Electric Vehicles Explained


author image - crispin

By Crispin Bateman

on Monday 1 October 2018


Electric vehicle charging

Twenty years ago, if someone mentioned an electric car, the image that stuck in the mind was the ill-fated Sinclair C5 from the mid-80s.

It looked like a child’s toy and probably felt equally as safe – and it’s as far from the electric cars of today as could be.

Today, all the major manufacturers are supporting the change over from fossil fuels to electric powered vehicles and the results are impressive - and as far from the wobbly three-wheeled beige toy as can be!

Even Porsche has recently announced their ditching of diesel for an all-electric future.

The Benefits of Electric Cars

Green driving

Coming right at the top of the benefits list is the concept of eco-friendly green driving.

We have become used to the constant noise and pollution of traditional combustion engines, so much so that your first trip in an all-electric car can feel almost surreal.

There’s no noise to make conversation difficult or force you to ramp up the stereo, and the lack of emissions means that a town with nothing but electric cars would have air almost as clean as the depths of a wood.

Yet for all of that, the comfort, safety and performance of the car isn’t compromised.

From the outside, it is difficult to tell the difference between a modern electric car and a traditional petrol one.

The exhaust is missing but that’s about the only tell-tale sign. Watch one pass you on a city street (as you are bound to have done) and there’s little chance you even noticed.

What does ‘green driving’ mean?

Petrol and diesel cars burn fuel to power the engine and as a result, emit a number of by-products into the atmosphere. The headline act of this, is carbon dioxide.

Known to harm the planet, and at the focus for those looking to improve the environment, carbon dioxide has drawn the attention of governments across the world. In Europe, a set of guidelines are in place to lower the level of emissions (including CO2).

By 2021, the average CO2 emissions for a car must register as less than 95g per km. Though this number means little to most people, it’s worth noting that currently, the average for a standard petrol or diesel car is 118.5g/km and that in 2007 it was 158.7g/km. It’s a number which is dropping fast thanks to the efforts of the motor industry to make higher quality air across Europe.

By comparison, the CO2 emissions of a ‘green’ car as it drives are zero.

Saving you money

Not needing to fill the car with petrol or diesel substantially lowers your running costs. How much does it cost to run an electric car instead? Let’s look at some numbers.

With an average tank of fuel regularly topping the £75 mark, petrol and diesel in the UK have become increasingly expensive. The reality is that the cost of fuel alone is likely to be around 20 pence for every mile you drive (despite what the mpg stats from the manufacturer might imply).

By comparison, an electric car simply needs a charge up from your home electricity supply. This isn’t free, as it will add a substantial amount to your monthly direct debit, but it’s a lot cheaper than the equivalent.

A typical electric car uses 30kwh of charge for every 100 miles and in the UK, the average price of electricity is around 15p per kwh. Crunching the numbers gets you to 4.5 pence per mile – less than a quarter of the fossil fuel option.

If you drive 1,000 miles per month, the saving each month by using an electric car could be a staggering £150 or so.

The savings don’t end there – fully electric cars are exempt from annual road tax (a saving of at least £10 per month) and other charges such as the London Congestion Charge.

Safety

Electric car safety is paramount for the manufacturers. With the days of the frightening-looking C5 long behind us, today’s modern electric cars have all the safety features of a current petrol alternative – with reinforced frames, crumple zones and airbags comparable to their peers.

Additionally, however, electric cars have an extra layer of safety – they are missing the flammable fuel.

Electric car engines will cut off as soon as a collision or any sort of fault is detected, isolating them from the car and its passengers.

With no combustion engine, the threat of fire is close to zero, and there’s no chance of a dramatic explosion as might be seen in an action film.

In fact, the rise of the electric cars is going to force screenwriters to have to come up with a whole new ending to the ubiquitous car chase!

Overall, this ensures electric cars are safe in accidents, protecting you and your passengers from harm.

Electric Cars and Batteries – How Do Electric Cars Work?

Though the mechanics are slightly more upgraded, an electric car works in much the same way as a remote-controlled toy – with an electric motor powered by a rechargeable battery.

In many ways, it power shares more in common with a smartphone than a traditional car! You use it for the day, plug it in at night for it to recharge and go again the next day.

Understanding electric vehicles

Applying clever physics to do with kinetic energy, electric cars are designed to use the minimum amount of energy as you drive, with computers working hard in the background to manage the power to provide an optimum driving distance.

In short, this means that the cars preserve energy when going downhill or when it has momentum, to have more in reserve for the tougher parts of driving.

How long do the batteries last in an electric vehicle?

Battery improvements are at the forefront of electric car design. Each year sees significant progress and a lengthening of the miles possible.

It is only recently that some of the better powered cars have started to become available as a used vehicle – meaning that to keep up with the current technology it is often best to purchase your electric car new, or lease one.

The finest current models of electric car offer between 200 and 300 miles per charge, with flagship cars from Tesla passing the 300-mile barrier. For general use, 200 miles is a good distance and should be fine for most personal use.

Electric car charging time

There are three main ways to charge your electric car:

  • From the mains – just like your mobile phone, you can plug your car into any standard socket and let it recharge. Charging from the mains is slower and can take overnight to fully charge your car, but it provides an easy way to charge your electric car at home.
  • With a dedicated fast car charger – upgrade your home charging with a dedicated charger. These faster, high-output chargers cut the recharge time down to approximately four hours and are available from the car manufacturers.
  • At a public charging station – at traditional petrol stations, service stations and supermarkets, public charging stations offer the fastest charge of all, boasting a charge to 80% from zero in 30 minutes. Electric vehicle charging time is slower than it takes to fill a tank with petrol but gives you the perfect time for a drink and break on those longer drives.

The Disadvantages of Electric Cars

Unfortunately, nothing is ever perfect. Electric cars have their disadvantages too and should be taken into consideration before buying your first electric car.

Range

Though the range you can travel before needing to charge is constantly improving, 200 or so miles may be a little short for some.

Salespeople and those who use their cars extensively for work are going to struggle with a long stop every 200 miles to boost their car on.

Load

Electric cars are affected by the size of the load – and that means you lose range if your car is full. If you are always driving your entire family around, plus a load of shopping in the boot, that 200 mile limit is going to seem like a promise that is never delivered.

Initial cost

There’s no hiding the fact that buying a new electric car in 2018 is substantially more expensive than a similar model traditional car. It is an investment which will pay off over the years of ownership, but it can turn away an otherwise eager potential buyer.

Hidden ‘not so green’ electric car facts

A lot is said, in this article and elsewhere, about the ecologically sound nature of electric cars – one might argue that it is the purpose of electric cars.

However, the amount of energy used and associated emissions produced to make the car battery in the first place is not insignificant. An electric car that is not used to its full potential being regularly driven could actually be more damaging to the planet than a traditional alternative.

The benefits of hybrid cars

Some of these disadvantages are mitigated with a hybrid car – a car with an internal combustion engine as a backup to the electric motor.

Hybrids have a range akin to a petrol car and struggle less with loads. Like all types of electric vehicles, they are better for the environment than a standard car. If range is a large issue, then a hybrid is worth considering.

The Future

The death of the internal combustion engine is upon us. While the technology to make a working long-range electric truck is still unavailable, the drive down that road has definitely begun and it won’t be too long before a traditional petrol station is no longer a regular stop for us all.

It is hard to examine all the benefits of an electric vehicle at the moment. They are still so new that answering a question like ‘how long do electric cars last’ is speculation at best, but it won’t be too long before the used car market starts to build up and a search for ‘car EV’ is going to yield pages of results (EV, of course, for ‘electric vehicle’).

At Non-Fault Claims, we are very pleased to note that the number of accidents involving electric cars seems to be low. At the moment, such evidence is anecdotal, but the advanced safety features integrated into the newer technology are sure to help keep people safe while driving and that’s a very good thing.

That said – if you have been in a collision with an electric car, or if you own one yourself and have been injured through an accident that was not your fault, then we are here to help you.

Give one of our advisors a call today or fill in a contact form to have us call back when it is convenient to you.

What are your thoughts on electric cars and the advancements in technology? Share this article with your friends and let us know your thoughts on the future of driving.

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