I occasionally post some flippant Tweet about driving an electric car on the Twitters and then get a fair sized deluge of questions, queries and criticism for which I am always unprepared.
In my little enclosed EV bubble I assume I’ve already bored everyone with the basics, this is clearly not the case so this is an attempt to answer most of the questions that have come in today.
I am relating the answers to the Nissan Leaf, other electric cars are available but this is the one I drive.
@@scrummycupcake asked, how much does it cost to charge.
This is slightly complicated as it depends on so many things. If the batteries are very nearly empty then it can cost any of the following.
1) Charge at home, at night, if you have an off peak tariff which costs just over 4p per kilowatt hour between midnight and 7 am, then a 24 kilowatt hour battery (this is the capacity of the Leaf battery) will cost approx 96p. I do have an off peak tariff and this makes a big difference.
2) If you have an RFID card from ChargeMaster, Ecotricity, PodPoint etc, these vary in cost but are around £50 a year. If you charge from an on street or car park charging post, it doesn’t cost anything for the electricity, just the yearly fee.
3) If you are driving a Nissan Leaf and you use a fast charger at a Nissan dealership, they don’t currently charge you for the electricity.
4) If you have solar panels and you charge the car on a sunny day, it won’t cost anything at all. Last year engineers from British Gas who installed my panels and the meters estimated I drove 4,500 on pure solar power.
5) If you charge the car during peak time or if you don’t have an off peak tariff, you might be paying something like 18p per kilowatt hour, if the battery is absolutely flat when you charge, it will cost about £4.32.
6) One last really important fact, the battery is very rarely empty or even less that a third empty, therefore the time it takes to charge and the cost are less. But you will use 24 kilowatt hours per 100 miles, rough rule of thumb. So 100 miles will cost somewhere between 98p and £4.00.
@scrummycupcake asked how much it costs to replace the batteries. She had a lot of questions.
1) Again this is a really hard question to answer. The oldest Nissan Leaf is only about 18 months old, I don’t know what the maximum mileage anyone has done in one, but the battery is designed to last at least 100,000 miles. Clearly the batteries ability to store power is going to diminish over time but it would be wrong to equate a car battery to one in your phone or laptop. The battery management system is a big, complex part of the car which is designed to keep the battery running at peak performance without damaging it. Another important thing to remember is the batteries aren’t going to just die, they will gradually reduce the cars range. I have driven an electric car with over 120,000 miles on the clock, original battery pack, still getting 50-60 miles on a charge.
2) Nissan aim to re-furbish batteries in their brand new Sunderland plant, using over 90% of the original components/materials. I don’t’ know what this will cost but clearly much less than the Clarksonian lobby and their £25,000 battery replacement scare nonsense.
@jcoffey1138 asked “what about road/fuel taxes.”
At present there aren’t any, road tax is zero (you have to show a tax disk, and likewise, it costs the same per kilowatt hour to charge your car as it does to make toast/boil a kettle. Will this change when there are a lot more electric cars around? Yes, I’m sure it will but my best guess is that it will be a per mile tax system, the more you drive, the more you pay. Taxing electricity, especially if you make it yourself, very difficult.
@doghousedean asked, “all this electricity mostly comes from fossil fuels so unless you charge yours from wind/sun how is it helping?”
This is about the third most common misconception and is based on pure, undiluted Clarksonian logic. i.e. it’s nonsense.
The big difference between an electric motor and an internal combustion engine is the efficiency. The very best, super clean burn modern fossil burning engine is about 27% efficient, meaning in simple terms for every £1 you put in the tank, only 27p moves you along.
An electric motor at it’s very worst is about 80% efficient, likewise, every quid you pay for electricity, 80p moves you along.
If the Nissan Leaf could use petrol as a way of storing energy, (you can measure the energy in petrol in kilowatts of energy) it would be doing something over 350 miles to the gallon.
The Leaf battery holds the energy equivalent of less than 2 liters of petrol. The amount of energy needed to travel 15,000 miles (that’s how far I’ve driven in it) is a massive reduction from even the most super efficient modern diesel/petrol cars.
Plus, if you charge the car at night when National Grid make the most use of wind and nuclear power, then the CO2 you are releasing per kilometer is so low it’s embarrassing.
@alguienverdad asks “Why don’t electric cars have solar cells on the roof and bonnet etc?”
I get asked this a lot. For a start, the Nissan Leaf does have a small solar cell on the back spoiler, this just gives a trickle charge to the 12 volt ignition battery to stop it doing flat if the car is unused for some time.
It is possible to charge the car from solar panels but you need a lot more than you could fit on a car. The ones on my roof cover about the same area as the top of a bus, maybe a bit bigger. It’s a scale and cost thing, until someone invents an incredibly dense form of solar PV, there just isn’t enough bodywork on a passenger car to capture enough energy to make it a realistic option for charging the batteries. Car ports with solar panels on the roof, brilliant idea, many being installed. Imagine an open air car park on a mall where every space was covered with solar panels. I mean, a mall car park is never a pretty sight, it would be a massive improvement and generate enormous power/revenue for the owners. Car chargers by every parking space or better still, induction charging plates under every car.
Very many people have said it is impossible for them to have an electric car as they have nowhere off street to park it. This is a very big hurdle, especially for people living in cities. However there are solutions on the way. Induction charging (we are looking at this system in a future episode of Fully Charged) is simply a plate set into a parking space which charges the car. You park over it, no wires, no faffing about with cables, just park it and it starts charging. This is already being installed in many places around the world and is being designed into the construction of upcoming electric cars.
There are also electric car club schemes appearing, maybe you don’t need to ‘own’ an electric car, just use one when you need to. They will have designated parking spaces with charge points.
Many other people have stated that they are just too expensive to buy. This again is the main reason for the slow take up. There are however two things that are certain over the next two years, I haven’t found anyone who disagrees with this including executives and engineers from fossil fuel companies. Petrol and diesel are going to get more expensive and electric cars are going to get cheaper.