First of all, there are many benefits to choosing an electric car over a petrol or diesel-powered car.
Electric cars are cheaper to run
When compared to the cost of petrol and diesel, electricity is much cheaper. When calculated on a cost-per-mile basis, a pure electric car can cost less than a third of the running costs of petrol/diesel cars.
Hybrids and Plug-in hybrids (cars which combine an efficient electric motor with a petrol or diesel engine) can also be significantly cheaper to run.
Electric cars are cheaper to maintain
Petrol and diesel engines are complicated, with many moving parts – exhaust systems, fuel injection systems, radiators, gears, starter motors, oil etc. Any one of these can go wrong, leaving you at the mercy of mechanics at the local garage.
In contrast, pure electric cars have just three main components – an on-board charger, inverter and motor. This means there are fewer aspects that require maintenance than an internal combustion engine and servicing costs are much cheaper.
Plug-in hybrids are also cheaper to maintain than full petrol or diesel engines. Although plug-in hybrids have a petrol engine that will require servicing, the electric motor needs much less and contributes to much of the output, resulting in less wear and tear on the petrol engine.
Electric cars are better for the environment
Pure electric cars have no emissions, whereas plug-in hybrids have much lower emissions than traditional petrol and diesel cars. This means driving an electric car can contribute to improving air quality, especially in urban areas, at the roadside and near schools.
Even when taking into account the impact of generating the electricity used to power electric cars, the overall production of greenhouse gases is still significantly lower than petrol and diesel cars.
Electric cars are easy to charge
A common reason drivers cite for not choosing an electric car is the ‘hassle’ of charging. When compared with nipping into a petrol station for five minutes, many view the electric car charging process as a major drawback.
However, rather than comparing like-for-like, drivers should be seeing electric cars as a chance to change their habits and never having to go and queue at a busy petrol station again. Home charging units can currently be purchased at big discounts thanks to the OLEV grant and can be installed at home on any wall. This means you can stick it on charge overnight, and the whole process is just as difficult as charging your mobile phone.
Electric cars come with tax incentives and grants
The UK Government are encouraging drivers to choose an electric car, offering a plug-in car grant which provides a discount of £3,500 for eligible cars. There are also grants on offer to help towards paying for home, workplace or on-street charging points.
There are also significant tax incentives related to electric cars – particularly for company car drivers.
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Should I lease or buy an electric car?
Leasing is increasingly becoming the most popular way of getting behind the wheel of an electric car.
Buying an electric car outright, or using a finance plan or loan to buy it, means you will own the car – but with electric cars most of the benefits come with leasing.
Leasing means you don’t get left behind as technology improves
With traditional petrol/diesel cars, there isn’t much change in the technology. A new car from five years ago is quite similar to a brand new car, except for maybe some extra mod cons (park assist, lane assist etc.)
In contrast, the technology behind electric cars is moving fast – which means buying one could leave you well behind the curve in a few years. For example, the popular Nissan Leaf only had a range of 73 miles back in 2010. In 2019 electric cars are boasting battery ranges of up to 300 miles on a single charge.
Battery charging times are also decreasing all the time as the technology improves, so leasing provides the flexibility to upgrade your electric car every few years.
Leasing allows you to avoid depreciation in value
Electric cars currently lose a lot of value in the first year, which would ordinarily not make them good candidates for leasing. Typically, car models that depreciate in value quickly cost more to lease, as the lease company factors the depreciation into the lease payment (so they are not hit in the pocket when the lease term ends).
However, when it comes to electric cars lease companies look to offset the rapid depreciation rates and lower the cost of the monthly payments using a variety of methods. These include lowering the interest rate and offering cash incentives.
Leasing stops you worrying about the battery
Although battery range is increasing all the time, there are still question marks over the batteries used to power electric cars.
One of the biggest issues concerns battery degradation – with batteries losing some of their range capacity with age.
After being in use for five years or so, an electric car battery could lose around 10% of its range – so if you choose to lease an electric car and upgrade it every three or four years you won’t have a problem.
One of the more confusing aspects of electric cars for consumers is: which type is the best?
There are three different types of electric car – hybrid, plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and a pure electric car. Below we will explain the difference between each of these, so you can make the best choice on which one fits your needs the best.
Difference between a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid
The difference between the two kinds of hybrid electric car is quite simple, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (or PHEV) can be plugged into an external electricity source to charge the battery, whereas a ‘conventional’ hybrid cannot.
Both types of hybrid have an electric battery and a traditional internal combustion petrol engine, but a PHEV will typically have a larger and more powerful electric battery component – as it can be charged. This means a plug-in hybrid can be driven purely on electric power for a lot of journeys - with many models capable of over 30 miles on a single charge before the petrol engine is required.
The drawback for plug-in hybrids is that there added complexity and bigger battery mean they are usually more expensive than a traditional hybrid. However, they are a great option for those wanting to cut emissions without the issue of range anxiety.
A regular hybrid car charges its battery by capturing energy when braking, using regenerative braking that converts kinetic energy into electricity. The electric motor then usually works alongside the petrol engine to reduce emissions and fuel usage, and at times takes over completely.
For example, when you pull away from a standing start in a hybrid the electric motor does all the work and then switches to the petrol engine for normal cruising (as this is when fuel use is the most efficient). When you accelerate sharply, the electric motor will kick in again to support the petrol engine, so they both work together to increase the fuel economy and reduce emissions.
Pure electric cars – or Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV)
Unlike hybrids, a pure electric car runs 100% on electric battery power. They can be charged using a home outlet or public charging station.
Electric cars have no emissions, as there is no fuel being used, so are the most efficient.
The main issue drivers have with electric cars is range anxiety (worried about how far they will go on a single charge) and the availability of public charging stations. However, as battery technology continues to develop, these issues will soon be a thing of the past – with many major car manufacturers now committing to only produce electric and hybrid car models.