Electric cars have increasingly been making the headlines in recent months. You might have seen that major car manufacturer Volvo has announced that every car they launch from 2019 will have an electric motor, and that the current UK Government wants to see our roads free of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Electric vehicles, sometimes referred to as EVs, are set to be the norm but what does this mean for the average consumer?
Most of us don’t own electric cars, but now’s the time to start thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of electric vehicles.
Advantages of electric vehicles
1) No fuel, no emissions
This is the key point that attracts many people to electric cars. If you want to decrease your personal impact on the environment through transport, then an EV is the way forward. The electric engine within an EV operates on a closed circuit, so an electric car does not emit any of the gases often associated with global warming. No petrol or diesel is needed in a fully electric vehicle, which is great for your carbon footprint.
Even better - if you charge your electric car at home, and your home runs on renewable energy from Good Energy, then your carbon footprint shrinks dramatically!
2) Running costs
Because you’re not paying for petrol or diesel to keep your car running, you can save a lot of money on fuel. At the time of writing, it costs around £63.80 to fill the average unleaded petrol tank for drivers of medium-sized cars in the UK. By comparison, depending upon the electric vehicle you own and the tariff you are on, a full charge of your electric vehicle could cost as little as 96p. With Good Energy’s Electric Vehicle Tariff, you could even save £60 a year versus the Big Six’s Standard Variable Tariffs, with the additional bonus of the electricity going into your EV being 100% renewable.
3) Low maintenance
We all know cars need a bit of TLC from time to time. Petrol and diesel engines can require expensive engine maintenance over their lifetimes – electric vehicles don’t.
Why is this? In a traditional combustion engine there are hundreds of moving parts which can potentially go wrong, whereas an electric motor has fewer than 20. This means that your EV is likely to have lower long-term maintenance costs than other vehicles.
Most of the fun of owning a car comes from getting out on the roads and putting it to work. In the past, electric vehicles haven’t had the sleekest image; many have had low expectations as to how well an electric car can do versus traditional engines.
As more manufacturers have piled into the market with their own take on the electric vehicle, the performance levels of EVs has rocketed. Electric cars are lighter, and – as all of their power is generated from a standing start – their acceleration capability can surprise. Certain brands, such as Tesla, have done a lot to improve people’s perceptions of electric vehicles – the Tesla Model S is one of the fastest-accelerating cars on the market, doing 0 – 60mph in just 2.5 seconds.
Of course, this isn’t the only measure of performance for a car. If you’re looking for something more family-friendly, then you’ll be pleased to know that many EVs are more spacious than conventional cars due to the lack of a large engine; they also offer a smoother drive with lower levels of noise.
If you like to stand out in the crowd than perhaps knowing that electric cars are becoming increasingly more popular might be a negative for you, but for many it’s a huge positive. As more EVs find their way onto our roads, we will see the supporting infrastructure expand. There are already over 4800 charging locations in the UK, offering nearly 7500 individual charging points – and these numbers are growing at an ever-increasing rate.
To compare, in 2016, there were 8,459 petrol stations and this number has been declining since 2000. With the increase in electric vehicles on the road, we are likely to see this number continue to fall while the number of charging locations will increase further.
In addition to more charging points, the increased popularity of EVs also means more options to choose from for the car itself. There are more affordable electric car options available now than ever before, like the Nissan Leaf and the Renault Zoe, with some of the most popular petrol and diesel models also available in an electric version, such as the Volkswagen eGolf.
Disadvantages of electric vehicles
1) Driving range
The term ‘range anxiety’ is familiar to those who’ve done their research on electric cars. The current cohort of EVs are not able to do the sort of long distances that you’d get out of a fossil-fuelled car, but the distance you can travel on a single charge has improved a lot recently and continues to do so. Many of the more common electric cars can now travel 70 – 100 miles, and even more, with only one trip to the charging point. Hybrid electric vehicles can do a lot to reduce range anxiety as the electric motor works in tandem with a combustion engine.
However, most trips made in a car are less than 30 miles, which most EVs are able to do without issue. Similarly, the way that you fuel the car requires a different mentality to a fossil fuelled engine. Rather than filling up infrequently, you simply charge the car regularly – similar to your mobile phone!
2) Recharge time
Pulling into the motorway service station because your petrol gauge is flashing at you, refilling, and getting on your way again takes all of five minutes. It’s a convenient process that we’re all familiar with.
Charging electric vehicles does take longer. Estimates show that 80% of EV charges take place on a slow charge at home over night, which is sufficient for most purposes. Also, many businesses now have electric vehicle charging points in their company car parks, as we do here at Good Energy. But what about the situation I’ve outlined above, where you want to be able to recharge and get back on the road?
Unfortunately, there is no five minute recharge for electric cars just yet. However, rapid charging is becoming more common, you’ll just need to plan it into longer journeys as even a rapid charge takes 20 – 30 minutes.
3) Battery life
A battery is vital to an electric car, you certainly won’t be driving anywhere without one! The batteries currently in use in EVs in the UK do have a limited life expectancy, however, and will need to be replaced every 3 – 10 years depending on the make and model. There’s quite a discrepancy in those figures, - 10 years is a lot more than three, so you can already see how the technology has been improving. Battery replacement is a longer-term cost calculation that needs to be remembered when you’re considering purchasing an electric vehicle.
Is an electric car for me?
There has been a shift in balance for electric vehicles, with more advantages than disadvantages. Even the shortcomings some may find with an electric vehicle are quickly being diminished – the driving ranges keep on improving, the electric car charging system is growing, the batteries are lasting longer, the cars themselves are becoming more attractive and affordable, plus the Government is slowly pushing towards EVs being the go-to option.
Ultimately, it’s all about the bigger picture. Electric vehicles are a cleaner, more environmentally-friendly way to travel. Passenger cars and vans contribute to 17% of all carbon dioxide emissions in the UK, so we want to do what we can to reduce this figure and the subsequent effects of climate change whilst still being able to carry on with our lives, with minimal fuss.
An electric vehicle can help you do just that. And to make your life truly clean and green, you can sign up for Good Energy’s 100% renewable electricity, so the energy going into your EV comes just from sunshine, wind and rain. That means there’ve been no emissions in the generation of this energy, and there’ll be no emissions from your electric car either – a real no brainer!