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Why switching to an electric vehicle was the best move I made

Friday, 11 September 20206 minute read
Marc
Head of Knowledge and Community
Electric Vehicles

We answer all the questions you may have when switching to an electric vehicle — including why some may see it as the best choice they ever make.

I can’t remember the exact moment when I decided to ditch my petrol car and get an EV.

But I used to entertain the thought pretty much every time I found myself standing at a pungent petrol station forecourt, willingly handing over £60 a time to pump planet-polluting fuel into the tank.

Finally, in the autumn of 2018, I took the EV plunge. And I haven’t looked back.

What have I gained?

Money

In my first 12 months of driving the Nissan Leaf, I drove somewhere around 8,500 miles (which is roughly the national average).

In electricity terms, that’s approx 2,228 kWh. Which, in the first year of driving my Leaf, has cost me £312. For a year! That’s what I used to spend every month with my thirsty petrol car. And, given I’m on supply with Pure Planet, that’s all renewably sourced electricity. Zero emissions — no pollution. No worries about clogging the air we breathe.

There’s also no congestion charge with an EV. As well as no road tax, lower maintenance costs (due to far fewer moving parts) and lots of priority parking at most car parks, often with free charging thrown in.

Road tax

Since April 2020 zero emission EVs pay zero road tax. Not just for the first year, but all years your EV is on the road.

If you opt for a plug-in hybrid (which runs on petrol or diesel and has a small battery capable of about 25 miles on a full charge) then you’ll pay up to about £100 for the first year’s tax, then £140 per year for subsequent years.

Image: Nissan

London congestion charge and emission zone charges

If you live in the London area, or you’re a frequent visitor, an EV could be perfect for you.

EV drivers are exempt from paying the London Congestion Charge, saving £11.50 a day.

And using an EV also means you’re exempt from paying to drive into the London Ultra Low Emission Zone — saving another £12.50 per day.

Running costs

The cost of EV ‘fuel’ is as low as 3p a mile. Based on an annual mileage of 10,000 a year, switching to electric could save you about £800 a year in fuel bills. But of course you’ll need to factor in the upfront cost, or the monthly lease if you choose to rent instead of buy.

Everyone’s different, but my old banger cost me a few hundred pounds for every MOT, plus another few hundred every year for general servicing. The Leaf’s servicing is included in my lease, but owners are looking at minimal upkeep for the usual low maintenance items like brakes and tires. The RAC advises that brake pads and discs on an EV get much less wear and tear because much of an EV’s braking is achieved through regenerative braking.

There’s about 20 moving parts in the ‘engine’ of an EV (though the exact number depends on the model) compared to roughly 2,000 in your average internal combustion engine, so EV drivers see fewer risks of mechanical issues generally.

Driving Experience

I’ve also gained a more fun driving experience. EVs are just better, smoother, quieter, and faster to drive. Put your foot down, and it goes. The torque is instant.

And new EVs come with some really cool gadgets showing your driving performance, traffic around the car, the road ahead. You don’t need to own the top of the range Tesla for this stuff , either. Smarter tech is now appearing on the lower-cost cars, too.

Will I ever switch back to petrol?

No chance. EVs are amazing. And life-changing. It feels a bit like when I bought my first iPhone, way back in 2009. Within a few weeks I knew there’d be no going back to the push-button Nokia.

My Leaf is on a four-year lease. I chose the leasing option for the simple reason that I didn’t have £30k set aside to buy one. I arranged my lease through a work scheme. Employers can take advantage of some really generous tax discounts designed to drum up more EV interest.

National Insurance contributions for company cars are based on official CO2 figures, so employers who provide EVs don’t have to pay tax on them. And neither do employees. From April 2020 the Government made EVs exempt from the company car tax known as ‘Benefit in Kind’.

And if you’re looking to lease one yourself, there’s lots of options out there, even short term ones — a day, a week, a month, or years.

Image: Nissan

A small part of me expected my EV (the Nissan Leaf 2018 model) to be ‘old’ tech by now, leaving me to suffer pangs of ‘buyers remorse’ at the sight of newer models. But it isn’t.

I’ll be honest and admit that I definitely expected to have run out of battery at least once by now. But so far I haven’t suffered any serious ‘range anxiety’. I’ve made a few trips to London from Bath, and to the coast. There are loads of charging stations now, and all it takes is some planning, and a little patience if you happen to arrive at a charger already in use.

What have I lost?

Are there any downsides to choosing an EV? Not that I’ve found.

I’d say the only thing I’ve ‘lost’ is my old driving habits. Behind the wheel of an EV, I’m far more conscientious on the road. There’s more thought given to performance and energy management — how to get every last bit of power from the battery. I’ve learned that sticking to the speed limit, not accelerating as fast as possible, being light on the brakes — they all improve performance drastically. My Leaf has what’s called regenerative braking, which means the energy created from slowing down actually adds to the battery. It’s another way I’ve learned that careful driving equals more range.

The general efficiency of electric motoring is also something I’ve discovered: electric motors are around three times more efficient. About two thirds of the energy they consume goes into turning the wheels. Internal combustion engines are massively inefficient by comparison.

Only about 20% of what they burn gets converted to momentum — the rest is lost as heat.

I’m really looking forward to the day when I get to choose my next EV. That’ll be late 2022 and by then I expect there to be a massive choice of models, including some interesting second-hand options.

Discover our EV web pages.

Marc
Head of Knowledge and Community