A guide to electric cars - LeaseCar
It wasn’t all that long ago that electric cars were viewed as the stuff of science fiction. Now they’re much more commonplace – although still only less than 2% of cars on the UK roads are EVs.
However, the number is rapidly expanding; in the UK, more than 35,000 EVs were registered in 2016, the highest number ever. The nation with the highest number of EVs sold in 2016 was China, while the nation with the highest percentage of EVs is Norway.
Why are they becoming more popular? The practical issues that once discouraged people such as refuelling and range are becoming less of a hindrance, and the lack of maintenance and obvious ecological benefits are becoming more prevalent.
What is an electric car?
In a nutshell, an electric vehicle is one that is propelled by at least one electric motor, using batteries to power the vehicle and turn its wheels. When the battery is dead, it can be recharged via one of several ways. All vehicles can be charged using a standard wall socket or public power unit, which are rapidly growing in quantity. However, this is the slowest way of recharging the vehicle.
Another way of recharging, depending on the vehicle you possess, is via an EV charging station at your home, which can cut charging times by up to 60%. Owners of EVs can apply for £500 off a home charge point installation.
Electric car owners typically pay no road tax (depending on the value of the vehicle), as there is no petrol or diesel to emit fumes.
The exceptions are hybrids, which employ a mix of batteries and a traditional internal combustion engine/fuel tank. Owners of hybrid vehicles, which include the Hyundai Ioniq and Toyota Prius, experience benefits in lower rates of road and company car tax. Not all hybrid engines work the same way; in the Prius, for example, the power sources work separately or together at any one time, depending on the speed of the vehicle.
One of the big concerns many potential EV buyers possess is a worry about breaking down somewhere after being unable to refuel, despite the fact they can charge an electric vehicle from home. Indeed, many new homes now have charging points built into their front walls as standard. It’s very easy to charge the vehicles through a simple adapter leading from the car to a power point.
There are currently more than 4,100 public charging locations, which has rapidly expanded from just a few hundred locations five years ago. With traditional fuel stations declining in number, research by Nissan suggests that the number of EV charge points in the UK will outnumber petrol stations as soon as 2020. It’s believed there will be as many 7,900 by that time, although it’s possible it will reach that number even sooner.
One thing to consider when buying an electric car is the battery cost. Depending on the model, you may have to pay a monthly lease rental for the battery of around £70 a month, which is fairly dispiriting if your old petrol car was only costing you £40-30 a month, and somewhat negates the cost of powering the car yourself. That said, cars which include a battery rent option are cheaper to buy, and it actually equates, all things considered, to around 2p a mile. Maintenance costs are generally far cheaper. Also, a more expensive model such as a Tesla or BMW i3 includes battery costs, so there is no rental.
The market for used electric cars is now apparently booming as well, with a Nissan Leaf being available for under £6,000. Auto Express says of buying a used EV: “You can look at a used EV in the same way as you would a conventional car. Make sure all of the electrics work - EVs are usually pretty well equipped, so check all the gadgets are functioning - while most electric cars will have been used in town, so keep an eye out for wheel damage that may extend to the suspension behind it.”
It’s no exaggeration to say that a driver can often be unaware that an electric vehicle is even turned on, such is the lack of volume. A small vehicle such as the Renault Twizy, which is commonly seen on European roads but far less so in the UK, is almost impossibly quiet. It does have its drawbacks – lack of boot space and practicality – but is great fun and can squeeze into the tiniest of parking spaces.
However, other quieter models have substantial boot spaces, mainly because of the position of the batteries. The Nissan Leaf has 370 litres of boot space, while the Prius - with batteries under the rear seats rather than the boot floor – packs a whopping 502 litres of boot space.
Because emissions are low or zero, the yearly road tax can be nothing. From 2017, the road tax rates changed; there are 13 different CO2 bands, and zero-emission vehicles such as electric cars qualify for the lowest band, which will mean zero tax for the first year. In the second year they’ll still be tax-free if they cost less than £40,000. Any cars costing more than this – electric or standard fuel – attract a ‘premium fee’ of £310.
Those who love the grunt of a sports car and fear that a lack of power will be obvious in an EV might be in for a pleasant surprise.
Models such as the BMWi8 (top speed 155mph, 266kW horsepower) and Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive (0-62mph in 7.9 seconds) pack a serious punch, while even Jaguar is also entering the fray with its i-Pace, which will boast top speeds in excess of 200mph and accelerate from 0-60mph in four seconds, with a range of 300 miles.
One of the major players on the world scene is Tesla; we don’t tend to see too many of them on our roads but these are seriously desirable cars. The Tesla Model S is by no means cheap, starting at more than £60,000, but is a stunning saloon that goes from 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds and even comes with autopilot capabilities and a bio-weapon defence mode. It’s certainly a head turner.
For more information on leasing electric cars get in touch with us today.
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