Could you drive an electric car?
Would you consider an electric car? And would it save you money?
If you haven’t noticed the rising price of fuel then that must be because the chauffeur fills the car up for you. Petrol prices are rocketing and it’s already changing the way many of us drive.
Back in the year 2000, petrol prices were about 77p a litre, which means they’ve nearly doubled in 11 years. A survey by Hastings Direct found that more than three-quarters of motorists are already driving less, including 1% who’ve already given up their cars completely.
In fact, one in three of the respondents said they were considering a hybrid or electric vehicle as their next car. So, would you?
Electric cars can be a lot cheaper to run. Take the Nissan Leaf. Its full range is about 109 miles, which it can achieve on just over 30 kWh. If you charge the car at night, that whole journey could cost as little as £1.30.
What’s more, electric cars aren’t charged for Vehicle Excise Duty, they’re not subject to the London congestion charge and many councils offer free parking for these green vehicles.
Then, of course, there are the environmental benefits. They don’t produce exhaust fumes when they’re driven, helping maintain the air quality in urban spaces. And if the UK can increase the amount of renewable energy it generates, then that will lower the environmental impact of electric cars even further.
On the downside though, electric cars aren’t cheap to buy and they’re not as convenient as more traditional vehicles. But you can get help. In particular, grants towards the cost of certain models, up to 25%, capped at £5,000.
It’s available on the following 10 vehicles, and has just been extended to cover electric vans.
- Mitsubishi iMiEV
- smart fortwo electric drive
- Peugeot iON
- Citroen CZero
- Nissan Leaf
- Tata Vista EV
- Toyota Prius Plug-in
- Vauxhall Ampera
- Chevrolet Volt
- Renault Fluence
Van drivers can receive 20% of the cost of their vans, capped at a maximum of £8,000.
You don’t have to fill out any forms or go through an application process to receive this funding. The car dealer will sort out the paperwork and automatically deduct the grant from the price you pay.
However, this grant has only been agreed until the end of March this year. After that it will be reviewed and could go up, down, or be cut completely.
Before you decide that an electric car is right for you, you need to work out how practical it is.
You can plug your car in at home and charge it overnight, when you might be able to benefit from cheaper electricity, depending on your tariff. A standard plug socket can be used, although there are dedicated home chargers that can speed up the process.
But if you need to charge when you’re on the road, it gets a bit tougher to manage. Some cities, including London, Manchester and Milton Keynes, are installing plug-in points under the government’s Plugged In scheme. You’ll need to research the areas you drive most often to see if there are recharging facilities available.
If your daily commute can be done on one charge, then you shouldn’t have any trouble, just power back up each evening.
Another problem is that insuring an electric car can be a little complicated.
That’s partly because the batteries are very expensive and usually leased. As a result, some insurers are charging high premiums. Yet others are offering low quotes because most electric cars have a low maximum speed.
As with any insurance product, you need to compare prices to find the best one. It’s also important to make sure you can find and afford the cover before you buy the car, so compare prices first.
So if you’re running a daily commute in and out of the centre of London, then an electric car will probably save you money, even if you have to pay more for it to start with.
However, you might find that an electric car simply isn’t practical just yet, as there hasn’t been sufficient mainstream uptake to make them easy to run. But that will probably come in time.
Until then, it could be worth considering a hybrid vehicle, which uses a petrol or diesel engine along with a battery. The battery powers the car at slower speeds and recharges as you drive, which makes it very fuel efficient.
Some hybrids can also be plugged in to recharge, meaning they could qualify for the Plug-In Car Grant if they meet the other criteria. You’ll also pay less road tax because the emissions are lower than a standard car.
A hybrid or plug-in hybrid could be a good compromise if you want to lower your environmental impact but aren’t ready for a fully electric car.
However, the prices of both these kinds of vehicles are so much higher than many similarly-sized vehicles. You’d have to be sure you were going to save a sizeable amount on fuel for it to be worth it.
If petrol prices carry on rising, I suspect that more people will switch from their cars completely and just use buses, trains and bikes.
Do you drive an electric car? Have you taken one for a test drive? Did you decide it wasn’t for you? Share your plug-in car experiences in the comments below.