Debunking the biggest misconceptions that stop you buying an electric car
Is everything you’ve heard about electric cars true?
The problem with having a fascination with internal combustion engines is that when something different came along, something silent and frugal, most of us just didn’t want to know… me included.
I’m not asking you to embrace electric vehicles but instead I’m here to challenge some of the misconceptions surrounding them, and here they are:
Nobody buys them anyway
For many people today’s electric cars remain an uncommon sight but take a look at market trends or the sales figures that surround such vehicles and you’ll realise it’s different story altogether. In 2015 there were one million electric vehicles on the world’s roads globally. The following year that figure had doubled.
Cars like BMW's i3 are no longer such a rare sight (Image: BMW)
Globally speaking, the two main electric car markets are China and the United States while Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, France, the United Kingdom are now reporting substantial sales.
Government grants and tax breaks towards electric vehicles, combined with rising fuel costs and pressure from environmental groups mean the switch to electric is speeding up rapidly.
They’re no good for those who drive longer distances
Range anxiety is a very real concern for owners of today’s electronic vehicles but it’s one that is improving rapidly thanks to advancements in battery technology.
We aren’t yet at a point where the average electric car will come close to the range of an internal combustion car or hybrid, and once an electric car’s battery is depleted it will of course take a lot longer than simply refiling a fuel tank.
Tesla’s recently released Model 3 gets closer to this than anything before it. If you choose this car with the long-range battery option you’ll get a claimed 540km (334miles) from a single charge of its 75kWh battery. Hook it up to one of Tesla’s superchargers and the company claim it’ll gain 270 km (170miles) in range available after just 30 minutes. Charge it at home though and you’ll be looking at gaining more like 14% charge per hour.
Tesla still leads the way when it comes to range, desirability and performance in general (image:Tesla)
Chevrolet’s Bolt – or the Opel Ampera-e for European readers – holds similarly impressive figures with a confirmed 238 mi (383 km) range and a fast charging option that claims to supply 80% of the battery’s charge. The 41kWh verison of Renault’s Zoe (ZE40) is also known for going far from a single charge with a real world range of around 306km (190 miles).
It’s worth noting that most of the electric cars already on the market will deliver significantly less impressive stats than the figures above. Most of today’s popular models deliver a range of 75-120 miles (121-193km).
The improvements to the range of these cars is something that is mirrored by infrastructure improvements. Governments are setting aside vast amounts of cash to rapidly increase the amount of charging points available to motorists. Just one example is the IONITY charging network, which will see 400 universal fast charging stations across Europe thanks to a collaboration from four of the world’s largest car companies – Ford, Volkswagen, Mercedes and BMW.
The batteries used in electric cars will die, and fast
The other hot topic surrounding batteries is of course their life expectation. Just how long can an owner expect from the cells that power their vehicle? It’s a valid concern too, especially when you consider that a replacement battery pack can cost the same as the value of a used electric car.
Let’s take Nissan’s Leaf as an example. A replacement Leaf battery will exceed £5,000 / $6,499, though owners can expect a rebate of around a fifth of that cost in exchange for the vehicle’s original battery
According to ValuePenguin, a survey of 564 Nissan Leafs showed that on average Leafs had lost one of their twelve bars of battery capacity, and had done so after being driven just under 26,000 miles at an average of 2.7 years of age.
Surveys have found that the Nissan Leaf battery has impressive longevity (image: Nissan)
For owners of an early Leaf (with the 24 kWh battery) that would represent a drop of 12 miles from the original 80 mile range figure. On a more modern Leaf with the larger 30 kWh battery, the same time frame would remove 19 miles from the vehicle’s original 130 mile range.
By the fifth year of ownership most Leafs were reporting a battery capacity of ten out of twelve bars. Manufacturers are fully aware that batteries are still a sticking point for certain potential electric car owners and that’s why you’ll find they are nearly always protected by lengthy and comprehensive warranties.
Ultimately though, modern EVs have simply not been around long enough and produced in quantities high enough to accurately know the true lifetime of certain batteries, which leads us nicely on to the next point.
They’re incredibly expensive
To put it bluntly, used electric cars have some of the worst residuals ever seen by the motor industry. Their limited range, questionable batteries and general unpopularity have made them a potential bargain among frightened consumers.
Buying new still represents quite a premium over regular ICE vehicles but it’s a cost that could still make sense. Examples of Nissan’s Leaf or Renault’s Zoe and Twizy models can be had for little more than £5,000.
Renault's Zoe could make for a sensible used purchase (image: Renault)
Tesla has so far managed to remain an exception from this but then again Tesla has managed to do what most brands could not and that’s make electrification trendy. After all, this is a brand that was recently voted the coolest of all motoring manufacturers by teens and millennials.
Then there’s also the point that it may be worth spending more money in the first place. According to a study conducted by Applied Energy, an academic journal covering research on energy engineering recently found that owning a pure electric car in the UK was cheaper than diesel, petrol, hybrid alternatives.
The Bottom Line
Electric cars are not perfect but they’re certainly misunderstood. If one thing's for sure then they aren't going away anytime soon – whether you choose to embrace them or not is another thing entirely.
For a closer look at what electrified motoring may be like in 2037 head along to my last DriveTribe post.