Ultimate Electric Car Buyers Guide
Cardeck Team | September 1, 2014
Increased research and development into electric cars over the past decade or so may lead people to believe that electric cars are a relatively new notion. This is however not the case, in the mid 1800's electric cars were fairly common. It was in fact an EV that held the land speed record right up until around 1900. The internal combustion engine was favoured and the electric vehicle may have seemed short lived due to limited range, low speeds and cost of the vehicles. Since then manufacturers have occasionally dabbled with electric cars, but again due to the afore mentioned shortfalls they never really took off.
Unfortunately, most modern day cars run on hydrocarbons such as petrol and diesel which just aren't sustainable in the long term, not to mention the impact of emissions on the environment. This prompted manufacturers to again look into electric vehicles and improving their short comings. Technology has obviously moved on considerably in the last century and a half and some manufacturers have made giant leaps in terms of EV advancement. They may still not be suitable for all drivers, but the gap is definitely closing and these more environmentally aware vehicles certainly have their place in todays society.
Each generation is becoming increasingly more environmentally aware, after all, we have to consider the state of the planet we leave to our children and grandchildren. The Kyoto agreement was put in place to ensure the country's that signed it bring down their emissions by specific percentages in a set time period. It is this sort of awareness and increased government involvement that has made these cars more accessible to the public with the introduction of things like the plug in car grant, improved infrastructure and help with getting charge points etc installed.
Electric and hybrid cars may not be perfect for all but they certainly are for a large proportion of the country. If you are considering purchasing an electric vehicle, then you have come to the right place. We take a look at the terms used, the pros and cons, the costs and grants as well as the types of vehicles available today to give you a comprehensive look at all the options and which if any is the most suitable for you!
Is an electric car suitable for me?
When assessing if an electric car is right for you, you should ask yourself the following questions:
Do you have off street parking within easy reach of a power socket which can be used overnight to charge the vehicle?
Are the majority of your journeys within town, i.e. commuting to work locally, shopping trips, hospital trips etc? The majority of people only usually drive up to 40 miles per day, which would be easily achievable with an electric vehicle. It is however important to remember that electric vehicles have expected ranges that can be reached from their fully charged batteries, long distance drives are not suitable for the majority of electric cars on the market at present.
Do you have access to a second vehicle for very long journeys, or does the manufacturer offer a loan vehicle in these circumstances?
Do you have a desire to be more environmentally friendly? It's important to remember that 'electric vehicles are powered by electricity, the majority of which comes from coal or gas burning power stations, it is however, cleaner than burning petrol or diesel directly. Green electricity companies can be used to offset this factor somewhat.
The Arguments For and Against Electric Cars
The running costs of electric vehicles are considerably lower than those of petrol or diesel cars. In fact, they are as low as one fifth of the cost per mile of a petrol vehicle. This is a huge saving which over time adds up to a considerable amount. The cars may cost more to purchase initially, but savings like this will in time repay that extra cost.
Due to the zero tailpipe emissions of an electric car they are exempt from paying road tax, which saves a considerable amount of money per year compared to the majority of petrol counterparts. As well as tax exemption electric cars are also exempt from the congestion charging in London.
The government is keen to get people adopting electric cars thanks to the reduction in emissions that would help the country reach its targets. They therefore set up a plug in car grant which has now been extended until at least 2017. The grant offers to pay 25% of the cost of an electric car up to the maximum of £5,000 and 20% of the cost of an electric van up to a maximum of £8,000. This helps considerably with the cost of electric cars as at present they cost more than equivalent petrol or diesel models. As well as help with purchase price, buyers can get help with the cost of installing electric charging points at their home. They are currently paying 75% of the cost of home charging points up to a maximum of £1,000. This will decrease slightly to £900 from September 2014.
Electric cars have far fewer moving parts, it therefore stands to reason that there is far less that can actually go wrong. No oil changes are required nor replacement cam belts or filters every so many thousand miles. The brakes should last longer than conventional cars and all in all these cars should require less maintenance from their owners on a monthly basis. This will of course all add to the already great savings that can be made with electric car ownership.
Fantastic Used Prices.
Due to high depreciation in electric cars at the moment, the prices for these cars used are considerably lower than buying new, even at as little as 12 months the cars are 50-60% cheaper than they were when the first rolled out of the showroom. Whilst this is of course bad news for those buying new, fantastic bargains can be had for anyone buying a used electric car or van.
Are they really Green?
As with anything relatively upcoming in the market place there will always be arguments in favour of it and against it. The largest argument surrounding electric cars is just how green or Eco friendly they really are. The cars themselves produce 0 tailpipe emissions, which is far more environmentally friendly than a car burning petrol or diesel, kicking out fumes into the environment. The electricity used to power the cars, however, in the majority of cases will have come from a coal or gas burning power station. This process will have of course emitted fumes in the process of creating the electricity, which was used to power the car. There are ways to reduce this by opting to use a 'green' energy supplier. These suppliers will wherever possible use renewable energy forms such as wind or solar power thus making your car even greener!
The next factor would be the limited range of these vehicles. With a petrol or diesel car you can fill up the tank in a matter of a minute or so should you find yourself running low on fuel. With an electric vehicle this is not an option. At best you are looking at a 30 minute rapid charge to continue your journey. For some this won't be a problem, an overnight charge will provide them with enough juice to go about their daily business without any worries. There will undoubtedly be occasions that owners forget to charge their cars and find themselves caught short however. Rapid charge points are available in some places which can charge the car up to 80% of its capacity in under 30 minutes.
Lack of infrastructure.
As the technology is still in the early stages of adoption, there is a lack of infrastructure for the charging of these EV's. Cities such as London have greater provisions and this is spreading across the country with supermarkets installing charging points and electric vehicle manufacturers investing time and money into installing recharging networks, such as Tesla.
The batteries which power electric cars are expected to last between 5 and 10 years, the more often they are charged the quicker the battery will need replacing. Similar to a mobile phone battery, it will start holding less charge and will need replacing. Batteries of this size are obviously not cheap to replace, whilst some manufacturers may offer subsidies for the batteries in these cars others will not. This could make the used prices for electric vehicles depreciate far quicker than their hydrocarbon burning counterparts. This is because buyers are unknowingly purchasing a car which could soon require a very costly battery replacement. Some manufacturers have given this some serious thought and offer battery leasing. This means you never actually own the battery and pay the manufacturer a monthly fee to rent the battery. This would mean you could get it replaced when it reached the end of its life. It has however been a confusing subject with some finding it impossible to value a used car with no battery, which is in effect useless until the buyer makes provisions to lease one themselves. Glass' guide did however feel that the residual value of cars with a leased battery would be higher as it offered peace of mind. Battery leasing also makes the purchase price of these cars far more realistic in the first place, but leasing prices of between £45 and £70 per month would need to be factored into the costs when assessing if you could afford one or not.
Probably the biggest factor against electric cars at the moment is the depreciation levels when you come to sell them on. This is due to a number of reasons such as a much lower volume of buyers compared to petrol or diesel cars, dealers unsure of value, or even if they will be able to sell them on at all and of course the battery issues. Early adopters of electric cars are advocates and probably bought them because of their green credentials and the money they could save in the long term. The majority of people are still unsure of them as they are new, buying into the unknown is seen as a gamble to some and as such means there is less of a market for these cars used. Depreciation has been shocking with cars loosing 50-60% of their value in less than a year in some cases. Experts believe the market for used electric cars will stabilise and used figures will improve. The fast depreciation is a very good selling point for those looking for a used electric car though, especially as dealers stuck with one don't know when another interested buyer might come along, leaving even better margins to negotiate a killer price with them.
Whilst it may appear that there are more arguments against owning an electric vehicle, the majority of the 'cons' have been countered and are easily solvable, it is a sheer matter of opinion and whether or not you can make an electric vehicle work for you.
Electric Vehicle Ranges
The range of an electric vehicle is how far it can travel on a full charge. As with petrol cars other factors will impact on the range that can be achieved, such as driving style and the use of electrical equipment such as the heating, air conditioning stereo etc. The majority of electric cars on the market have a range of between 60 and 100 miles. There is, however an elite range of electric cars just emerging that are capable of well over 200 miles.
As we mentioned earlier the majority of drivers cover no more than 40 miles in a day, either travelling to and from work, shopping, carrying out errands etc. For these people the limited range of an electric vehicle would pose no problems providing they remembered to plug it in overnight when the battery was getting low.
Tesla has been leading the way when it comes to the much improved range of electric cars. In a bid to level the playing field and help increase the adoption of electric vehicles they decided to open up their patents to those using them in 'good faith' to help this emerging form of transport flourish.
The full charging time for the majority of electric vehicles is between four and eight hours. Tesla, however, with their superior range needs a longer charging time of up to 14 hours to reach full capacity.
Fast charge points are available that can charge up to 80% of the battery's capacity within around 30 minutes.
Ways To Charge
The most common place for people to charge their electric vehicles is at their home or business premises overnight. This would allow the battery to get the full required charge without causing any inconvenience to the driver. This can either be done with a lead from a socket or with an installed charging point. The charging points are a better option as they effectively speak with the car to deliver exactly what is needed.
Charging points are becoming increasingly more available across the country. Supermarkets have begun installing them and in some cases get you the spot nearest the entrance! A pretty sweet bonus. Cities such as London have greater facilities for electric cars, but the rest of the country is following. Tesla are installing a high speed charge network across the country's motorway networks and local towns and councils are following the likes of the lager cities to install their own public charging points. At present some of these points are completely free of charge which is another good selling point for these vehicles. How many drivers of standard cars can boast they get free fuel? Rapid charging points are also available in some towns and cities. These can charge the battery much faster than standard charging points and are, the more likely of the charging points to have a charge incurred for their use. There has been some talk that all charge points will become chargeable in time.
Maps and apps are available to help electric car owners find the nearest charge points available, some even show if the point is in use which is another very impressive feature. The cars themselves in most instances can also guide you to the nearest charging point should you require a top up.
Types Of Electric Vehicles Available
When electric vehicles were first introduced as a serious form of transport a few years back the range of vehicles available was extremely limited with only a handful of models. It hasn't taken too long for other manufacturers to join the party and there is now considerably more to choose from. Electric cars are available in a number of body styles just as cars with petrol and diesel engine are. We take a look at the current styles available and the ones we know to be coming soon, with a suggestion of models that could fit the bill, to help you find the most suitable electric car for you.
Unlike the other body styles available this may be one you have never before heard of. A quadricycle is a categorisation used within Europe to describe a four wheeled micro car which is defined by its limitations of weight, power and speed. There are two classes of quadricycle Light L6e and heavy L7e. These vehicles are subject to the same requirements as a moped such as a minimum driving age of 16. Quadricycles are not allowed to weigh more than 350kg (This does not include the batteries in the case of EV's) and cannot have a greater maximum speed than 45mph. These vehicles are perfect for nipping about town and short trips and lend themselves perfectly to the electric power train.
The most recognisable electric quadricycle is the Renault Twizzy. This futuristic looking vehicle is capable of a 62 mile range and charges in just four hours. There are a few variants of the Twizzy available, including the Cargo which has a loading area at the back like a van. Prices are between £6,895 and £7,795. These vehicles DO NOT qualify for the governments plug in car grant. Battery rental is required with the Twizzy and costs £45 per month.
Another novel quadricycle is the Prindiville Electric Hummer, which bears all the styling of a Hummer while being a two seater quadricycle with a top speed of 40mph. The range of this electric Hummer is less than that of the Twizzy at 45 miles and it takes double the time to charge at 8 hours. This vehicle is available from £16,800.
Electric City Cars
City cars have really taken off in recent years. Designed for urban use these bijou cars are perfect for nipping around town. Over the years the size of the supermini category of cars had grown considerably, leaving a large gap in the market for those requiring something more compact and economical. Manufacturers cottoned onto this and began again, creating small cars like they had done in the middle of the last century with things like the original Mini and Fiat 500. City cars are another perfect area for electric vehicle adoption as they are generally used for shorter round town journeys ideal for the range of EV's.
The Peugeot iON / Mitsubishi Imiev / Citroen C-Zero are based on the same platform using the same design. This was one of the first cars to start the electric car revolution back in 2010. This car has a range of 93 miles, charges in between 4 & 7 hours and has a top speed of 81 mph. This electric supermini starts from £21,216 after the plug in car grant has been applied.
Volkswagen took their popular city car the VW Up and created the VW e-Up an all electric version. This cute little Vee Dub has a range of 93 miles, charges in 6 hours and has a top speed of 81 mph. An e-Up can be yours for £19,270 with the help of the plug in car grant and is a popular choice being that it's a tried and tested design from a trusted manufacturer.
The Smart car has also undergone some adaptations to create an all electric version, the Smart Ed Coupe. This miniature car that can be parked sideways has an 84 mile range, 4 hour charge time and a top speed of 78 mph. These sleek cabriolets can be purchased from £16,895 with the plug in car grant.
Superminis are a very popular segment within the car industry and cover such cars as the VW Polo, Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio, Vauxhall Corsa and the likes. The Ford Fiesta is the best ever selling car in Britain, which demonstrates the popularity of cars in this class. The definition of a supermini is a small hatchback that is larger than a city car but smaller than a small family car such as a Ford Focus. Deemed B-Segment cars, this segment makes up the most sales in Europe followed very closely by the small family C-Segment. It is therefore logical that manufacturers invested time into creating electric entrants into this popular segment.
BMW's entrance into the electric vehicle market was something completely different to their standard offering. The BMW i3 supermini breaks the BMW mould and changes perceptions around the brand. This EV has a range of 118 miles and only takes 3 hours to charge. It can reach a top speed of 93 mph. The price for this sleek BMW is £25,680 with the plug in car grant.
Renault invested considerable time and money into the development of electric cars. The Renault Zoe is their second entrant into the electric car market. Prices for the supermini have again been kept down thanks to Renault's battery leasing scheme, which for this model costs £70 per month. The Zoe has a range of 130 miles, takes 4 hours to charge and has a top speed of 84 mph. A Zoe could be yours from as little as £13,833 with the government grant thanks to the battery lease scheme.
Electric Small Family Cars
Small family cars are a very close second in Europe's top selling segments, separated from the supermini category by only 0.2% which is nothing really. Small family cars are extremely popular, especially models like the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf. A few of the popular models we have come to love from this class have seen themselves transformed into an electric version which is great news for those looking to purchase something well known but with Eco credentials!
The Ford Focus Electric, is as the name suggests and electric version of the ever popular Ford Focus. This car has a range of 100 miles, a top speed of 84 mph and a standard charge time of 4 hours. The Focus is renowned for its excellent driving dynamics and this all electric version is no different making it a very safe bet as a purchase. This car comes in at £28,580 with the governments plug in car grant.
The Nissan leaf was one of the pioneers in modern electric cars, the name leaf itself actually stands for Leading Environmentally-friendly Affordable, Family car. This is one of the longest running all electric models which first went on sale here in 2011. This car has won a number of awards, including the 2011 world car of the year award. Pretty impressive stuff. The Leaf has a range of 124 miles with a 4 hour standard charge time and a top speed of 89 mph. Prices for this model start from £21,490 with the plug in car grant.
The Volkswagen Golf is renowned as a high quality small family hatchback. It therefore made sense for VW to extend the Golf line up with an electric version which they have now done with the e-Golf. This electric Golf has a range of 118 miles an 8 hour standard charge time and a top speed of 84 mph. The e-Golf costs £25,845 with the plug in car grant.
Electric Executive Cars
The market for electric executive cars is limited at present to just one contender. The mighty Tesla, the limited range of the competition just isn't up to the demands of a modern day executive car which would be required to tackle motorway cruising on a regular basis. Tesla's advanced technology leaves them in a class of their own, and the Tesla S is truly a superb car. The car comes with a choice of two batteries, the cheaper one can manage an extremely impressive range of 240 miles, this is however, completely smashed out of the water by the more powerful 85kWh battery which can manage 310 miles! Nothing on the market at present can compete with tesla's superiority, however, they have recently decided to share their patents in order to advance the electric car market which seems to be lagging far behind their achievements.
Tesla Model S 60kWh – This car has a 240 mile range and a standard charge time of 11 hours. Its top speed is 120 mph with a purchase price of £49,995 with the plug in car grant.
Tesla Model S 85kWh – This version has the 310 mile range, charges in 14 hours and has a top speed of 125 mph. It comes in at £57,355 with the grant.
Tesla Model S P85kWh – This is the performance version which again has a 310 mile range, 14 hour charge time but a top speed of 130 mph. This version costs £68,755 with the plug in car grant.
The model S is extremely impressive with great handling, performance and comfort, not to mention the 17 inch touchscreen infotainment system and handy gadgets that can heat your car before you get in it with an app! These Tesla's are the first truly viable electric cars and demonstrate where the market is heading.
Tesla plan to break the mould here also and bring out the first all electric SUV the Model X, although not available yet we have been teased with plenty of juicy details about this upcoming model and it's just as impressive as its sibling the model S. Watch this space.
Electric vans are the perfect way for businesses to reduce their costs, especially within the capital. With zero tailpipe emissions electric vans are both tax and congestion charging zone exempt. These vans are great in stop start traffic jams experienced in the city unlike petrol cars which still burn fuel while they are stopped. This makes them the perfect choice for short distance delivery driving or for the use of smaller businesses such a small retail owners, painters and decorators' etc. While the vans are more expensive than their petrol or diesel opposites the government has increased the plug in grant to a maximum of £8,000 for electric vans which does help with the cost.
The Renault Kangoo Van Z.E is cheaper to buy thanks to Renault's battery leasing scheme which costs £60 per month for this model. The van can manage a range of 106 miles with an 8 hour standard charge time. The top speed of this van is 81 mph and it costs £15,495 with the plug in van grant.
Nissan has also developed an electric van the e-NV2000 Combi has a range of 85 miles with an 8 hour standard charge time. The top speed is 76mph, prices for this model start from £22,859 with the governments electric van grant.
Obviously electric car ownership is not suited to everyone just yet, but with such huge advancements in the technology in such a short space of time, we don't think it will be long before there's something suitable for almost everyone. The biggest stumbling blocks right now are the range and the high purchase price. Renault has somewhat addressed the latter with their battery rental schemes, but in reality it is an added monthly expense to factor into ownership. Manufacturers are putting a lot of thought into this technology and how the shortfalls can be cushioned such as this battery rental. BMW has put a fantastic ace up their sleeve by giving owners the ability to occasionally loan a petrol or diesel car from them for those long distance journeys that the i3 couldn't manage.
In time all of the creases will have indeed been ironed out and electric vehicles will pave the way to a much cleaner future, providing of course that renewable forms of energy are also invested heavily in to stop us defeating the object of these green cars by burning fuels to create the electricity that powers them.
For the majority of people the range limitations of an electric vehicle are not really that founded as they wouldn't often reach the full range of the car in one trip. Other factors such as holidaying and where to charge the vehicle away from home will also need to be more thought out, but as the infrastructure blossoms again this will become a short lived headache, a minor niggle that people will soon forget. A considerable amount of money is being invested into these cars, just as it was with diesel cars a few decades back. As the technology is sold in greater volumes the costs to produce it will come down which will in turn bring down the prices for consumers.
Where to Buy an Electric Car
If you have decided to purchase an electric car you will now need to weigh up whether to buy new or used. With new cars you will receive warranties and guaranties on the vehicle and battery, but will of course pay considerably more for this. The alternative option of buying used could save you a considerable amount of money with even nearly new cars around half the price.
If you decide to purchase a new electric car, then the best place to visit is the dealerships. Franchised dealers will be fully trained in the technology and able to answer all of the questions you may have. The cars can be test driven to give you a good feel for them and compare what's available out there. They may also be more clued up about how to go about claiming for home charging points etc which will be of benefit.
If you decide to purchase a used electric car, look around, use the internet to do a thorough search, you may have to travel further afield to find your car, but websites like Cardeck can help you conduct a search by filtering for electric cars. Remember that dealers with a single electric car on their forecourt are not going to want it sitting around forever, they don't know if or when another interested buyer may walk through their door and could potentially lose money at auction. You can try and put in a cheeky offer and see if you can negotiate a fantastic deal that goes in your favour. Franchised dealers selling on used electric cars will have more knowledge in the subject and perhaps leave less room to negotiate but it's always worth a try.