Five things to know before buying an Electric Vehicle

With the Anti-Diesel stance currently being promoted within the UK, along with additional taxes & congestion charging being levied and even bans on diesel cars entering parts of some Cities, now is the time that many car owners are considering changing over to an Electric Vehicle for their next car.

Although the media and manufacturers would have you believe that buying an Electric Car is some form of Motoring Utopia, buying and owning a pure Electric Car does come with their own restrictions, drawbacks and expense, most of which you will not read in the Manufacturers Glossy Brochures, and there will be some major differences to owning a petrol or diesel.

So what are the fact that the Electric Car Dealers probably won’t be telling you?. We blow away all of the marketing b/s, and concentrate on the main areas of consideration, the areas of Electric Car ownership that may cost you money, and create inconvenience.

Five things to know before buying an Electric Vehicle

  1. Purchase Cost

Inevitably, there is an increase in the cost of purchasing a Pure Electric Vehicle, compared to its Petrol or Diesel equivalents, how much this additional cost is depends on the type of car and its manufacturer, and may range from a few £1000 to £10k+ depending on whether its a City Car, or a Luxury High End Sports car or SUV. Consider this additional cost in the cost of fuel for the conventional diesel or petrol car that its replacing, because even at today’s prices, a £5000 price difference on the purchase may actually be more than what you would use in Fuel for the time that you own the Electric Vehicle, and this becomes even more important the greater the difference in purchase price, and essentially you would have to intend on owning an Electric Car for at least ten years, and do quite a high annual mileage in order to get a £12k difference back in purchase cost, from Fuel Savings alone.

Many people who do low mileages consider Electric City Cars to be an ideal replacement for nipping to the Shops or doing the School Run, which may be admirable in the eyes of Greta, but would the £3000 extra cost to purchase, really be clawed back in fuel savings. or would you be better buying a small petrol car, and then using the £3000 to put fuel in it for the next 5 years.

Of course if you live in London, or any big City where congestion charges or other taxes are common then the more you will save by owning an Electric Vehicle and so the more attractive it is, however for most people it will be a factor that should have you reaching for the calculator.

2. Cost of Charging it at Home

Once you have your Electric Car, and get it home then the problem is where do you plug it in?. A standard 13 Amp outdoor socket or your £10 Argos Extension lead is hardly going to be safe or of much use, to your Fast Charging Tesla which needs a 25 – 32 Amp supply or above. Whilst fast charging cars like Tesla is never going to be practical at home, as it requires far more than your domestic Electricity Meter can supply (50kw – 100kw), you will want to be charging your car far faster than the 3KW available from the Outdoor Socket, (unless you have a few days to patiently wait for each charge to complete).

Unless you are fortunate enough to have an offer where the installation is free when you purchase the Electric Vehicle, then you will need to choose a suitable Outdoor Charging point, buy it and have an Electrician Install it in an outdoor location close to where you park the car. There are a huge range of Electric Car Charging Points for use at home, including Anderson A2, Zappi and Rolec, all of which will do the same thing, but come at radically differing costs.

A Decent Electrician is a must at this point, both to give you advice on which charger is best for your car / location, and to do the actual install. So once you have bought the car, don’t forget to add in the cost of purchasing a suitable Charging Point and the time and materials for the Electrician to both advise and do the install and these costs should also be factored into the Fuel vs Electric Car cost equation. Whilst rates of Electricians can vary massively from area to area, suffice to say that once the Charging Point is purchased and the Installation Complete, you should expect to pay well into four figures. Using an Electrician who is also trained and experienced in Electric Car Charging points is also recommended.

 

3. Public Charging Point Practicality

Even though the idea of charging your car every night from your own charging point, or whilst Shopping at Tesco, is what every new Electric Car owner anticipates there will be times when you inevitably have to go further afield and use a public charging point, perhaps in an area where you are not familiar with.

Whilst most supermarkets and service areas have at least one charging point, what about the ones in other Car Parks or Town Centres?. At the time of writing this there are several car charging point providers and no central billing system. This ultimately means that to use charging points owned by multiple operators, you will need to register and have billing accounts with each of them. Most Charging Points also don’t allow you to PAYG, by swiping or entering in your card details at the actual point, which means no account with the provider = no use of the charging point.

This is probably the most highly restrictive aspect of Electric Car ownership, but one which isn’t seemingly going to be solved any time soon

 

4. Local Electricity Supply Issues

Whilst the drive to get everybody into Electric Cars is evident, little thought has been given to the actual Electric supply infrastructure. There are millions of older houses in the UK which have old fashioned Electricity Supply arrangements, and the service head (Your meter and main incoming fuse) may be under rated for the current required to safely charge your car. Generally the requirement is that your property has a 100A service fuse, yet 80A, 60A and even 40A service supplies are still quite common, which will ultimately mean that you need to pay the Electricity Board or DNO as they are now known, a fee to upgrade your supply, this again adds to the initial cost of Electric Car ownership.

In some cases, it may not be possible to upgrade your Electricity Supply, and in some areas like London, its quite common for two domestic properties to share a split supply from a single street fuse and so have very limited capacity. When this happens you probably won’t be able to have a charging point fitted at home, and then be limited to charging your car from public charging points, which is a bit of a bind when you have just committed to purchasing a car, which is now going to become a problem to charge. This is why its important to do this research BEFORE you even consider ‘going electric’ for your transport needs.

If you are a two or three car family, then you are unlikely at this time, to be able to replace them all with Electric Cars just yet, unless you operate a family rota where you can charge one car at a time, as there simply isn’t enough incoming Electricity capacity to run your household and also charge multiple Electric Vehicles.

5. Electric Vehicle Range vs Practicality

Whilst many are considering Electric Cars purely for a short journey, or a fixed commute where careful calculations have been made to ensure you have enough range, what about family holidays?, visiting relatives? or trips out? all of which take you out of your charging comfort range. Very few people want to feel pressured when on a long journey, to be frantically watching the range display count down and the distance charging point logo on the Sat Nav map – that isn’t my idea of a relaxing day out, or the start of a holiday but they will be reality if you use your car for long motorway journeys.

Apps and Online Maps like  Zap Map and Go Ultra Low  will help, but don’t forget that you have no idea whether the charging point in an unfamiliar area will be out of commission or already in use, and there is nothing worse than turning up to the only charging point in a rural area to find a Nissan Leaf, on an 8 hour charge already hooked up to it!.

Even when you do arrive you then have to search through your wallet or purse and sort through the cards for the seven different charging point operators to find the one which is compatible to start your charge, as described in point 3 above.

Whilst Car Manufacturers have made huge strides in increasing the range of their Electric Cars, the long range ones inevitably are also the luxury end of the market, the cost of which may be out of many car owners’ budget, meaning that most long trips, then become something of a military planning exercise.

At the moment still many Electric Cars can take hours to charge, and there are still limited numbers of car charging points compared to the number of cars on the road, which, as the uptake of Electric Car ownership increases, may result in increased demand for limited numbers of points, especially during peak travel times, such as Bank Holidays and the Start of the Summer Holidays. Given that all Electric Cars take longer to charge than to full up with petrol or diesel then queues and delays will form on major holiday routes as frustrated Electric Car owners wait in turn for several hours as the cars ahead of them charge in the service areas.

In short, Electric Car ownership, still isn’t practical beyond City use or for a fixed commute, unless you have the budget to pay for a Tesla or similar Luxury Car which make driving for hundreds of miles on a single charge, a possibility.

So for now, I suspect Petrol and Diesel cars are going to be with us for some years to come, and why choose a Pure Electric Vehicle?, when you can buy a Hybrid, and get the best of both worlds?.

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