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10 things you need to know before buying an electric car

Thinking of ditching petrol and diesel? This guide should help you reach a decision


Electric vehicle charging stations are becoming more common. Photo: Reuters/Ralph Orlowski

Electric vehicle charging stations are becoming more common. Photo: Reuters/Ralph Orlowski

Electric vehicle charging stations are becoming more common. Photo: Reuters/Ralph Orlowski

Despite a fall in new car sales, sales of electric vehicles (EVs) are surging and EVs make up over 15pc share of the new car market. When combined with regular hybrids that share jumps to over 30pc, so one in three new car buyers are no longer opting for a petrol or diesel car.

There are around 45,000 EVs on Irish roads, and so far this year 8,341 battery-electric cars have been sold  double the amount of last year. But cost and charging remain the biggest barriers to sale and there is still a long way to go before the numbers look remotely on course to meet the Government’s target of 845,000 electric passenger cars on the roads by 2030.

However, there is no doubt the transition to EVs is under way and car dealerships around the country confirm that a significant and growing proportion of new inquiries now relate to EVs.

So if you are thinking of replacing a petrol or diesel car, the following are 10 of the most often asked questions from consumers — and the answers: 

1 Are electric cars more expensive than petrol and diesel cars? Yes, you pay a premium for new electric cars when compared to similarly sized petrol and diesel cars. An electric version of Peugeot’s 208, one of Ireland’s most affordable EVs, starts at €28,305, while a petrol version costs from €21,570 and a diesel €25,005. So new electric cars are expensive, as are new cars generally, but there are second-hand ones available. 

2 Will electric cars get cheaper? And if so, when? Yes, the cost of EVs is likely to fall over the next few years and they will achieve price parity with petrol and diesel cars. In the meantime it is worth remembering, however, as prices reduce so too will the Government grants and supports. For now you can benefit from up to €10,000 in grants and VRT relief, plus the SEAI provides a grant of up to €600 towards buying and installing a home charger unit. 

3 What is the range of electric vehicles? Is it enough? When it comes to range, you need to be realistic about how much you drive. Travel data from the Central Statistics Office would suggest most people don’t stray too far from home; according to the National Travel Survey in 2019, the average journey distance was just 13.7km. Most new EVs on the market have a range in excess of 300km and there are many that will travel 400km on a single charge. 

4 Where do I charge and how long does it take? Most charging takes place at home or in the workplace and is as easy as charging a mobile phone. Electric cars charge at different rates, depending on the model, but generally an EV will need all night to charge fully on a home charger. There are three types of public chargers: standard chargers will take up to eight hours; fast chargers will charge from 0 to 80pc in 30 minutes; and high-powered ones will add 100km in as little as six minutes. 

5 How cheap are they to run? The upfront costs of EVs may be high, but it’s the total cost of ownership where electric cars really make sense. On the current Electric Ireland night rate, the cost to fully charge for example a Hyundai Kona with a range of 449km is around €6, so considerably cheaper than petrol or diesel. 

6 What is the difference between electric and electrified? ‘Electric’ and ‘electrified ‘ mean very different things but are often used as if they are interchangeable. Essentially the term electric refers to a car that can be plugged in, so a battery-electric or a plug-in hybrid, whereas an electrified car has an electric motor somewhere in the drivetrain such as a regular hybrid. 

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7 Will the battery degrade like the one in my smartphone? According to the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), an EV battery will generally last for the lifetime of the car, or 150,000km. Most car manufacturers guarantee batteries for around five to eight years and 150,000km. In the future, advanced battery technology and manufacturing techniques will continue to improve the lifetime of the batteries. If you are buying a second-hand electric car, the battery can be checked for degradation at any garage that services EVs. 

8 Are they really good for the environment? Electric cars may generate no tailpipe emissions, but the battery power sources, the recycling of its components and the manufacture of the vehicles and batteries contribute to carbon emissions. Obviously, if the source of energy to power the car is not renewable, the CO2 emissions will be much higher. In addition, the extraction, refinement, transportation and manufacture of lithium-ion batteries is also a concern because the process is energy-intensive and the mining of many of the raw materials raises both ethical and environmental issues. One important step is the European Commission’s proposed regulation of batteries. This, the world’s first-ever sustainable battery law, aims not only to ensure ethical mining techniques but also to reduce demand for mining by more effectively recycling the raw materials. Looking ahead, potential alternatives to the raw materials are being explored, such as the development of a new sodium-ion battery by CATL, a Chinese battery giant. 

9 Do electric cars depreciate quickly? Generally, electric cars depreciate at more or less the same rate as petrol and diesel — and similarly, some models hold their value better than others. However, the future depreciation on petrol and diesel cars will be significantly affected by government policy in the coming years. It is likely both will become more expensive to own and run, so electric cars are likely to be more resistant to losing value in the long term. 

10 Are we going to have one million EVs on the road by 2030? There is no doubt the plan to have one million EVs on our roads by 2030 as confirmed in the 2021 Climate Action Plan is a very ambitious one, but it is far more achievable now than it was when first mooted in 2019. Since then the EU has indicated it is likely to introduce a similar ban in 2035, thereby sending a clear message to carmakers that there is no future for petrol and diesel on the continent. Car manufacturers are also setting their own dates for the demise of petrol and diesel. Both developments will have a significant impact on car availability over this decade. 

So, should you buy an EV now or should you wait? If you have access to a home charger and you can afford either a new or used electric car, then it makes sense to take the leap.