The pros and cons of electric cars

Electric vehicles are the future, but as with most things, they have their benefits and shortcomings...

With a ban on the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars planned for 2030, sooner or later we’re all going to have to switch to EVs (Electric Vehicles).

Electric cars are cheaper to run and kinder to the planet because they emit fewer greenhouse gases and air pollutants than ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars, but they are not the perfect mobility solution either.

Below, we weigh up the pros and cons of zero emissions driving to help you decide if an EV is the best option for you right now.

The good stuff about electric cars

Lower running costs: Depending on whether you recharge from home (the cheapest option) or use a public charger, an electric vehicle can cost as little as a third to run per mile as a petrol or diesel vehicle.

Zero emissions: EVs are planet friendly because there are no tailpipe emissions of harmful gases released into the atmosphere. The most obvious bonus being reduced air pollution, especially in cities.

Tax benefits: Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), or Car Tax, is based on CO2 emissions, which means EV drivers pay nothing because there are no tailpipe emissions from electric cars.

Reduced maintenance: Compared to a traditional petrol or diesel car, there are fewer moving parts and there’s less to go wrong in an EV. It’s estimated a switched to electric could save you an estimated 20-30% on service and maintenance costs compared to an ICE vehicle.

Increasing choice: Most major manufacturers now offer electric models in all shapes and sizes – and for all budgets. It’s also possible to buy a used EV from less than £10,000.

> Five things you should consider before switching to an EV

Easy to drive: Driving an electric car couldn’t be simpler because EVs don’t have gearboxes. Just engage Drive, press the accelerator and you’re off.

Refined ride: There’s no engine noise from an electric motor, so relax and enjoy the smooth driving experience.

Supercar acceleration: EVs are much simpler than ICE cars because they can accelerate from standstill to their top speed without shifting a single gear. All the torque they can produce is available from zero rpm – or the second you put the pedal to the metal. This is what’s known as instant torque.

Advanced safety: EVs feature the latest driver assistance and safety systems. They also have to undergo the same rigorous crash testing and meet the same safety standards required for petrol or diesel fuelled cars. In fact, most new electric vehicles have been awarded a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests.

Financial incentives: There’s a range of tax incentives for business users. Additionally, if you live in central London, all EVs are completely exempt from the Congestion Charge, while some boroughs also offer free or reduced-charge parking.

Clean air zones: EVs may be the only choice for getting around some cities in the future as councils crackdown on air polluting vehicles.

And now some of the less good stuff…

Purchase cost: There’s no denying that the upfront cost of EVs is higher than ICE equivalents, though if you are paying on a monthly basis via a finance deal such as PCP (Personal Contract Purchase) the gap seems smaller

Lower range: Broadly speaking, electric vehicles have a shorter range than petrol and diesel-powered cars. Many fuel-efficient diesels can manage as many as 500 miles on a tank, while EV typically have an average range of around 200 miles, and even then it is dependent on the weather, driving style and other factors such as air conditioning. And that leads to…

Close-in shot of electric car battery range gauge in blue

Range anxiety: The worry of not knowing whether you have enough charge to reach your destination is still an issue – especially for electric vehicles with smaller ranges of less than 200 miles.

> 10 common EV myths debunked

‘Refuelling’ times: Depending on the make, model and charger power, charging an EV can take as little as 30 minutes or several hours, yet filling up an ICE car takes a few minutes.

Rising costs: Soaring electricity prices mean charging an EV is not as cheap as it was because home and public charger tariffs are creeping up. In some instances right now, charging an EV at a fast charger on a motorway is as expensive per mile as filling up with fossil fuel.

Charging infrastructure: According to the Zap-Map database, there were 32,663 charging points across the UK, across 19,960 locations in June 2022. However, they are not distributed evenly, leaving many areas with little or no choice.

Chargepoint frustrations: The number public chargers may be rising, but queues for charge points are becoming more common at busier locations. Faulty charge points are another issue. On a single day sampled in February 2022, almost 6% of the UK’s total charger network (29,189 charge points) were out of service.

‘Dirty’ electricity: Critics claim EVs can’t claim to be “green” until all electricity is generated using renewables such as wind and solar. Currently, as much as a third of UK electricity is generated using gas and coal.

Ethical issues: There are also environmental and human rights concerns over the production of lithium-ion batteries which relies on raw materials such as lithium, cobalt and rare earth elements, often obtained from developing countries.

100% green?: Running an electric vehicle is emissions-free, but critics claim it can take several years for an EV’s overall carbon footprint to drop below that of an ICE equivalent. The extra CO2 associated with electric vehicles is largely attributed to the battery which is carbon intensive to manufacture.

Battery life: EV batteries packs do not last forever. They degrade over hundreds of charge/use cycles, becoming less effective in the process. Some will have a ‘second life’ providing electricity storage for homes and industry, but there are still question marks over their long-term recyclability.

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