Journey in an electric car – Thursday 21 September

Today, I’m going into a little more detail about electric vehicles and the benefits of both owning and running one. There are differences, and it takes a little time to get used to that, but once you have, you can find it’s a more pleasant drive.

Electric vehicles and speed

I mentioned in my previous blog that electric vehicles can be faster than you might think. The Volkswagen GTE hybrid is 0-60 in under 8 seconds, the same as its petrol sports counterpart, and the Renault Zoe completes the same task in around 13 seconds.  That’s faster than its Renault Clio equivalent.

Electric vehicles deliver the torque immediately from the start, which means that up to 30mph they are probably faster than almost any other car.  That means that not only are you producing zero emissions, but you are doing it quickly.  They truly are brilliant for around town and let you find a gap in the traffic that you might not otherwise consider.  They are not slow on the national speed limits either, with a maximum speed of around 80mph – not that I encourage testing that claim.

All electric vehicles are automatic – they have no need for multiple gears, so an automatic gearbox is perfect.  It makes driving incredibly simple and in ‘regenerative breaking’ mode it can mean that the car does most of the work.  I’ll explain this a bit more and I’ll qualify the statement.

Energy recovery

Electric cars have an option for putting charge back into the battery from kinetic energy as the car is moving and braking.  There is an option to put the car into regenerative braking mode, which means that as you lift your foot off the accelerator the car uses the electric motor to recover energy.  In my vehicle it also uses sensors to judge the distance of the vehicle in front. This means that with a bit of planning, I only need to touch my brake pedal at about 5 mph.  This varies depending on the vehicle type, but when it works, it makes driving very easy and enjoyable.

I was using the Nissan EV200 people carrier yesterday.  In regenerative braking mode it certainly wasn’t as effective as the hybrid Golf, nor other electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf.  I think part of the adaptation to an electric vehicle is understanding the differences in each one, in order to get the most out of it.

Economic benefits of electric cars

Looking at economic benefits, the Renault Zoe is probably the cheapest on the road, at a starting price of just under £14,000. However, you do need to rent the battery for approximately £70 per month.  The Nissan Leaf costs from £17,000 but, again, you will need to pay extra to own the battery.  They are more expensive than the average car up-front but you make savings in the operating costs.

Let’s start with road tax, there is none.  You still need to register it every year with DVLA but there is nothing to pay.  Fuel costs are also very good.  If you are charging from a public charging point its free to use and if you have a charging station at home then its somewhere between 60-80% cheaper than the equivalent cost of fuel.  Maintenance costs can also be lower as they appear to be relatively easy to maintain. It’s about looking at the life cost of the car, rather than the upfront cost to find out if it is going to work for you.

Electric cars for all

Technology is rapidly developing and the cost of the batteries are expected to decrease over the next few years.  This will happen as more people start to buy them and manufacturers make them more commonplace.  It’s thought that the battery accounts for around 40% of the total cost of an electric car at present.  As manufacturers start to install a battery in every car the cost will come down significantly and make the electric vehicle more accessible for all.

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