Life Motor Talk

Thursday 18 September 2014

The future might be Electric, the electric car roundup.

Published 20/08/2014 | 12:54

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Charging Nissan Leaf

There’s a lot to consider when you are changing cars, the big one that hardly anyone thinks about is the cost of ownership.

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It’s this cost of ownership calculation is the one you should really worry about, simply buying a car that’s in tax band A versus a car that’s in B just isn’t the right way to consider your next purchase. Thinking this way might only save you €60 - €80 a year which when you think about it is nothing when you compare it to the cost of fuel which could be anywhere between €1,500 and €4,000 for the average driver.

Now that electric cars are starting to take hold and we see more of them on the road it might be a good time to have a look at what’s on offer.

 

Before we do there are some things that all electric cars in Ireland have in common.

 

• The driving range of the cars is all around 130-199kms on a full charge but it depends on how you drive.

• There’s three ways to plug in charge them. Fast, standard and slow.

• Fast charge takes 30mins to one hour and is only available in selected locations.

• Standard charge takes between six to eight hours and is the most common charging point

• Slow charge from a standard plug socket can take over 12 hours or longer depending on how low the battery is when you start.

• Currently, electricity at Public Street chargers is free but this is set to change next year.

• You will still have to pay Tolls and parking fees as well as pay for electricity when driving.

 

From next year ESB Ireland will begin charging money for charging in a public area. When you pull up to an on-street charging point you will have to pay for both parking and charging which seems like a very short sighted way of promoting electric cars especially if you have to wait six hours for a charge. Add to that you pay normal car tolls and it seems that Government policy has no interest in EV’s succeeding in Ireland.

Coast to coast in the ZOE: my electric-car drive diary 

At the moment with a range realistically around the 100-130kms for most EV’s, it took Eddie Cunningham over six hours to drive from Dublin to Galway covering just 218km. This came down to the length of time it takes to charge mixed with trying to drive slowly to save fuel; so there’s not much chance that the long distance driver will buy into the electric dream just yet.

That said there is a future if you live in a town or city because the cars are great at short range driving. They all recharge when braking so the stop start traffic of a city suits them perfectly.

 

The range on offer

 

While most car companies offer some kind of electric alternative there’s only a few that really push the cars by having them in stock and on the forecourt.

 

Here are the main ones that are currently on offer.

Nissan Leaf

Renault Zoe, Fluence, Kangoo and Twizzy

BMW i3 and i8 about to come on the market

Peugeot iOn

Mitsubishi iMIEV

 

While other car makers produce an all-electric car they don’t seem to be offering them in Ireland mostly due to the cost of the car to buy and the very slow uptake here.

 

Renault Ireland offer the biggest range of cars from the tiny but fun Twizzy to the Kangoo van, saloon Fluence and brand new Zoe there’s something in there for everyone. The Zoe is the small hatchback that looks good and goes well but has the same range problems as most of the other cars on the list.

The price starts at €22,490 + delivery and dealer charges but it doesn’t end there. You have to lease the battery at a cost of €49 per month which is €588 a year and it’s this charge that cancels out any advantage the Zoe had over the rivals because none of the competition have this lease in place.

The remainder of the Renault range have this same lease option, the up side is the battery can be changed if something goes wrong but the down side is over the five odd years you’ll hold onto the car you’ve paid over €2k for nothing.

 

BMW Have just brought out the i3 and while the car is brilliant and can be gotten with a range extender, there is the price There’s no easy way to put this but it starts at €43,160 plus delivery.

If you want the range extender (which I recommend) it’s an eye watering €47,690. It really does work though, if you spec it there’s a 700cc petrol engine in the boot so when the charge is almost gone that kicks in to get you as far as you want to go. It’s the only electric car I’ve ever driven where I didn’t think about range.

The new i8 is almost here and that runs on the same system, it’s counted as a sports car and is meant to compete with the Tesla. The price is the problem here at €143,080 + delivery most people can’t touch it.

Peugeot iON is a very small city car based on the same system as the Mitsubishi iMIEV and has the same drawbacks as other electric cars, there’s also the size. It’s very small and really feels flimsy when driving it around, especially in traffic on the M50, this makes the cars somewhat of a lifestyle choice.

The Daddy of the EV range is the Nissan Leaf, it was the first EV to market and Nissan have made slow but steady push into the market. It’s a distinctive looking car that has decent room in the cabin along with reasonable boot space and it’s this size that makes the difference because you can get the family in.

Surprisingly Nissan and Renault have an alliance that allows them to share tech, together they can co-create most of the range. Still the Nissan Leaf is cheaper than the Renault Zoe, starting at €20,990 it’s well placed to compete for anyone looking for a five door hatchback and if you don’t have a big commute to make every morning then it could replace your petrol car.

There are a few new models coming to market over the coming months including the Volkswagen Golf electric but until they are tested we can’t comment on what they are like.

I don’t think Irish people will give up the need and love of the diesel and petrol cars out there. Our transport system isn’t set up to take us where we need to be and even if you lived near a bus stop chances are it would be late or going the scenic route. The electric car offers a glimpse as to what’s ahead, there’s more to happen with electric but hydrogen is also on the way so over the next few years we might see the fossil fuel engine start to die out altogether.

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