a recent study from The Guardian on how eco-friendly electric cars really are, it was revealed that a purely electric car which sources electricity from an EU-mix releases on average 57g of CO2 per kilometre. To draw comparison, a petrol-fuelled vehicle emits 125g and a hybrid car releases 83g – highlighting how an electric car is kinder on the environment.

Volkswagen up!

Volkswagen up!

How much does it cost to run an electric car?

Motor trade experts BuyaCar drew comparisons between two BMW models – an electric car and a standard petrol model. It was revealed that the electric model was more cost efficient over a three-year period when it came to fuel (on average, 3.7p per mile compared to a petrol car’s 14.2p per mile), tax (£0 compared to £445) and servicing including tyres (£565 compared to £615). So, in terms of day-to-day and some year-to-year running costs, an electric car can help save you money.

Yet there are some fees that come at a premium with electric vehicles. For example, the original outlay to purchase a typical electric family car is 27.2 per cent more expensive than a petrol or diesel vehicle – this figure includes the £3,500 government grant which is accessible when buying an electric car.

Also, on average, the car insurance cost over three years is £1,088 for an electric vehicle, compared to £824 for a standard car. This increase is put down to the cost of materials associated with electric vehicles which insurers would have to pay out for in the case of an accident.

What resale value does an electric car have?

Much like gasoline cars, electric vehicles also fall victim to depreciation. In a report by Bloomberg, it’s noted that the US has seen a boom in the number of electric cars, but over 80 per cent are actually leased, so drivers pass on the drop in value to their lease providers.

The drop in valuation of electric cars however is not what it once was. Previously, due to lack of innovation and development which caused problems with range and overall performance, the depreciation of electric cars was steep. But due to software updates and improvements in technology, the drop is now more aligned to that of an everyday car.

After three years, the average electric car devalues by 50 per cent, whereas a petrol vehicle’s value drops by 53 per cent. Plus, with the impetus on green living and the ability to improve performance through software updates, second-hand electric cars are a lucrative option – 76 per cent of people in a recent Peter Vardy survey said they’d consider buying a used electric car.

What does the future hold for electric cars?

In the 12-month period between June 2017 and 2018, over 47,000 new electric vehicles were registered in the UK, showcasing this idea of environmentally friendly cars is one that’s catching on. Tom Pakenham, director of electric vehicles at OVO Energy, believes that by 2022, there will be over one million electric cars on the UK’s roads – an ambitious increase on the current 145,000.

But for this statement to become a reality, infrastructure needs to be developed to meet demand. There needs to be an increase in the number of accessible charging points across the UK to make it easier for people to charge their electric vehicles on the go. Residential property also needs to adapt to this greener way of thinking – new homes should come fitted with electric car charging points as standard to promote this choice of transportation and give homebuyers the opportunity to buy into it. Developer CEG will be fitting these in all its new homes at Kirkstall Forge.

The movement towards electric cars is well and truly upon us. But when it comes to buying one, make sure you’ve done your market research to find the vehicle perfect for your needs, in terms of price, performance and range.