With the ban on the sale of new gasoline, diesel and hybrid cars to 2035 – and possibly 2032, according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps – more drivers will consider switching to electric vehicles early.
While there is no doubt that the UK needs to address the issue of air pollution, what are the other benefits and potential pitfalls of battery car ownership?
Consumer group Which? has given us his exclusive expert answers to five of the top questions buyers are now asking about electric vehicles …
Is it time to buy an electric car? Exclusive report of which? answers five of the most pressing questions drivers will have about switching to a battery-powered car
1. Are electric cars really that green?
One of the biggest arguments between early adopters of electric cars and steadfast combustion engine fans revolves around the potential environmental benefits of battery-powered vehicles.
Several studies have shown that electric vehicles, while not completely green, are not as polluting as gasoline and diesel equivalents.
An analysis by research organization BloombergNEF in 2019 found that the CO2 emissions from electric vehicles charged with non-renewable energy are still 40 percent lower than the output of cars with combustion engines.
Which? said it also knows that battery cars are cleaner because it measures the exhaust’s CO2 emissions (which electric cars don’t have) and calculates a car’s well-to-wheel (HRV) CO2.
CO2 emissions from non-renewable energy electric vehicles are still 40% lower than those of gasoline or diesel cars, a recent study shows
“This takes into account the CO2 impact of generating and delivering the fuel, and how efficiently the car uses it,” the product test company said.
“It is based on an EU-wide average for fuel generation and supply, so there will be variations. But what is clear is that in general it takes more CO2 to get electricity in cars than petrol or diesel.
“However, when you consider how efficiently a car uses its fuel, our independent tests show that petrol and diesel cars have a WTW CO2 average of 188-190 g / km, compared to 115 g / km for electric driving.”
According to her tests, electric cars are far from sin-free, but still “significantly less responsible for CO2” than a combustion equivalent.
And if energy production shifts more towards renewable sources in the future, such as solar, wind or hydropower, the HRV figures for electric cars will continue to fall.
2. Are the electric models series becoming less of a problem?
One of the biggest drawbacks to electric car ownership for drivers is the limitation of the driving range.
But as battery technology is developing fast and manufacturers are bringing new and better models to market with greater driving distances between charges.
You don’t have to spend more than £ 80,000 on an expensive Tesla to cover more than 200 miles on a single charge – more affordable examples of Kia (Kona Electric), Hyundai (e-Niro) and Tesla (Model 3) can achieve this kind of figures in the real world.
Relatively cheaper models, such as the Hyundai Kona Electric, have a range of over 200 miles, even in field tests
And which? has found from its own car research that owners of electric vehicles make many kilometers with their machines.
Figures show that EV drivers travel an average of 9,257 miles per year, which is more than petrol car owners.
“That equates to just under 180 miles a week, which is possible today with a single load with some cars, and two loads with pretty much everything else.”
3. Electric cars have fewer moving parts and should therefore be more reliable, right?
This is not necessarily the case, because from the Which? Turns out they are not without problems.
The most recent survey in 2019 found that petrol and hybrid car owners had fewer errors per car than those driving electric.
Tesla’s Model S and Model X are the best in terms of electric car range, but they’re on the bottom for EV reliability.
And just over one in four electric car owners under three had a problem to report. This is more than a third for cars aged 3-8 years.
The consumer group said these older cars are also more unlucky than other fuel types and spent twice as much time in the garage than average.
But despite this overall higher error rate, you may be surprised that electric car owners are among the most satisfied car owners.
The Tesla Model S has been the most loved car for years and the current Nissan Leaf has been voted the mid-sized hatchback that is the most satisfying to drive.
Tesla’s Model S and Model X (pictured) top the list of electric cars, but they’re at the bottom for EV reliability, say owners who filled out the latest Which? Auto investigation
4. Are electric cars more practical to use?
If you can charge your car somewhere off the road or at home, they are undoubtedly practical to own. However, that is still not the case if you can only park on the street or live in a flat.
“ If you have supermarkets or parking garages nearby with chargers, it’s easy to do the weekly store, or whatever you want, while getting compensation for a week (those 180 miles) at the same time, which should make it easier the report says.
But it further acknowledges that there are known issues with public chargers, including a lack of accessible charging points and devices that don’t always work.
The main problem, however, is the large number of different networks, each of which requires an app, a website or an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) card.
“To see how feasible it is to drive an electric car without a charger, we drove an Audi e-tron SUV for a week,” explains expert Adrian Porter.
“We got a website and four apps on hand to use the charging points around us, which is difficult.”
This should improve later this year, with the government providing funds for a range of new fast chargers with pay-as-you-charge facilities using a contactless card.
5. Have we come to a good place where electric cars are cheaper to own than petrol and diesel?
The biggest hurdle that holds this back is the higher cost of electric models, which still have a significant premium over a comparable combustion engine car.
This has not been helped by the recent government decision to scrap the plug-in car subsidy with immediate effect after the last budget.
The grant has been cut from £ 3,500 to just £ 3,000 and is now only available for electric models with a purchase price of less than £ 50,000, eliminating Tesla.
The operating costs can also be high if you cannot charge at home.
Those with an off-street charger can convert rates into competitive rates so they can keep their bills low.
And while some charging points are free, the rates charged by some public charging networks can make it really expensive – like What Car? discovered in a recent market report. It said some public networks can be up to 10 times more expensive to use than charging at home.
And while electric cars without CO2 emissions – in theory – are exempt from road tax, you’re still likely to be stung by vehicle and excise taxes.
Any new model purchased for over £ 40,000 (which will be the case for many electric vehicles) is subject to a higher tax for five years (staring in the second year), which costs a whopping £ 320 a year.
Is it time to consider making the switch? Only if you can charge at home, says the report “Which?”
Which one? verdict …
‘You can and can switch to an electric car, knowing that it is really better for the environment, at least in terms of driving, given our WTW CO2 figures.
There’s no denying that it’s much easier and cheaper to charge it from home, but this requires off-road parking you can get power on, which not everyone has.
“The initial cost of buying an electric car can be high, but be aware of the price cuts.”
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