Are you considering buying an Electric Car?, before you do so you may like to consider some aspects of Electric Car ownership, the type of real world points which are often overlooked and the type of facts which you will not find detailed in any Electric Car Dealers’ brochures!.
The main problem with electric car ownership is the usable range of the electric vehicle, depending on the model, your Electric Car may only be able to manage 40 miles on a single charge, and whilst some expensive luxury electric cars are being produced which will be able to manage just over 100 miles per charge, even with such low figures, it still means that your electric car will have little practicality beyond the occasional shopping trip or school run, and will not be able to be used for the family holiday or long daily commute.
Currently, there is also the problem with public charging points, or should I say lack of them. Electric Car purchases, have currently been something of a disappointment to the manufacturers here in the UK, and because roll out and customer take up has been so slow, there has been little interest in the provision of street charging points, with the ones which are provided generally being limited to a few bays in Council run car parks in main city centres and a sprinkling of hotels and Railway Stations and Nissan car dealer forecourts.
It seems that even the most obvious of places to install electric car charging points such as Supermarket Chains, Hospitals, DIY Stores and conventional petrol forecourts doesn’t seem to be happening either, and there are also only a very limited number of motorway service areas which offer a charging point to its patrons. For Electric Car use to ever actively replace our everyday cars which run on Petrol, Diesel and LPG there needs to be several public charging points installed in every town and every Council owned car park, however as it stands, it is entirely possible to drive more than three or four times the current usable charging range of an average Electric Vehicle, and still never find a public charging point!!, and this is not good news for those considering the purchase of an Electric Car, as the infrastructure is clearly not yet in place to support its use.
Also in relation to charging is the actual time it takes to charge Electric Cars, to achieve a full charge in most current models it would take anything between eight and sixteen hours, far longer than anybody wants to spend doing the shopping or visiting a town centre. Yes, it is possible to fast charge most Electric Car Batteries in as little as 30 to 45 minutes, however doing so requires the use of a high speed electric car charging point, which are even more rare to find, than normal charging points.
You should also take great care in the frequency in which you fast charge your Electric Car batteries, and avoid this type of charging on a daily basis as excessive use of fast chargers can eventually reduce the life cycle of the battery, making premature failure more likely, and reducing its capacity and so reducing the vehicles’ usable range between charges.
If you intend to charge the vehicle at home, then you will need to fit a special socket, either outside or in a garage or outbuilding, and this will require the services of an Electrician. If you opt for the heavy duty, high current fast charger, then you may need an additional consumer unit or an existing consumer unit upgrade, which can cost several hundred pounds, just to install the hardware required to charge your car. If you are intending on buying an Electric car and your charging will mainly be done overnight, then you might want to change your household electricity tariff to an Economy 7 tariff.
Whilst robust in design, Electric Car batteries still have a finite lifetime and will eventually need to be replaced, Electric Car batteries largely use the same battery technology as is used in Mobile Phone and Laptops, just on a much larger scale. When you consider just how long an average laptop battery lasts before it reduces in its capacity and eventually requires replacement, then you will see yet another obvious drawback in Electric Vehicle ownership which use the same technology.
Whilst some Electric Car manufacturers promote their batteries as lasting the lifetime of the vehicle, it is not entirely known what this period is exactly, as it tends to vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. However most warranties offered by the manufacturers on battery life tend to hover at around five to eight years, which is in essence much shorter than the expected life of a petrol or diesel engine in a conventional car.
With the cost of battery replacement for an Electric Car costing anything upto £10,000 (one newspaper report puts the cost of battery replacements on one model at £19,000!) this potential future expense somewhere down the line is unlikely to be welcomed by Electric Vehicle owners. Given the high cost of replacing the electric car batteries once they have exhausted their useful life, it is also likely to affect the second hand value of the vehicle, if you come to sell it in the future.
After all, who wants to buy a second hand electric vehicle which is three or four years old, and only has around a year left to run on its manufacturers battery warranty, after which, the potential for it requiring a complete £10k battery replacement becomes a real possibility to its new owner. The possibility of this considerable expense lurking on the horizon is likely to seriously reduce the second hand value of Electric Cars, and may even make them difficult to sell, as it is a bit like trying to sell a petrol car, which potentially will require the expense of a complete new engine in the coming few years!. Suffice to say that the battery range on a four or five year old Electric Car will be noticeably less than when it was new, due to its age and many hundreds of charge / discharge cycles, again reducing the attractiveness of second hand ownership if you ever wish to sell it on
In the U.S, there is currently the opportunity to cover the cost of the eventual Battery replacement by taking out a warranty in the form of a battery exchange program, however such a monthly expense further reduces the void between the cost of running Electric Cars compared to conventional fuel powered ones. If Electric Cars are ever going to be a viable prospect for most families and commuters, then the car manufacturers are going to have to improve both the battery range, and offer the same life cycle from the internal batteries which matches or exceeds the life cycle of a diesel engine.
Using an Electric Car in Winter is also likely to seriously reduce its usable battery range. Considering that, without a conventional engine, obtaining hot water from a radiator for a conventional heating matrix is non existent in an Electric Vehicle and so there is no heating available for climate control and demisting. Therefore a small electric heater has to be used to raise the cabin temperature and also demist the windscreen, which alongside powering heated mirrors, headlights, wipers etc, this current draw will seriously reduce the already limited capacity of the batteries and impact on the range of the vehicle, perhaps by as much as half.
With all of these facts in the equation, it may appear that perhaps, beyond a short commute to work or the school run, that Electric Car ownership is not yet a viable option or conventional car replacement for most people, certainly not whilst the cost of buying one exceeds that of most equivalent model petrol or diesel cars.