Getting all charged up for running an electric car

BMW i3 is a purpose-built electric car available with pure battery power or also boosted by a Range

BMW i3 is a purpose-built electric car available with pure battery power or also boosted by a Range Extender. - Credit: BMW

Thinking of splashing out on a new all-electric car? Here are a few things to consider before you buy.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are an ever-more common sight on UK roads.

Developments in battery technology, high-performance models and more charge points have all helped them become more widely accepted. And a new automotive industry forecast by Go Ultra Low predicts EVs will account half of all new car registrations by 2027.

Sales of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs), which include EVs as well as hybrids which combine an electric motor with a petrol or diesel engine, rose by 21.3% to 46,014 units for the first six months of this year compared to the same period of 2015. But they still account for only 3.2% of total UK registrations.

If you're considering splashing your hard-earned dosh on a new EV, what sort of things should you be thinking about?


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Availability of charging points

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As with anything that runs on a battery – be it your phone or your laptop – the question of how to keep it charged will always rear its ugly head. While EV charge points are nowhere near as common as the classic filling station, more and more are cropping up around the country almost daily and there are about 4,000 public charge points.

In the past month, about 330 new connectors have been added to these charge points, bringing the total number in the UK to about 12,000.

As EVs become more widely adopted, the infrastructure to keep them up and running will expand to keep up with demand.

For now, though, it would pay to keep tabs on where your nearest charge points are to stop you getting caught short.

Availability of off-street parking

This might sound a strange thing to bear in mind, but you will need to think about the availability of off-street parking near your house because when your EV is parked up for the night, chances are you'd want to plug it in to charge.

Many electric cars can't be charged if the charging cable will not reach it from the power source – usually you cannot use an extension cable – so you really need to have a garage with power or driveway to leave your car in overnight.

Grants and discounts

EVs are subject to the government's Plug-in Vehicle Grant, which can help take up to £4,500 off the price of an EV.

How much money you get relies on how much carbon dioxide your car produces, and how far it can travel on electric power. Conveniently, pure electric vehicles produce no tail-pipe emissions, so you won't have to worry about that.

Your daily mileage

According to the Energy Saving Trust, most EVs currently on the market have a realistic range of about 100 miles. This is usually fine for dropping the kids at school or heading to and from work. If you're in the sort of job where you have to travel the length and breadth of the country daily you might find you tire of your electric car's limited range rather quickly.

Running costs

While EVs may be a bit pricey to buy or lease, they are much cheaper than conventional cars to run.

Firstly, you won't have to pay any vehicle excise duty as EVs emit no CO2.

Secondly, according to Go Ultra Low, running certain EVs costs less than 2p per mile, while traditional petrol cars cost 12p per mile – so your money will take you further.

Finally, as EVs have fewer moving parts than cars with combustion engines, they can last a significant number of road hours longer between compulsory maintenance checks. As there are fewer moving parts, there is also less to go wrong – which could save you money on maintenance.

That said, batteries only have so much life in them, and will need replacing eventually – a process that is likely to cost a pretty penny – although some EV manufacturers offer a monthly leasing price for the battery based on mileage.

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