10 things to know before buying an electric car

Even with continual improvements to the public charging networks, it’s not very convenient yet to cover long distances on a daily basis and solely rely on public chargers.
10 things to know before buying an electric car

Ford Kuga

So, you want to go electric, but don't know where to start. Here are ten things to consider before you start shopping. 

1 – Know your needs 

What do you need a car for? 

There’s no point focusing on the range of an EV if you only do a short school run in it daily and a trip to the supermarket at the weekend, for example. 

So, sit down and write out what your actual needs are. How many seats do you need? Do you need a large boot? 

Do you need four-wheel drive? 

Look back at the last two years and work out your annual mileage and also your regular weekly mileage. 

Do you need to tow a trailer? Will this be your main car? 

The answer to all these questions (and probably a few more we’ve not considered) should make the job of choosing whether it’s time to go electric much easier.

2 – Where will you charge the car up?

Before you seriously consider buying an electric car, you need to think about this. 

If you have off-street parking, then it should be easy to get a home charger. 

If not, and there are no EV charging points at your place of work, either, you really need to examine your options.

Exceptionally low mileage drivers won’t mind relying on the public charging network, but, even with continual improvements to that network, it’s not very convenient to cover long distances on a daily basis and solely rely on public chargers.

3 – Is range anxiety a thing still?

The Nissan LEAF.
The Nissan LEAF.

Range anxiety is a term coined in the late 90s to describe the fear that the battery charge in an electric car is insufficient to reach a destination, or charger. 

It used to be a massive focus of the media and the range of an electric car is still one of its most talked-about facets.

However, most newly launched electric cars can do over 400km on a fully charged battery, which has been proven to be significantly more than most drivers cover each day. 

Along with that, the public charging network has expanded, and there’s still more to come. 

So, sure, the average diesel car can travel further on a tank of fuel, but the average motorist doesn’t need that ability.

4 – Will I save a tonne of money?

In spite of government incentives, electric cars are no cheaper to buy than their combustion-engined equivalents and many are more expensive. 

That is slowly changing, however. 

EVs hit back with incredibly low running costs. Depending on your mileage and where you charge up your electric car, it can save hundreds versus a petrol or diesel car on fuel alone.

Owners of electric cars also pay the lowest annual rate of motor tax and can get a reduction of up to 75% on tolls. 

Along with all that, with fewer moving parts and less wear on their brakes, electric cars cost less to maintain.

5 – Will I stop climate change?

Unfortunately, it’s true that a large proportion of the electricity we use in Ireland is still produced using fossil fuels, so just because you’re driving an electric car, doesn’t mean you have no carbon footprint.

Still, there are clear commitments at government level to reduce reliance on fossil fuels for electricity generation, so the situation will only make EVs better as time goes on. 

In the meantime, everyone benefits from the fact that there are no harmful emissions from an electric vehicle. 

This is especially important in urban areas.

6 – Is there much choice on the market?

Hyundai Kona
Hyundai Kona

Only a couple of years ago, there were hardly a dozen unique electric cars to choose from, against hundreds of petrol and diesel alternatives.

This year, however, we’ve seen a ramping up of EV launches, and by the end of 2022, buyers will be spoiled for choice. 

It’s good to see a wide selection of models, too, with some manufacturers focusing on low weight rather than outright electric range.

7 – A hybrid might be a good starting point 

If a fully-electric car feels too big a step into the unknown for you, it’s worth considering a hybrid model as a steppingstone. 

If you have somewhere to fit a charger, or access to a charger, a plug-in hybrid in particular can make for a good compromise. 

Most of the new ones can comfortably cover 40 kilometres on electric power, with the backup of a petrol or diesel engine to allow for convenient long journeys. 

If you are going for a plug-in hybrid, make sure you can plug it in to charge up the battery regularly, or else it’s no better than a regular combustion-engined model.

8 – Are EVs easy to drive?

There’s nothing to be fearful of. 

Electric cars are no different to drive than any automatic car. 

Indeed, they’re generally more pleasant to drive due to the lack of engine noise and vibration, plus they have instantaneous torque as soon as you press the accelerator, making them pleasingly nippy.

9 – Yes, you can use a carwash?

Renault Zoë
Renault Zoë

Laugh all you like, but surveys have shown that there is a significant number of people that worry about bringing an electric car through a carwash. 

Worry not: it’s perfectly safe. 

Otherwise, an electric car would be pretty useless in very wet weather. They are designed to keep their high-voltage components dry and isolated from the outside world, even in quite extreme conditions.

10 – When will petrol and diesel engines die?

The goalposts seem to move every few months. The Government is targeting a phasing out of petrol and diesel models from 2030, and it’s not alone. 

Many others have committed to similar timing so the clock is ticking.

* Next week we look at the best options

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