Living with an Electric Car

I’m the company petrol head so of course who else should be tasked with the job of writing a blog piece about electric cars? Actually, I’m quite happy about this as it means I have to research and get under the skin of electric vehicles – something that thus far, I haven’t done.

There is going to be very little about insuring electric cars in this blog. Although, when they first started coming out there may have been some issues, most of these have been addressed and now, getting insurance for an EV (electric vehicle – love a two-letter acronym) is almost as easy as a standard fuel car. There are a couple of exceptions to this, most notably with Nissan and Peugeot, who require you to have them noted on the insurance schedule as an interested party in respect of the batteries – when you buy the car, you only lease the batteries, you never actually own them outright.

Let’s talk about cost

It would be easy to assume that owning an electric car will be cheaper than a standard fuel car as you do not have the maintenance costs associated with oil changes, exhaust systems etc., and of course you do not have to fill the car with combustible fuel. Sadly, as with life in general, things are never quite that simple!

As a first-time owner of an EV you have to consider the initial outlay. The hugely popular Nissan Leaf starts from £22k, The Tesla Model 3 from £25k, The Tesla Model S from £50k and the Rimac is £1m! It is also worth noting that some used EVs are actually increasing in value despite having previously been owned.

You will still need tyres; in the event of a claim you may well find that not only are repairs significantly more expensive than on a standard car but that, due to the lack of approved EV garages, repairs can take longer.

Charging these cars, which can take anywhere from 30 minutes for a quick charge to 12 hours for a full over night charge, usually costs no more than £2.50, which will supply around 100 miles.

It is also worth considering congestion charges if you live in a city where you are charged to use your car. “Zero emission capable” vehicles are omitted form the congestion charge but as of April 2017, car tax rates (vehicle excise duty) for some electric vehicles have seen a huge increase. There are lots of websites you can use to check how much tax you will have to pay on your electric vehicle such as this one.

It is certainly worth taking a few minutes to consider all of the obvious, and less obvious, costs associated with owning an EV before assuming that the costs will be less than for a standard fuel car.

Charging your EV

How easy is it to charge an EV and keep it topped up?

Personally, I don’t have any off street parking so if I wanted to charge an electric car overnight I would have to take it to my in-laws or apply through the local council to have a charge point installed in my street, and even if I could persuade them to do this, there is absolutely no guarantee that I could get my car near enough to the charge point to actually use it. In reality, you need a driveway or garage to be able to easily charge your car – something else to consider.

However, the number of public charging points available are increasing. As of the 21st February, there were 5272 public charging points in the UK, with 8830 devices available at these locations*.

How about safety?

Electric cars are no more inherently worse to be in than a standard car if you have an accident. In fact, one would think the lack of a tank full of flammable fuel would render the car far safer in respect of fire risks.

Most of the issues you will read about electric car safety online, come from the battery packs being damaged by debris on the road or a malfunction during charging. However, the result is all too familiar as news reports of the latest Tesla, which “caught fire and burned to the ground”, show. The issues here mainly revolve around lithium ion batteries, which can get extremely hot and can potentially set off a daisy chain fire. This, combined with an oil-filled cooling system, can cause a real inferno if damaged.

A well-known motoring TV presenter recently crashed a Rimac, which went on to burn for five days – yes, FIVE days – as the fire crew just could not get enough water to cool the batteries and extinguish the fire. A fire this serious is unlikely to happen on a standard electric vehicle but at the same time, the risk is present and is something to consider.

How green’s green?

There is no doubt that we need to find a way of being able to produce less emissions in our transport systems, and for a lot of people this means looking at different ways to fuel our cars.

However, it still takes energy to produce the bodies and components for electric cars and the batteries can take a huge amount of energy to manufacture; not to mention that the electricity to recharge the cars has to be made and transported.

A recent article in The Guardian stated:

“A report by the Ricardo consultancy estimated that production of an average petrol car will involve emissions amounting to the equivalent of 5.6 tonnes of CO2, while for an average electric car, the figure is 8.8 tonnes. Of that, nearly half is incurred in producing the battery. Despite this, the same report estimated that over its whole lifecycle, the electric car would still be responsible for 80% of the emissions of the petrol car. More recently, an FT analysis used lifecycle estimates to question the green credentials of electric cars, especially heavy ones.”**

How will it make you feel?

On a completely personal (and selfish) level, probably the most important factor for me when deciding on which car to buy is this – is it exciting to drive?

By this, I don’t mean can it drive at 170+ mph – after all, how often does one get to use a vehicle at these speeds? The 0-30 and 0-60 speeds are more interesting to me. However, the sound a car makes can really get your heart beating.

I was in the Twisted Automotive workshop recently and they started one of their special V12 Defenders. What an incredible noise – not exactly what one would call subtle but an immediate grin-factor!

I have never driven a Tesla P100D but would absolutely love to try one; purely so I can give an informed opinion on how they feel. I have no doubt that the acceleration and ultimate top speed is a thrill, but I do have a fear that the lack of noise from an internal combustion engine might prove too much for me to commit?

 

You will have your own priorities when looking at which car you want to purchase, regardless of which fuel it uses. Electric vehicles are here to stay but I cannot see the internal combustion engine going anywhere for at least the next twenty years – at the moment in the UK, we just don’t have the infrastructure to deal with an influx of electric vehicles.

If I needed a car purely to drive around town, I would definitely buy electric, no question. But until the range of “standard” EVs increases (Nissan, Peugeot, etc.) to at least 200 miles, I just can’t see myself buying one; and until the cost of second hand Teslas comes down, I won’t be able to afford an EV with the range I need!

Why not give us your thoughts on electric vehicles by leaving us a comment?

I would love to have a chat with you about your current insurance arrangements and I’m always happy to offer advice on insuring any type of vehicle – do please get in touch.

Robin Nathan

Author: Robin Nathan, Art & Private Client Account Executive
Tel: 07557 562868
Email: robin.nathan@mcclarroninsurance.com

*Source: https://www.zap-map.com

**Source: https://www.theguardian.com/football/ng-interactive/2017/dec/25/how-green-are-electric-cars

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