When is the right time to switch to an electric car?

Pros and cons of electric cars

The UK government says it wants all new cars sold from 2040 to be electric. But electric cars are still only gaining popularity slowly in the UK – even when sales reached a record high in August 2018, they still only accounted for slightly less than eight per cent of new cars. So are they really a better value bet? Here are some of the pros and cons of electric cars.

Electric cars have historically been more expensive than petrol or diesel cars, although prices are coming down. However, in a study taking into account price, depreciation, fuel, insurance, tax and servicing in three countries – the UK, the US and Japan – researchers at the University of Leeds found that it would be cheaper to own an electric car than an equivalent petrol or diesel.

In the UK this was partly thanks to government grants, which made the cars much cheaper – until October 2018, you could get up to £4,500 to help you buy a new electric car. This was then cut to £3,500 and the range of eligible vehicles reduced, and it's not known if the grants will last past 2020 – but it's still a hefty sum. In contrast, diesel drivers are facing a variety of extra charges, including higher parking charges, clean air zones and increases in road tax.

So are electric cars more efficient? Yes: they extract more energy from equivalent units of fuel than internal combustion engines, and electricity is also taxed at a lower rate than petrol or diesel. The government's company car fuel rates have petrol costing between 12p and 22p per mile, diesel costing between 10p and 14p, and electricity costing just 4p.

Electric engines also have fewer moving parts, which means there's less to go wrong. Maintenance costs for an electric car should therefore be around a third of those for an internal combustion engine. Electric cars are also exempt from road tax. However, four fifths of the mechanics qualified to work on electric cars work in franchised dealerships, which are usually more expensive than independent garages.

If electric cars are to become more popular in the UK, one issue is how the cars will be charged. It's thought that around 43 per cent of households in the UK don't have off-street parking, which raises the question of how people would charge their cars at home. There could also be issues with being unable to use other domestic electrical appliances at the same time.

Electric cars may also need to be charged in the middle of long journeys too, and most of the charging points in the UK at the moment are in cities. The National Grid has stated: “To achieve a national network of charging stations will require the chicken and egg cycle to be cracked. Large battery electric vehicles will not become commonplace unless there are sufficient charging stations. However, there will be little appetite to build such service stations unless there are enough cars. A network of forecourts may grow organically, as it did when cars were first introduced; but someone may need to take the lead.”

At Carwise Group, we sell a huge range of used cars of a variety of makes and models – and we offer a range of car finance deals too, so you can pay in the way that's most manageable for you. If you'd like to test drive one of our used cars, call us at whichever of our dealerships is most convenient for you – you'll find us in Harlow and Maidstone.