Electric Cars: Pros and Cons - Costs, Charging, Maintenance, and More

Rowan Harris 10 minutes Published: 20/01/2022

The UK is marching steadily towards an electric car revolution. By 2030, the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars will be prohibited. By 2035, no new hybrid cars will be available to purchase. 

Electric cars may be the future, but are they always the better option? In this article we round up the pros and cons of electric car ownership.

Quick Pros And Cons Of Each

Pros

  • Lower lifetime emissions than ICE cars.

  • Wide variety of tax incentives.

  • Lower running costs.

  • Lower maintenance costs.

  • More comfortable for passengers.

  • More powerful acceleration.

  • Powerful towing capacity.

  • Low effort charging at home.

  • Safer in many ways during a crash.

  • Bidirectional charging - use your EV to charge other things!

Cons

  • Higher purchase price than PHEVs and ICE cars.

  • Can be tricky to find charging points, especially if you can’t charge at home.

  • May need to buy pricey EV charger adapters.

  • Charging time is much longer than refuelling an ICE car.

  • Battery range deteriorates over time.

  • Could be less fun to drive depending on your preferences.

  • Sometimes higher insurance costs than ICE cars.

Pros of Electric Cars

There are so many pros to driving an electric car - we've outlined them below.

Zero Emissions

The big attraction of EVs is emissions free driving. But are electric cars better for the environment?

EVs have lower lifetime emissions than ICEs. The electricity used to power them does come from dirty fossil fuel sources, but as more countries use cleaner energy sources overall, EVs will continue to be beneficial for the environment.

Government Incentives

For many businesses and employees, company electric car tax incentives are arguably the greatest reason to lease or buy electric cars. You can currently take advantage of:

  • 0% Road Tax for EVs regardless of list price.
  • Businesses can claim 100% first year capital allowances on an EV bought for the business. 
  • 1% BiK rate on electric cars for 2021/22, rising to 2% for 2022/23.
  • Free charging for employees by businesses is exempt from Bik tax.
  • Exemption from congestion charges (perfect if you wish to drive in London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ)).

Lower running costs

How much does it cost to charge an electric car? Surprisingly little. 

Electric car charging at home is significantly cheaper than refuelling at a petrol station (and most public charging stations). With a smart wallbox installed on your driveway, you can benefit from special EV tariffs with rates as low as 4.5p/kW during certain hours of the night. This means you could recharge your car overnight for no more than a few pounds!

Out on the road, prices vary between electric car charging companies. IONITY’s 350kW ultra rapid chargers are 0.69p/kW which would make a full recharge (298 miles) in an Audi e-Tron GT cost £58.65. This cost is outweighed by the fast charging speeds - 5% to 80% in 23 minutes!

Tesla’s rapid charging is equally impressive and has wider coverage and costs 0.28p but can only be used by Tesla drivers.

Lower maintenance costs

While an ICE drivetrain often has over 200 moving parts, a Tesla Model 3 drivetrain has just 17 moving parts. In theory, there’s much less that can go wrong.

Regenerative braking also reduces the stress placed on the traditional friction brakes, so these generally need replacing less frequently. 

Batteries remain the most expensive component to replace - though many manufacturers offer generous 8 year warranties to protect against battery degradation. Not only that, but a decade of real-world data has proved that electric car batteries are surprisingly durable. 

The cost of servicing an electric car could be cheaper because there's less to monitor.

Comfort

EVs are whisper-quiet. While some people love the sound of a rip-roaring V8 engine, others will appreciate the gentle whirr of the electric motor. 

Backseat passengers will also generally have an easier time getting comfortable. Most EVs (with Polestar being a notable exception) don’t have a transmission tunnel running down the centre of the car. This means someone won’t have to awkwardly straddle a hump in the floor every time you want to fit a fifth passenger in. 

Acceleration

0-60mph in 3.5 seconds. That’s how quickly the top-spec mass-market Tesla Model 3 can accelerate. Because EVs don’t have to cycle through gears (check out our posts ‘do electric cars have gears’ and ‘how do electric cars work’), they can deliver near-instant torque at the tap of a pedal. 

Finally, we can get sports car performance at a reasonable price! 

Towing Capacity

The instant torque of an EV also makes it a perfect candidate for caravan holidays or towing other vehicles. 

The Polestar 2 can comfortably manage loads up to 1500kg. The Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 can both pull 1600kg. Each is dwarfed by the Audi e-Tron’s impressive 1800kg towing capacity. However, the undisputed king remains the Tesla Model X, which can tow as much as 2250kg. 

Charging at home

Electric car charging at home is not only cheaper - it can also save you time. 

Apparently, we Brits spend 47 days queueing over our lifetime. I don’t know about you, but there are plenty of things I’d much rather be doing with those 47 days. Charging at home is an easy way to eliminate one of those queues: the petrol station. 

That’s not the only benefit of avoiding the petrol station. By recharging at home, you can say goodbye to back of the envelope calculations to work out whether it would be cheaper to refuel at the nearest petrol station or the one 2 miles down the road. 

Safety Features

Electric cars are heavy. The Volvo XC40 recharge weighs approximately 1,000 pounds more than the standard Volvo XC40. This additional weight can be attributed to the car’s battery, which is often located on the car’s undercarriage. 

One major benefit of having such a heavy battery underneath the car is that it lowers the car’s centre of gravity. This means that it is less likely to roll if it were involved in a collision. 

Tesla has also shown how the absence of an internal combustion engine in the front of the car enables a larger crumple zone, which provides greater passenger safety in the event of a collision. 

Bidirectional charging

This is probably not going to make or break your decision to buy an EV, but we’ve added it in as a fun bonus pro.

Bidirectional charging essentially turns your electric vehicle into a battery pack on wheels that can be used to supply power to other things. 

There is Vehicle to Load (V2L) charging, seen in the Honda e, Hyundai Ioniq 5, and Kia EV6. You can plug electrical items into the car’s three pin plug and power up through the car.

Then there is Vehicle to Grid (V2G). This means you can charge, store, and discharge electricity according to the demands of the energy grid. You could turn your car into a nice little earner, making as much as £400 annually by using their car in this way. Octopus Energy has recently trialled their Powerloop V2G solution with a small group of customers, though large scale V2G remains a few years away.

Cons of Electric Cars

That was a lot of pros - what about the cons of buying and owning an electric car?

Purchase price

While running costs are lower, the RRP of an EV remains the biggest barrier to mass adoption - even with Government incentives for electric cars

This could all change as early as 2024, when UBS predicts EVs will be priced the same as ICEs, largely due to a reduction in the cost of batteries, which currently account for between a quarter and two fifths of the overall cost of an EV. 

The price of batteries has already fallen by 80% over the past decade and the list of affordable EVs is growing rapidly. Check out our roundup of the cheapest electric cars to see for yourself!

Charging point accessibility

For a long time, the biggest concern for many would-be EV owners was whether they could actually make it from A to B. 

In 2012, there were a mere 913 charging point locations across the UK - a figure dwarfed by the 8,693 petrol stations nationwide. However, in 2019 the number of electric vehicle charging locations eclipsed the number of petrol stations for the first time. 

More charging stations and locations are still needed though, and drivers will want to see even faster charging times at public charging stations. Rapid and Ultra Rapid chargers currently make up just 18% of the UK’s charging network, and we are still a long way from a ‘five minute’ charge. 

Electric car charging at home with no driveway is also made difficult by the lack of on-street residential charging stations in many urban areas. As one third of UK car owners don’t have access to off-street parking, this will remain a pressing issue if we are to transition fully to EVs.

But don’t let that put you off. Instead, ask yourself, realistically, how often do you need to charge an electric car? According to Hyundai, most EV owners will only need to charge 20 times a year - if they drive a Hyundai Kona Electric or a car with a similar range (289 miles). 

Charging accessories

If you want to be able to charge your electric car whenever and wherever, you’ll need to make sure you have a few important accessories. Charging cables are typically supplied with the car, but depending on where you wish to charge, you may need to buy additional cables or adapters. 

Most cars are supplied with a granny cable compatible with UK three pin plugs (the slowest charging form). You also usually get a type 1, type 2, CCS or CHAdeMO cable for charging at untethered public charging stations.

EV charger types can vary between manufacturers and charging stations. If you want to use a public charging station that doesn’t have the same socket type as your car, you’ll also need to purchase an adaptor. These aren’t cheap so you’re prone to electric car charging cable theft (a simple padlock will do the trick!).

Finally, there’s the cost of installing a wallbox if you plan to charge at home. Although Government grants for electric cars can go some way to offsetting the price of a new wallbox, the Government has recently reduced the amount it is willing to contribute from £500 to £350. 

Charging time

If there’s no queue, refuelling at a petrol station takes no more than a few minutes. So how long does it take to charge an electric car? Unfortunately, even the most advanced EVs on the market will take half an hour to charge from 0-80% - and that’s only with the best public chargers. 

This may not be an issue for people who rarely go beyond the confines of the city and do the bulk of charging at home, but for those without home charging facilities, or who wish to travel distances upwards of 250 miles a day, long charging times can be more of a burden. 

Battery range and deterioration

Until recently, many EVs had cripplingly low range which left many drivers worried how far can their electric car could go before running out of power. The great news is that EV manufacturers have significantly increased the range of their electric vehicles with the help of dedicated EV platforms and new battery technologies (see this list of the longest range electric cars!)

However, the issue of battery degradation over time remains. As the GeoTab battery degradation tool suggests, the average EV loses 10% of its available battery capacity over 5 years. 

The rate of battery degradation can also vary considerably between vehicles. The 2017 BMW i3 lost 16% of its available capacity after just 2 years and 8 months. 

Battery degradation is becoming less of a concern as EV manufacturers continue to improve things like thermal management technologies and battery capacity. Tesla’s recently announced ‘million mile battery’ may yet consign this issue to the past.

Fun factor

Are EVs fun to drive? This is of course entirely subjective. EVs make overtaking effortless and pulling out of junctions a breeze thanks to their rapid acceleration. But there’s more to driving a car than that.

Handling is one area where EVs often suffer. For many manufacturers designing their first EV, the cheapest option was to use a platform that they already had. But using a platform designed for internal combustion engines can cause all kinds of problems.

Removing a front mounted engine and replacing it with a heavy battery can impact the distribution of weight and cause oversteering issues - a notable issue with the early Hyundai Kona Electric. Additionally, the extra weight of a battery can make for some uncomfortably firm rides, particularly in small electric cars. 

Insurance

But you’re probably wondering: ‘If electric cars are simpler, is electric car insurance cheaper?’. Unfortunately not. While insurers now have more confidence in insuring EVs, the high list price means most EVs cost as much, if not more, than petrol or diesel alternatives to insure.

Conclusion

Electric cars aren’t perfect. But they’re one of the best weapons we have in our fight against climate change - and they can save you lots of money in the long term. 

There is of course no right or wrong answer to the question ‘should I buy an electric car’? That will depend on your personal circumstances and what you want to use the car for. However, if your main concern is that your new EV will be outdated in a couple of years, why not lease instead? You’ll have lower upfront costs and won’t be responsible for the vehicle once your term is up.

If that sounds like a great idea, why not take a look at the best electric car lease deals on Lease Fetcher. If you still don’t know whether EVs are right for you, you can see how they compare to other fuel types in our posts on hybrid vs electric cars and electric cars vs petrol cars.