June 3, 2020

Electric Cars – What Have We Learnt?

By Earnest B. Sells

Electric Cars - What Have We Learnt?

Over the last few years we have all been aware at how ‘greener’ measures are being introduced into our daily lives; from the recycling within a home to the plans to reduce carbon dioxide levels across the breadth of a country. Technology has also of course appeared to help this plight and ‘electric cars’ have become less of a novelty but more something we are becoming used to.

However how do they really fare for the average person? Do they help save you money as well as the environment around us?

Money in your pocket

Like most things in life, there are two sides to this argument, and there will be different experiences from people depending on where they may live or any problems they may have experienced.

Negatives

Outlay & depreciation – the initial outlay for an electric car (or more likely, a hybrid car) is higher than you would pay for a regular car (regarding performance etc). This is due to the new technology used in the cars and that there isn’t widespread demand in the consumer market. Depreciation is also a factor to consider. It is dramatically higher than that of a regular petrol car and therefore means that you stand to make a large loss if you look to sell on.

Technology – with the technology used being new, there is a cost attached. There are also long term considerations that we will see arise – cost of replacement engines, cost of battery replacements, how this effects insurance premiums etc. Of course the more widespread they become, the cheaper this will become, however it may reduce what can be done in the garage at home and that still acts as a deterrent to some.

Positives

Efficiency – one of the great selling points is that a hybrid or electric car will run more efficiently than a petrol car giving not only better performance for your money, but lower bills too. This is of course over the long term, so one of the ways to make an electric car work for you is to hold on to it! However the earliest cars have been out for over a decade now, so we can start to understand how the savings work.

Subsidies – depending on where you live, you could find yourself receiving benefits for owning a hybrid or electric card. For example, in London you will have exclusion from the congestion charges that many face, so a daily drive to London would be considerably cheaper. As mentioned previously, you will also save on fuel bills too with the cost of the fuel being that much cheaper.

The world around us

This is an area that has many shades of grey and can be argued at length on both sides. Of course in a hybrid car, it’s only the electric part of it we are dealing with, yet that in itself is not a straight forward case of ‘being green’.

Using electricity as a fuel of course means we use less fossil fuels (and therefore cut down the CO2 created by them) while driving, however does this meant it solves our problem? Well according to studies, the production of the cars and their electrical engines mean that there is a high production of fine particles emitted. It has also been shown that when driven, a per mile comparison to a fossil fuel powered car shows that electrical pollution could be greater. This is because you have to take into account the entire lifespan of the vehicle – from production of materials to the power plant that creates and feeds the electricity.

However this can be outweighed by lifespan of the car and by further demand for it. When electricity companies use more renewable energy, the carbon footprint of an electrical car will reduce greatly.

Lifestyle requirements

If you just want to use your electrical/hybrid car for short journeys, then it will excel. Fuel costs will stay low and the battery will last for your needs. If you live within a 70 mile or so round trip from work, then again, it will serve you well.

However, due to the constraints of what a full ‘charge’ can give you (around 70-75 miles per charge), you may find your car wanting.

Going away for trips also mean you need to plan carefully. Realistically you can only go where the charging points allow you to as you of course have to be able to reach one within 75 miles. As it stands in the UK there is no great and guaranteed set-up of charge points and of course it’s not a 10 minute job, so really you want to be doing at at the end of the day while you sleep.

So as it stands there are 2 sides to the potential debate of whether they are better or worse than regular cars. However if infrastructure for charging improves and production of electricity becomes more alternative, it could be a ‘no brainer’ for the pocket and environment.