I’ve made the switch to an electric vehicle and it has plenty of positives

Paul Burall with his Renault Zoe - he rents the battery which keeps the costs down

Paul Burall with his Renault Zoe - he rents the battery which keeps the costs down - Credit: Archant

Electric car user Paul Burall says don't be put off by the cost of an electric car, it could be the best motoring decision you make

The government has brought forward the date for banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars to 2035. Already there are signs of consumers beginning to switch to fully electric vehicles (EVs): while the total number of new cars sold in 2019 dropped by more than 2% compared with 2018 - continuing a trend that has been apparent for some time - sales of fully electric cars increased by more than 200%.

Nevertheless, electric vehicle (EV) sales in 2019 still totalled only just over 38,000 out of a total of more than two million.

There are probably two primary reasons for the low number of people buying EVs: the purchase price and concerns about how far they can be driven before requiring lengthy recharging.

Price is certainly an issue. At the moment, most EVs are significantly more expensive than their petrol or diesel equivalents. This may be made worse if the current £3,500 government grant for purchasing an EV comes to an end in March. However, battery costs - a significant part of the cost of an EV - are reducing rapidly and dropped by around 80% in the last five years.

Sandra Wappelhorst of the International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT) has suggested that purchase prices will begin to match those for fossil-fuel powered cars around 2025.

And the cost of ownership involves much more than the purchase price, so it is worth pointing out that an EV is considerably less expensive to run than a fossil-fuelled vehicle. Charged off-peak at home, my Renault Zoe EV costs around 2p a mile in energy compared with around 10p for a comparable diesel car. Maintenance costs are also considerably lower, with the motor requiring virtually no maintenance. EVs also attract zero car tax.

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Research by the ICCT suggests that, for an average driver, an EV offers a net financial advantage over a conventional vehicle over a four-year period.

As for the limited range of EV's, most current models offer a maximum realistic range of around 200 miles, although some will travel further than this on a single charge.

Recharging at home with a 7.5 kilowatt charger (the maximum that is usually possible with a domestic electricity supply) can take around nine hours from zero to fully charged and around three hours using a 22 kilowatt charger at motorway service stations and some supermarket and other sites.

While this may seem a severe limitation, it is of no relevance for these short journeys that make up the majority for many people. It is also worth pointing out that a break from driving is usually a good idea after around three hours at the wheel, so the inconvenience is really very limited.

So what is it like to own an EV?

Three years ago, when my elderly diesel began to cost a lot in maintenance, I decided to find out, knowing that we still had available my wife's diesel for longer journeys. So I bought a second-hand Nissan Leaf. This had an extremely limited range - less than 60 miles in cold weather - but proved to be perfectly adequate for the local journeys which make up the great majority of those that I drive day-to-day.

It also proved to be a joy to drive, responsive, quiet and cheap to run.

Incidentally, for those who hate the aggressive drivers who try to beat everyone else at two lane traffic lights, the instant full torque available from an electric motor makes it possible to leave the boy racers behind from a standing start, although driving like this has a significant detrimental effect on the range of an EV and is not recommended.

Having proved to myself the benefits of an EV, 18 months ago I bought a new Renault Zoe with a range of slightly more than 200 miles in summer and 160 miles in cold weather. To keep the price down, I opted to rent the battery rather than buy it outright as, over the period I expect to own the vehicle, this is the cheapest option. However, this does depend on how the car is used as the cost is calculated on the basis of the annual distance travelled.

Currently, the Renault Zoe costs around £26,000 if the battery is bought outright. This falls to less than £19,000 if the battery is rented; the rental rate starts at around £60 for an annual mileage of up to 4,500.

The home charging point costs around £750, partly covered by a government grant. And some manufacturers include the cost in the price of the vehicle.

My verdict: if you regularly travel long distances without a break, then an EV is not for you. But if the limitations that I have described are not a real obstacle, then an EV is certainly worth considering. A test drive will soon reveal some of the key advantages.