Why choose an electric car?
The evidence is clear on greenhouse gases from fossil fuels being the dominant contributor to climate change, and we have to reduce these emissions. The car sector has the second-biggest carbon footprint, after heating homes, in the UK (see this WWF report).
If all cars in the UK became electric overnight, UK carbon emissions would fall by 12%. The emissions saved whilst driving electric vehicles (EVs) more than makes up for the slightly higher carbon footprint of manufacture. They don’t solve everything though, as tyres cause pollution too and our roads are heavily congested. Now seems a good time to consider how we travel – could we walk/cycle more, take public transport, car-share/hire or use an e-bike/scooter? Electric cars are part of the ongoing environmental solution, but do we all need to own one?
Making the transition
In Nick Raimo’s podcast episode, he covers many common questions about EVs, that yet-to-be converted drivers might ask. He works in car sales, has owned 2 EVs and hosts a YouTube channel (EV Nick), so he knows a thing or two. He believed electric cars were out of his budget but discovered an affordable second-hand Renault Zoe, which proved to be an entirely successful purchase and kept it for four years. His wife was the predominant driver, embarking on relatively short trips; she soon discovered the benefits of a smooth driving experience, no visits to the petrol station and defrosting the car whilst sitting in it.
Frequently, the range of an EV is deemed a barrier, but increasingly models can travel over 200 miles before charging is required. Two of the UK’s best-selling electric cars in 2021 were the Nissan Leaf with a 168-mile range on its 40kWh model and the VW ID.3 with a range of 336 miles on its Pro S 77kWh model.
It’s a good idea to be realistic about your range needs. How often do you travel long-distance? When you do, are you likely to stop on route anyway and are there any chargers at your destination?
Although you can technically plug your EV into a 13-amp socket at home, Nick did not recommend it, as home-wiring may not be up to the task. He recommended fitting a dedicated EV charge point. Grants of £350 to help with funding will only be able to flat-owners and those renting as of April 1st 2022.
For people without off-street parking, there is the possibility of on-street charging. Depending on your local authority council, they may help install an on-street residential charge point, as government funding is available. For example, Nottinghamshire County Council has announced a trial to aid residents to fund on-street charging.
Public charging is attracting substantial investment, although it’s not without difficulties. There are various networks with differing charger types, methods of payments (many moving to tap paying with debit/credit cards) and costs. Historically, charging sites installed single charging facilities, becoming a sore point when they broke down; many sites now have multiple charging points. Avoid the disappointment of broken chargers by checking operationality using apps, such as Zap-Map or PlugShare.
Chargers and connectors
This topic deserves a blog of its own because of the variety available. However, key points on the three types of chargers are:
- Rapid (>50kw), most common at motorway services, can take as little as 30 minutes but typically take an hour to charge to 80%.
- Fast (7-22kw), found in car parks, supermarkets and leisure centres, charging takes anywhere between 1 and 6 hours.
- Slow (2.5-6kw), often used for home charging or at workplaces, takes 6-12 hours to become fully charged.
A charging cable is needed, supplied by the charger (tethered), super convenient for home charging or the car if the charger is untethered.
There are various types of connectors, with the highest proportion falling into a type 2 category.
Electricity supply and charging costs
For home charging, there are several energy tariffs specifically for EV owners. Night charging is incentivised through price, as this is the time when grid demand is at its lowest. The cost can be calculated by:
Size of battery (kWh) x Electricity cost of your supplier (p/kWh)
For example, a Renault Zoe with a 52kWh battery and charging at home at 7.5p/kWh will cost £3.90 and drive up to 239 miles.
About 20% of public chargers are free to use, located in public car parks, supermarkets, tourist attractions and hotels. For those requiring payment, prices range from 24pkWh to 69p/kWh.
So, when you are thinking of replacing your petrol/diesel car, hopefully, the above information will be helpful, and perhaps you will decide you don’t even need to own a car?