Plug-in electric cars: 67% want one to save money – but are they any cheaper?

Plug-in electric cars

Best-selling battery car is the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (Picture © Mitsubishi)

Plug-in electric cars are being considered by most people as their next car. A study by the Government’s Go Ultra Low (GUL) has found that 67 per cent of drivers want to own a battery-powered car. Three quarters of drivers said that running costs were the biggest consideration when choosing their next motor. The GUL report also cites the style and convenience of electric models. But are electric cars really the right choice for cost-conscious drivers? We look at the pros and cons: 

Plug-in electric cars: Are they cheaper to fuel and tax?

Go Ultra Low claims drivers could save ‘around £860 a year’ in fuel and tax by choosing an electric vehicle. This is because it believes an electric car costs 2p per mile in fuel while a petrol equivalent costs around 12p. It says that over the Department for Transport’s claimed annual average mileage of 8266, the electric car owner would save £660, assuming petrol at its cheapest £1.10 a litre and a 40mpg car.

Electric cars currently don’t pay any Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). But GUL’s tax calculations use a relatively ‘dirty’ car. An efficient, conventionally fuelled car only costs £30 a year to tax.

Plug-in electric cars: Are they really cheaper to own?

The main cost of car ownership comes in the value a vehicle loses, its depreciation. CAP Automotive says that after three years and 30,000 miles a Ford Focus Electric would be worth less than a quarter of its price new. It means the electric Focus costs 90p per mile to run, its petrol equivalent 29p per mile. Meanwhile a 2014, 14-reg Renault Zoe in top of the range Dynamique Zen trim is selling for £9295. It would have cost £20,043 so it’s lost 54 per cent of its value new in less than a year.

Plug-in electric cars: What Go Ultra Low says

Hetal Shah, head of Go Ultra Low, said: “Our research shows that, after purchase price, the top things motorists look for in a new car are affordable running costs, comfort, space and style. The huge variety of electric vehicles now on the market is changing motorists’ concept of desirability, with the majority of consumers surveyed aspiring to the new breed of quiet, refined, technology-packed plug-in vehicles. We’re confident that this year alone we’ll see thousands more motorists up and down Britain plugging in to this growing trend.”

Plug-in electric cars: What the used car expert says

Philip Nothard from used car valuation service CAP Automotive said: “The manufacturers haven’t handled the used car side of things very well. They’ve just flooded the market and many used models still haven’t sold months later. Then there’s the inconvenience and risk of cars that require a charge – refuelling – every 80 to 100 miles. And consumers are cautious about the supporting infrastructure with regards charging points.”

Plug-in electric cars: What’s on offer?

The best-selling alternatively fuelled vehicle is actually a petrol-electric hybrid. The Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV topped the list, followed closely by the all-electric Nissan Leaf. The Renault Zoe was next up followed by the BMW i3 and Tesla Model S, all pure electric cars.

Plug-in electric cars: Verdict

Plug-in electric cars make some sense for people who live in towns because their relatively short range isn’t as much of a problem. For drivers doing more miles, a petrol or diesel-electric hybrid is a decent alternative. But over longer distances, pure diesel cars are actually more economical. Anyone considering an electric car should look at a used model: there are some real bargains around at the moment.

One comment on “Plug-in electric cars: 67% want one to save money – but are they any cheaper?

  1. greg wheatstone October 20, 2016 11:55 am

    Assuming that electrical power in UK costs a rough estimate of 14p per kWhr. So if one litre of diesel produces 10 kWh of energy and costs £1.15 per litre then the cost is £0.115 or 11.5 pence per kWhr.
    I am pro electric cars and I intend to buy an electric car and charge it from my solar panels [essentially each kWhr will cost me 6.5 pence assuming 4000 kWhr produced per annum over 25 years and costing £6500 to install] but I would love to find where some of this ultra cheap electricity will come from. Incidentally the tariff mechanism means that the solar plant will be paid for in Ocober 2017, some 6 years after installation and motoring will be “free” afterwards.

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