Should I buy an electric car? The pros and cons of making the switch

The UK is on track to become a carbon neutral society and from 2030 sales of all new petrol and diesel cars will be banned.

Sooner or later, drivers will have to consider switching to an electric car. The main question is whether it makes more sense now or later?

Read more: When will gasoline cars be banned? The government’s plans are explained (awaiting direct URL)

The shift from ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars to electric vehicles (EV) is being driven by the environmental impact of gasoline and diesel cars.

Fossil fuel vehicles are responsible for around a fifth of all carbon emissions in the UK, according to Greenpeace. There is also a clear link between pollution and life-changing diseases such as coronary heart disease, respiratory disease and lung cancer and asthma.

The argument for electric cars is compelling, but as with most things, EVs have their advantages and disadvantages.

We’ve weighed the pros and cons of zero-emission vehicles to help you decide if an electric vehicle is the best option for you right now.

Extending London’s ULEZ, or Ultra Low Emission Zone. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

The benefits of electric cars

  • An electric car can cost as much as a third to run per mile as a petrol or diesel vehicle, depending on whether you recharge at home (cheaper) or use a public charger.

  • Electric vehicles are more environmentally friendly because there are no emissions of harmful gases into the atmosphere.

  • Driving an EV unlocks various tax benefits. Road tax, also known as Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) or Car Tax, is paid by all car owners. However, since it is based on CO2 emissions, electric car drivers pay nothing because electric vehicles are zero-rated.

  • There are fewer moving parts and less to go wrong in an EV compared to a gasoline or diesel car. It is estimated that switching to electric can save you around 20-30% in service and maintenance costs compared to an ICE vehicle.

  • The choice of electric vehicles is growing rapidly. Most major manufacturers now offer electric models in all shapes and sizes – and for all budgets. It is also possible to buy a used electric car, such as a Nissan Leaf, for less than £10,000.

  • Driving an EV is easy because they don’t have a gearbox. Just select Drive, press the accelerator and go.

  • EVs offer a refined ride because there is no engine noise from an electric motor, so you can relax and enjoy the smooth driving experience.

  • Electric cars have what is known as ‘instant torque’. Unlike a conventional petrol or diesel car, you get all the torque (or oomph) from the moment you put your pedal to the metal, resulting in sports car acceleration.

  • EVs have the latest in driver assistance technology, making them some of the safest cars on the road. They must also undergo the same rigorous crash test and meet the same safety standards required for ICE cars.

  • Business users of electric cars benefit from tax savings that can run into four figures because there are no emissions from electric vehicles.

  • If you live in central London, all electric vehicles are fully exempt from the congestion charge, while some boroughs also offer free or reduced-fee parking.

Disadvantages of electric cars

  • The initial or purchase cost of electric vehicles is higher than their gasoline or diesel equivalents.

  • EVs have a shorter range than gasoline and diesel cars. Many diesels are capable of more than 500 miles on a tank of fuel, while EVs typically have an average range of 100-300 miles, and even then it depends on factors like temperature and whether you’re using ancillaries like air conditioned.

  • The worry of not knowing whether you have enough charge to reach your destination, or “range anxiety,” is still a problem for EV drivers. Especially ones with a range of less than 200 miles.

  • It takes a few minutes to refuel a conventional car, but it can take up to several hours to charge an EV, depending on the speed of the charger you’re using.

  • Charging an EV isn’t as cheap as it used to be, because home and public charger fees are rising as a result of rising electricity prices.

  • Charging infrastructure is growing, but not fast enough to keep up with the boom in electric vehicle sales. According to the Zap-Map database, there were 32,663 charging points in 19,960 locations in the UK in June 2022. However, they are not evenly distributed, leaving many areas with little or no choice.

  • There’s a new phenomenon known as “charger anxiety,” which is when a driver arrives at a public charging point location only to find a line of cars waiting, or worse, a broken charger.

  • Critics claim that electric vehicles cannot claim to be “green” until all electricity is generated using renewable sources such as wind and solar. Currently, a third of the UK’s electricity is produced using fossil fuels (gas and coal).

  • There are environmental and human rights concerns about the production of lithium-ion batteries, which rely on raw materials such as lithium, cobalt and rare earth elements, often sourced from developing countries.

  • Driving an electric vehicle is emission-free, but critics say it could take several years for an EV’s overall carbon footprint to drop below that of an ICE equivalent. The additional CO2 associated with EVs is mainly attributed to the battery, which is carbon intensive to manufacture.

  • Whether you buy or lease, or choose new or used, there are fewer choices of electric cars compared to gasoline and diesel.

  • EV battery packs don’t last forever. They degrade over hundreds of load/use cycles, becoming less effective in the process. Some will have a ‘second life’ providing electricity storage for homes and industry, but there are questions over their long-term recyclability.

Read more: Electric vehicles are no worse for the planet – here’s why

Read more: Why the UK is generating half of its electricity from gas

The all-electric Nissan Leaf is produced in Sunderland (Photo: Nissan)

The all-electric Nissan Leaf is produced in Sunderland (Photo: Nissan)

So should I buy an electric car?

Yes, if you can afford an EV or are willing to buy secondhand.

However, if you can’t install a charging point at home, live in an area with limited public chargers, or an electric vehicle just doesn’t fit your lifestyle at the moment, it may be too early for you to make the switch.

If you’re not ready to go pure electric, you might consider switching to a hybrid car to lower your emissions and increase fuel economy.

Whatever decision you make, one thing is certain – the future of driving is electric.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.