Electric vehicle attraction – time to make the change?

Like many people first considering an electric vehicle (EV) as their next car I had some questions. Not buying petrol again sounded great, as did zero emissions which means no tax and the chance to reduce my carbon footprint.

But I’d heard the driving range of EVs wasn’t great and had an idea that I would not be able to travel that far. Beyond distance, how would I charge my EV and, more to the point, where would I charge it?  I also didn’t fancy sitting around for hours waiting for that to finish.

And I also had questions about the battery and how long it would last, thinking they it would be really expensive to replace.

I also liked the way my diesel car drove and its performance, and believed it was much cheaper to buy than an EV. But on closer inspection I found many of my concerns were unfounded.

I looked at my company’s EV – the Nissan LEAF – for comparisons.

Let’s start how far I can travel. Nissan now have an extended range LEAF (30kW) which has an official range of 155 miles per charge – but like petrol cars this is based on results from a testing facility. I much prefer to talk about ‘real world range’. It’s still around 130 miles.

Looking at the stats, 98% of UK drivers do less than 100 miles per day so I could use the car throughout the day for work, family, social etc., and still have plenty in reserve.

That’s all well and good but I wanted to know if I had to locate a charge point at the end of the day to charge it up? It turns out that 99% of LEAF owners charge at home 90% of the time.

This is a simple task, using the charge cable that connects to a domestic plug or through a home charging unit (HCU).

Most LEAF drivers have an HCU fitted at home. These are subsidised by the Government and enable convenient, easy, and faster charging – it can be as little as 4 hours for a full charge. The only requirement for this is you must have off street parking.

Charging at home is fine as I’m not going to be waiting around but what about the public charge points?

I found looking at popular website Zap-Map.com that there are over 10,000 charge points in the UK and not just in larger urban areas but in larger numbers of towns and villages.

The standard charge points (very much like you would have at home) are generally in “destination” places where you would be stopping anyway, like supermarkets, town centres, gyms and so on.

But there are also a growing number of rapid chargers that will charge my LEAF from 0% – 85% in 30 minutes! One of the biggest networks of rapid chargers are Ecotricity and these are based at 95% of the motorway service stations across the UK as well as many other locations.

They are free to use and are powered from wind and solar sources so I would also have zero emissions from source. These rapid chargers also mean I can do much longer journeys with ease. For example, I can drive 100 miles (probably around 2 hour’s driving), stop for a coffee and charge and do another 100 miles.

I was always being told the batteries in these cars are really expensive and you would end up changing it. The extended range Nissan LEAF battery comes with an 8-year warranty. The car was launched in 2010 and since then not a single battery has needed to be replaced in the UK. I feel comfortable with that stat!

So the LEAF would work well for me but I want to know how much money am I going to save against my diesel car. And aren’t they expensive to buy in the first place?

First, savings in running costs really surprised me. It would cost just over £2 to charge it, which works out at 2p per mile. So a 20-mile journey that would cost several £’s in my diesel would cost just 40p in my EV.

And, thanks to the Electric Vehicle Plug in Car Grant of £4,500, purchase costs start at £21,290.But there are potential further incentives for Save Money Cut Carbon partner businesses, making the car very comparable in price to a similar spec, similar size diesel.

Now the all-important question –  is it going to drive like a milk float?The answer is a clear ‘No’.  The car has no gears and has instant power at any speed so performance is impressive. It’s also very smooth and quiet so feels very refined to drive.

Russell Higgins is workplace promotion manager, electric vehicles at Nissan Motor GB



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