There are three main types of electric car:
- Battery electric – these have a large battery connected to electric motors which allows the car to travel for 100 to 400 miles on a single charge.
- Plug-in Hybrid electric – these have a smaller battery which allows 15 to 30 miles on a charge, plus a petrol or diesel engine which can power the wheels when the battery runs out. If the battery is depleted they operate like a charge sustaining hybrid which is often called a ‘self charging hybrid’ but the electric motor will generally be more powerful so able to offer assistance more often.
- Range-Extender electric – these have a medium-sized battery which allows up to 125 miles on a charge, but use an onboard generator, which is usually petrol powered, to charge the battery for longer journeys. Range Extender vehicles are always driven by an electric motor as there is no mechanical connection between the generator and the wheels.
Why should I buy an electric car?
- Super cheap fuel – electricity costs work out at around 2.4 pence per mile, which is only 15% of the cost of petrol or diesel, plus zero Vehicle Excise Duty (VED).
- Quiet – no engine noise and very responsive at low speeds.
- Improved local air quality – Electric cars have zero tailpipe emissions which means a 100% reduction of NOx and Particulate (PM) emissions compared to conventional exhaust in the local area. However vehicles also create PM emissions from ‘Non Exhaust’ sources which are tyre, brake, clutch and road surface wear. Electric cars still emit non exhaust PM but this can be less than a conventional car due to regenerative braking significantly reducing brake wear, the absence of a clutch and a potentially positive effect from low rolling resistance tyres which wear more slowly. Due to non exhaust emissions you should still avoid unnecessary urban journeys even in an electric vehicle and try to replace these with walking, cycling or public transport.
- Energy efficient – typically have only half the carbon footprint of petrol/diesel equivalent when charged from the national grid. Electric vehicles can also be charged from clean renewable sources of electricity making them carbon free.
- Regenerative brakes – these capture energy during braking to top up the battery.
- Cost effective – electric vehicles can be cheaper to run compared with a new petrol/diesel when total cost of ownership is considered due to greatly reduced fuel and servicing costs.
- Environmental benefits – while the production of the battery does have more environmental impact than the creation of an engine, the overall environmental impacts of electric cars are still far less. This is because more than 95 per cent of a conventional fuelled car’s impact across its lifespan comes from the combustion of fossil fuel!
What types of electric cars are currently available?
More and more models are being introduced as manufacturers catch on to the increasing demand for these vehicles. See Go Ultra Low’s Choose Your Electric car for a guide to some of the latest models available from leading manufacturers.