So, saw a fancy Tesla Model S gliding silently down the street and you thought, “Hmm. Is it time to lease an electric car?”
Well, you might want to slow down for a second and think about the practicalities of going electric.
In this blog, I’ll talk you through some key considerations, including costs, batteries, range, charging time and infrastructure. At the end, you should have a good idea of whether or not you want to choose a car with an electric motor.
Petrol and diesel cars have had decades to develop. Over that time, manufacturers have worked out how to produce great cars without a huge price tag.
Unfortunately, electric cars are still in their infancy and that means they’re still relatively expensive.
The Nissan Leaf is one of the most popular electric family cars out there. To lease the most basic model, it’ll cost you £269.99 per month. (That’s on a 48-month contract with a nine-month initial rental and 6,000 miles.)
Now, compare that to the brand new Ford Focus. With the same leasing terms, the Focus will cost you just £170.56 per month, which is quite a saving!
This is the story all across the electric landscape.
Don’t let this dissuade you, though. Early versions of technology are always more expensive and that’s just something you’ll have to live with.
Electric cars have zero driving emissions, which makes them a fair bit cleaner than petrol or diesel powered cars when they're actually on the road.
However, it’s not really as simple as that. With an electric car, you’ve got to think about where the electricity is coming from. If your charging point is being powered by an old inefficient coal power plant that’s belching thick black smoke into the air, you’re not quite as green as you thought you were.
That said, with clean renewable energy on the rise, this shouldn’t be a concern for much longer.
Another thing to remember is that cars don’t only produce emissions when they are running. Manufacturing and disposal create huge amounts of CO2 so if you’ve just bought a new super efficient petrol car, it’s probably not worth your while environmentally to scrap it and pick up a brand new all-electric model
This point isn’t that important when we’re talking about car leasing but I’ll mention it anyhow. In an electric car, the battery does a load more work since it’s actually driving the car. This increased workload means the battery’s efficiency will decrease over time and will eventually need to be replaced.
Some manufacturers actually offer battery leasing deals, where you pay a monthly subscription and swap the battery out whenever its efficiency drops below a certain point.
However, with two, three or four-year leasing deal, you are unlikely to hit the point where the decline in efficiency negatively affects your driving experience.
An electric car’s range depends on two things: the size of its batteries and the efficiency of its motor. And that means the range can vary from one extreme to the other.
The Renault Twizy, for example, manages just 62 miles between charges. But the Twizy is one step up from a go kart and is specially designed for short distance city driving.
At the other end of the scale, there’s the Tesla Model S. With the Model S, you’re looking at a range of 335 miles between charges. If you start in London, a single charge will get you almost all the way to Edinburgh!
Whether an electric car’s range is a good or a bad thing depends entirely on your circumstances.
Swiss firm ABB recently debuted what they are describing as the ‘world’s fastest electric car charger’. The Terra High Power DC can add 120 miles of range to a car in just eight minutes.
And that’s pretty impressive. Or is it?
How long does it take to brim a tank with petrol or diesel? One minute? Maybe two for a large tank with a slow pump?
Even at the highest estimate, you’re asking people to spend four times longer at a charging station as they do at a petrol station.
And that’s ignoring the fact that most modern electric cars can’t actually handle that sort of charging. A Nissan Leaf, for example, will take four hours to charge with a 7kW charging point. Other cars will take up to 12 hours to go from empty to full.
If you have very predictable driving habits and live somewhere you can install a charging point, an electric car could be a good option for you.
However, if you rely on public charging points and have erratic driving habits, an electric car might not make a lot of sense in your life.
Infrastructure and Practicality
There are around 8,400 petrol stations in the UK and most of them have a dozen or so individual pumps.
Wherever you are in the UK, finding a petrol station isn’t particularly challenging.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for electric charging points.
In the UK, there’s around 6,000 public charging locations with almost 17,000 individual charging connectors. So, on sheer numbers alone, electric infrastructure doesn’t look too bad. Yes, there’s 2,500 or so fewer sites but a quick look at Zap Map shows the UK is fairly well covered.
However, as I discussed previously, electric cars take substantially longer to charge than a petrol or diesel car does to refill so you need way more charging points than petrol pumps. If you arrive at a public charger and find another car plugged in, what do you do? Wait around for four hours? Drive off in search of another one?
Public infrastructure isn’t quite where it needs to be yet so, unless you can fit a private charging point, it’s still a bit of a gamble.