Even though electric cars have been around longer than the internal combustion engine, for various reasons they have not been seen as a viable option outside of some very limited applications.
That sentiment is slowly changing and while Tesla can be credited for being the first company to get people really interested in the technology, the rest of the motor industry is now preparing for an onslaught of new EVs too.
It sure looks as though the future will be an all-electric one but is it finally time to buy an EV now, or should we wait a little longer before taking the plunge? To better answer that question we have taken a look at the pros and cons of electric vehicles in the current market as well as what it will be like to own one in a few year’s time.
If you are currently considering trading in your petrol or diesel-powered vehicle on an EV then this is definitely worth a read.
One of the first things that potential Electric Vehicle (EV) buyers ask is whether the charging infrastructure is expansive enough to ensure they do not get stranded.
The short answer is that it depends. It depends on where you live and how long your daily commute is.
If you are based in London and do under 100 miles a day (which is highly likely) then just about any EV on the market will suit your needs.
How far can you go?
Most EVs on the roads offer at least 100 miles (real miles not the ones manufacturers claim) of driving range. That may fall well short of internal combustion engines but few people ever travel that sort of distance in a day.
Tesla currently offers the longest range of any EV on the market with some of their Model S and Model X vehicles capable of over 300 miles on a single charge. The Model S P100D claims a 393 mile range on the ENDC cycle on a single charge.
A VW e-Up manages only 99 miles, but is still way more than most people will travel in one day. If you do need more range but don’t want to pay Tesla money then a Nissan Leaf with a 40kWh battery can do 235 miles.
How long does it take to charge the batteries?
If you plan to simply plug your car into your home socket then a full charge can take anything from 5 to 8 hours depending on the size of the battery.
Three-phase chargers and fast chargers at certain petrol stations can cut that time down to between 2 to 3 hours. Some EVs also allow for a quick charge where you can get the battery to between 50 and 70 percent in as little as half an hour.
If you are embarking on a longer trip then it is worth researching whether there are chargers along your route and remember to factor in the additional time it will take to charge your battery over just filling up with petrol at each stop.
What does an EV drive like?
While some earlier EVs tended to be a bit underpowered just about any new model today is going to give you a nice surprise as you pull away from the lights.
The instant-on torque delivery means that pick-up and response to the accelerator is instantaneous, overtaking is generally far quicker than in a similarly priced petrol or diesel car, even turbocharged ones.
The electric motors tend to spin in reverse as soon as you lift of the accelerator so it will take a few miles to get used to how strongly an EV decelerates even before you touch the brakes.
Other than that, the driving experience is broadly similar to an ICE vehicle except for the complete lack of engine noise of course.
Battery technology is improving all the time, BMW’s i3 debuted with a 64 kWh battery pack in 2014 and it now has a 120 kWh version just four years later.
Some manufacturers are experimenting with alternative battery tech that will allow for faster charging and a longer range however we are still in the early stages of EVs so it remains to be seen which systems become standardized in the years to come.
While the running costs and servicing of EVs should be far lower than a comparable ICE vehicle, the longevity and replacement costs of the battery pack remain largely unknown. That said, batteries in older EVs have shown very little degradation over the years.
The UK is moving towards offering financial incentives solely for pure EVs whereas in the past hybrids were also incentivized.
Some industry experts feel that this may be happening a bit too soon but for people considering an EV this is good news.
The grant will pay for 35% of the purchase price for these vehicles, up to a maximum of £3,500. Cars like the Jaguar I-Pace, Kia Soul EV, BMW i3 and Tesla Model S are eligible for these grants.
The BMW i8, Toyota Prius Plug-in, Audi A3 e-tron and all Volvo Twin Engine models are examples of vehicles that are no longer covered by the grant.
Thanks to a big push to lower pollution levels in cities, if you have to commute into a city each day, chances are that you will not have to pay for parking, congestion charge or even to recharge your EV.
Road tax is also currently zero for full EVs, combine these incentives and you can save a lot of money over the course of a year over an ICE car.
The current range of EVs that you can buy in the UK range from the relatively affordable Kia Soul EV to the mid-range Tesla Model 3 and Jaguar I-Pace and up to the range topping Tesla Model S and X.
Once incentives and running costs have been taken into account, they compare favourably with traditional ICE vehicles.
The EV market is on the cusp of takin off in a big way, just about every major manufacturer is introducing a new Electric vehicle in the next two years.
A small selection of what you can expect to see silently cruising down the road include the Tesla Model Y and Roadster, BMW iX3 SUV and Porsche Taycan.
Some will be slotting into existing model ranges while others will be all-new models that will try to lure motorists away from more traditional luxury and sports cars.
In general, new EVs tend to suffer from steep depreciation but that is slowly changing, and some popular models are starting to hold their values rather well.
Few EVs are purchased outright, however, most customers prefer to go the lease or Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) route as they will be able to hand the car back at the end of the lease.
What about hybrids?
Hybrids come in various shapes and sizes, from mild hybrids that have small capacity batteries to plug-in versions that allow for fully-electric driving for a short distance (usually not more than 30 miles).
While a hybrid can make sense if you do short distances during the week and longer trips over the weekend, the generally higher purchase price is unlikely to be recouped for many years, if ever.
Hybrids are essentially a stopgap solution while the industry weans itself off petrol and diesel vehicles, seeing as the government has stopped incentivizing them already, you may be better off just getting a normal petrol-powered car or going for a fully electric vehicle instead.
Is there any other competition for EVs?
While currently all the attention is being placed on EVs, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles show a lot of promise too, offering far faster refueling/charging capabilities and a great range.
The cost of the technology has to come down before it can be more widely implemented and challenges with storing hydrogen also need to be overcome before they pose a serious threat to EVs.
So, should you buy an EV?
In the current market the decision to buy an EV comes down to range, resale values and charging infrastructure.
As we have covered, the range issue comes down to your intended use for the vehicle, if you do hundreds of miles a day or are planning to go on frequent cross-continent trips then you may want to wait a few more years for the battery tech and charging infrastructure to catch up with your requirements.
For most motorists, the answer is yes
Resale values can also dissuade customers and, as it stands, our recommendation would be to look out for good deals on nearly-new EVs, going the Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) route or leasing the car instead of buying it outright will also ensure that you can sell it on when the finance deal comes to an end.
The future of motoring may well be the EV but nobody wants to get stuck with yesterday’s technology.