Is now the right time for drivers to switch to buying electric cars?

Buying electric cars

Is it time for more of us to head down electric avenue? (Picture © Nissan)

A new report reveals that the time could be right for drivers to start buying electric cars. Currently, sales of battery powered motors are tiny compared with conventionally fuelled vehicles. That will eventually change with the government demanding all new cars sold from 2040 are electric. But drivers who switch now could reap significant rewards immediately.

Why is now the time to go electric?

It’s simple: buying electric cars will cut the cost of motoring for drivers, researchers say. Experts at the University of Leeds reviewed the total cost of ownership of vehicles in the UK, US and Japan between 1997 and 2015. They found that over a four-year period, owning an electric motor would work out cheaper than an equivalent petrol or diesel car.

What is total cost of ownership?

Sadly, running a car involves more than simply buying it and putting fuel in. There’s insurance, tax, servicing and maintenance costs. Then there’s that hidden cost of ownership: depreciation. This is the amount of money a car loses from its initial price.

Aren’t electric cars more expensive to buy?

With batteries that use pricy and scarce materials plus systems such as regenerative braking and stop-start, electric cars are technically complex and have historically been more expensive than conventional rivals. However, the price is gradually coming down as car makers discover how to reduce manufacturing costs.

The government has also been giving electric car buyers incentives such as the Plug-In Car Grant which gives up to £4500 off new motors. This is likely to cease in 2020 but a recent government report says that as the market becomes better established, increased competition will naturally reduce costs.

What about the cost of fuel?

Purchase price (or monthly finance payment) aside, fuel is the biggest immediate cost of motoring for most people. And this is where electric cars have a big advantage over more conventional rivals. For a start, electricity is taxed at a lower rate than petrol or diesel. And electric cars are more efficient, extracting more energy from equivalent units of fuel than internal combustion engines. According to the motor industry’s Go Ultra Low figures, an electric car costs around 4p per mile in fuel, a combustion engine car about three times that.

Buying electric cars

Electric cars cost much less to refuel than their petrol or diesel equivalents (Picture © Nissan)

And other costs?

With fewer moving parts, electric cars are less costly to maintain than regular motors. They also get through consumables such as brakes more slowly than conventional models. However, four fifths of the technicians qualified to work on electric cars are employed in manufacturer franchised dealerships, which are generally more expensive than independent garages.

In other areas, there have been changes in tax to penalise diesel vehicles, low emissions zones are becoming increasingly widespread in UK cities and there’s even talk of priority lanes for battery vehicles.

What other benefits do electric cars have?

Researchers from the University of York wired taxi drivers’ brains up and then monitored them as they drove around. They found that those driving electric models concentrated more. The drivers of silent battery vehicles had less variable heart rates, indicating greater mental awareness than those in diesel cars. Dr Duncan Williams for the University of York said: “Given the movement towards electric commercial vehicles, this shows there are even more benefits of going electric than we might have previously thought.”

Buying electric vehicles

Drivers of electric taxis were found to be much calmer than those in diesels (Picture © LEVC)

But it’s not all good news…

There are downsides to driving an electric vehicle. One of the biggest obstacles to people driving battery cars is a lack of range. Electric cars can typically drive between 90 and 200 miles depending on the model and the driving conditions. The result is that on longer trips drivers must break their journey to charge their battery.

But while in 2017 the UK had 133,670 electric cars registered, there were only 13,534 charging points. That’s one charging point for every nine vehicles. Many owners complain that they need lengthy waits at charging points just to plug in. They must then spend another 45 minutes while their car charges. Although the vast majority of electric cars are charged at home, another survey found that in many cities – the places where people are most likely to own electric motors – there’s a lack of off-street parking for people to boost their batteries near where they live.

4 comments on “Is now the right time for drivers to switch to buying electric cars?

  1. Steve Michelle October 9, 2018 9:14 am

    If we all go electric, will the grid meltdown due to much higher demand? We will need more power station to produce electricity. Demand is peaking already, when will the government wake up and sort our energy needs?

  2. Anthony Sergeant October 9, 2018 2:45 pm

    This all sounds great. But what we are forgetting is the government wanted us all to move to Deisel cars years ago and I was one that did. Now we are being screwed at the pump. It’s only a matter of time before we get screwed for using electric. Where is the government going to plug the gap in fuel duty. Higher taxes for using more electric? And in 20 years time the same conversation will
    Come around about electric cars. I am sticking with Deisel. Either way its not looking good for car drivers.

  3. Steve Michelle October 9, 2018 4:36 pm

    With you on this. I too bought into deisel as we were told ‘it’s cleaner’, only to be reversed later, can’t win. Where can I buy a Horse and Cart?

  4. Chris Roberts October 10, 2018 11:23 am

    I was also converted to diesel many years ago and appreciate the economy especially on long distance trips. An electric car will kost likely take more than 1 day to drive the 500 miles from my home town to the channel crossings. Why do we hear virtually nothing about Hydrogen fuel which is a clean fuel?

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