This dynamic and ever updating guide has been produced in consultation with Better Century @EV_Enthusiasts, and after reviewing several other guides to buying an electric vehicle including What Car, RAC, motors.co.uk, Electric Car Buyer, and Confused.com. In addition to standard guide information we aim to also provide full costs and pay back periods for electric vehicles, and therefore champion this guide as the Better Guide to Buying and Electric Vehicle.
At Better Century we will collectively improve this guide so those looking for Better Transport alternatives can find them easily. If you think I’ve got something wrong, can think a better structure or want to correct it then please reply to this topic, or if you’ve been given Trust_Level_3 through Better Century you can edit this topic as it is a wiki.
Two discussions on Better Century with considerable member input are also useful to this guide;
Please share your knowledge through this guide or through the above topics to help everyone transition to a low carbon century we can all be proud of.
Environmental Benefits of Electric Vehicles
As Better Century is focused on environmental issues, it seems best to start with a brief analysis of this. I presume that everyone who’s reading understands the differences between an electric and a hybrid or plug in hybrid - if not consult some of the other guides at the top of this piece. Electric vehicles (herein referred to as EVs) are the most environmental option as they are not dependant upon fossil fuels for operation.
EVs use lithium ion batteries, using rare earth metals that can be very polluting to the environment if not disposed of properly. Evidence indicates that 80% of these batteries can be recycled and from what I understand these batteries last a lot longer than originally anticipated. Tesla told me their first car has driven 300,000 miles without a battery change!. However, investing in an EV means supporting an industry to improve, and as there are new solid state carbon batteries being developed to improve range, lifetime and battery disposal, new heights could be reached with an increasing customer base.
There has been some debate about the life-cycle emissions from EVs. What’s powered this debate has reports issued by scientists looking at the source electricity for EVs. The argument is that if an EV is powered by the current electricity mix, which includes dirty energy from coal and gas, then it could cost more in carbon emissions. Although these reports have more often than not been challenged we do need our energy mix to change. In the interim, powering your car with 100% certified renewable energy or through a solar array at home seems a pretty zero carbon option.
Air pollution produced from tyres and braking from EVs is still an issue but no more than a standard car. There is a topic on Better Century where this has been explored - more insight would be useful.
The costs and returns of Electric Vehicles
Analysis of all vehicles currently on the market has been conducted with the costs lowest to highest (note - there are more coming). The EV Database is very useful source of information, but in my analysis I have taken prices and information directly from the websites of the vehicles on sale.
What can generally be found is that new EVs are between £7 - 10,0000 more than their petrol/diesel equivalent. The savings on EVs are around £800 a year if you travel 10,000 miles a year, and this goes up the more you drive. So if you drive say 20,000 miles a year then the savings will be £1,500, giving a payback of 8 years. Taking a lease on a vehicle can be a very good option.
For business owners EVs have recently been given considerable exemptions from Benefit In Kind Tax on EVs. The savings on a £30,000 EV instead of petrol or diesel car could be as much as £3,000 a year, making EVs a good bet for small business owners.
Costs of New EVs on Sale
|Model and Reference Point||Car Type||Cost range (rounded)||Approx Lease Range||Range (Miles)|
|VW e-UP||Small Hatchback||£19 - 21,000||£250 - 300||99|
|MG ZS EV||Sedan||£21 - 27,000||£275 - 325||163|
|Renault Zoe R110 ZE40||Small Hatchback||£24 - 27,000||£350 - 400||160|
|Peugeot e-208||Hatchback||£25 - 27,000||£325 - 400||140|
|Hyundai Ionic||Hatchback||£27 - 29,000||£350 - 400||174|
|Hyundai Kona Electric||SUV||£27 - 35,000||£375 - 425||245|
|Nissan Leaf (Range)||Hatchback||£27 - 38,000||£375 - 450||168 -242|
|VW e-Golf||Hatchback||£30 - 34,000||£375 - 425||144|
|BMW i3 120 Ah||Small Hatchback||£30 - 34,000||£375 - 400||145|
|Kia Soul 64kWh||Hatchback||£33 - 35,000||£350 - 375||230|
|Kia e-Niro 64 kWh||SUV||£33 - 36,000||£400- 425||235|
|Tesla Model 3 (Sedan)||Sedan||£36 - 49,000||£500 - 700||254 - 348|
|Mercedes Benz EQC||SUV||£65 - 73,000||£750 - 800||259|
|Jaguar I-Pace||SUV||£65 - 75,000||£750 - 800||292|
|Audi e-tron||SUV||£71 - 87,000||£850 - 1500||237|
|Tesla Model S (Sedan)||Sedan||£73 - 105,000||£1,000 - 1,500||280 - 365|
|Tesla Model X (SUV)||SUV||£80 - 112,000||£1,100 - 1,600||230 - 300|
Second Hand EVs
There is also a growing second hand market in EVs, with prices starting from around £6,000 for your older smaller hatchbacks and sedans (Renault Zoes, Nissan Leafs etc), which offers a very good price for a commuter vehicle.
There are some longer range vehicles but the prices jump quite quickly for these, as often these are Telsas.
For both of these there are options to lease so it can be affordable. Drive Green and Electric Car Home offer some good starting places to look.
The range of vehicles is dependant on whether they are being used for long haul trips or inner city and can also be dependant on weather conditions and use of heating or air conditioning in the car. Most provide a variable according to how they are used and it should be noted that often cars do up to 20% less than advertised, so do ask about the variance on this. Better Century will start a topic on this subject for various vehicles but in the meantime do ask owners via this site about the range (using the topics as advertised above).
With fast charging providing up to 80% of charge in under 40 minutes for proportion of vehicles, and with most having a range of above 100 miles this seems like less of an issue if journeys are well planned. Most of the forums I’ve been on have seen this not be an issue unless charging points have been used by others. There have also been many instances I’ve seen where people have been charging their vehicle in places like France and have had considerable issues with finding fast charging points.
For all new EVs and electric charging point is provided as standard, although for many installing one of these can prove difficult (if live on terraced housing). For most owners they charge their vehicle overnight during low cost charging and then use it during the day to get too and from work.
There are rising numbers who don’t have access to a home charger therefore understanding charging connectors can be really important. There are slow, and rapid chargers available. The slower are either via a normal 3-pin socket (slowest speed at 3.6kwh) or the type you get on a home charging unit or at a destination (faster 7kwh speed).
Some cars (e.g. the Nissan Leaf) can be limited when using these slower ones depending on the on board charger. Many of these are available free to use in car parks as they are slow and don’t use that much electricity per hour. They usually need you to use your own charging lead. This gives an indication of how long it takes to charge (a 30kwh car will take about 10 hours on a 3 pin, and 4.5 hours on a 7kwh unit).
The other types are the rapid ones, that go MUCH quicker (50-150kwh). These are the ones that advertise the “80% in 30 mins” speeds, and they will have a tethered charging lead. There are two types of connectors - Chademo or CCS. It’s a bit like the choice we had between Beta max or VHS. One will become the standard eventually, but we don’t know which one yet.
We are getting some clues about the future though, as nearly every new car on the market now uses CCS. Lots of the newer rapid chargers are also including both types on the unit, and there are some companies now who only provide CCS, so it is starting to look like that will be the eventual winner.
These are also not to be confused with the Tesla Superchargers, which you often see in suites of 10 or so at motorway service stations. Only some Tesla charges can be used by other EV drivers. They are colour coded - Red is Tesla only, White can be used by others (see here for more information).
When you are charging away from home, there are lots of different companies, each with their own app, or card needed to pay for the electricity. Hopefully some time next year they will all have to use pay as you go systems, but for now it’s a pain to have to sign up just to be able to use them. Prices vary but every now and then we get a freebie, which fills us with joy, even though a fill up would only cost a few quid anyway!
Life Time of EVs
From what I understand EVs run on and on, but guarantees are not often provided for more than 100,000 miles for the life of the battery or for a period of time (Tesla offer 5 years). It would be useful to have input from those with older EVs in this topic.
Buy now or wait until later?
The likes of Shell predict that EVs will become the same price as petrol or diesel vehicles by 2025, so many will argue that it makes sense to wait. As the carbon cost of creating a vehicle is equivalent to its impact over its lifetime it would make sense to use a vehicle until it’s servicing costs simply get too high.
At that stage an EV is definitely a good alternative. Second hand EVs could arguably be lower cost to run and give a longer life time so that run around you use to get too and from work should be a priority (although, moving to a bike (electric or otherwise) or alternative could also be a great option!).
The bottom line is that buying a new EV today instead of an alternative should have a pay back period of 10 years, so you are almost certainly on a winner, both in terms of a moral financial duty… but opinions on this would certainly be welcome!
Going out Testing
What seems to tip the balance for most is going out and testing an EV. They’ve generally got a higher spec interior and a much greater acceleration and people seem to love the experience when they get into one.
So go and test one today… I await others to give some input on what kind of questions you should be asking when you do this…
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