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What is it actually like owning an electric vehicle?
(this is a question I get asked a lot)
In January this year we decided to find out first hand…
My wife and I purchased a small EV, with a 33kWh battery (94Ah), which can travel approx. 200kms per charge, plus another 100kms from a petrol backup Range Extender (REX).
So here are my top 5 perks of EV ownership:
(in no particular order…)
1. Farewell petrol stations, hello home charging.
Since January 2018, we’ve only visited a petrol station once to fill up the 9-litre REX tank, after driving down the Mornington Peninsula for a wedding. This means no more petrol station fumes and no more queuing at the petrol station counter! We now ‘refuel’ our car at home.
With an EV, you can recharge at home, even from a standard 10amp power point. The next day, it’s fully charged. So, the range anxiety question really becomes, how many kms do you do per day? Not per week, or fortnight. It's like charging a mobile phone every night.
2. Going green, with zero exhaust emissions
There are many great debates regarding the CO2 emissions from the generation of electricity, which powers Electric Vehicles. However, the reality is that there are no exhaust emissions from driving a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV).
For cities, where population density is at its highest, increased EV adoption will likely improve ambient air quality. When it comes to charging up, if you have solar panels on your roof, you will be powering your house and car with green energy. Otherwise, if you rely on the Grid you can offset your electricity usage with green credits if you want to.
3. Cheaper to run
Generally, EVs are between a third to a quarter of the cost (per km) to run vs. an equivalent petrol/diesel car. Our old diesel car cost between $20-25 per 100kms (whereas the EV only costs about $5 to charge, from the grid (even less if we charge it from solar).
Furthermore, when it comes to servicing, petrol cars have (on average) 2,000 different parts to make the wheels turn. Conversely, EVs have only 20 parts to drive the car (including the 4 wheels). So, in addition to no more oil changes, there are less parts to maintain, and as a result they are generally more reliable.
4. Smooth, silent, and fast
One of the things we’ve noticed with our EV is that you can’t hear the engine running or feel any engine vibrations. In fact, when we first got our car, I did have to check – is the car actually on?
Each EV has a different way to indicate that ‘yes the engine is actually on’. In our case, it’s a blue light on the gear selector (forward/reverse). In a Renault Zoe, the car says “Ready” on the dash behind the steering wheel to indicate the same. Either way, once the car is on and you start to squeeze the right pedal, you’re generally pleasantly surprised. The power delivery is instant, as electric motors have 100% torque at zero RPM. They also don’t have a gearbox, meaning a smooth power delivery right up to 100kms on the freeway. All this happens with very little noise from the electric motor.
5. Space, more space
Remember those 2,000 parts I mentioned earlier that usually get crammed under the front hood (engine), and down the centre through the cabin (transmission)? Well, with an EV, consider them gone. The main large component of an EV is the battery pack, which is usually placed under the entire floor of the cabin, creating a flat floor with a lower centre of gravity, which from my perspective, makes the car easier to handle.
This layout has created a new space called the ‘Frunk’ (Front Trunk). Many EVs now have storage space in the back and the front, as the electric motors are usually mounted near the wheels. So not only is the cabin more spacious, but you often get more storage space as well.
Batteries are positive and negative, so let’s talk about the negatives…
While in my view there are many benefits to EVs, there are still a few key challenges here in Australia.
Three notable, but likely short term, barriers to mass market EV adoption include:
Range anxiety is another common concern of EV ownership. As we had two cars, the simple solution was to replace one of them with an EV, and keep the other ICE (diesel) SUV for long range trips. If you only have one car, and are concerned about range, I'd suggest looking at Plug-In Hybrid Electric cars - which will give you the best of both worlds!
What might tip the balance?
It is expected that we will see more competition as new EVs enter the Australian market in 2019, with bigger batteries, and at a lower cost. And when this happens, it’s likely the adoption rate will go through the roof and by consequence, more supportive infrastructure for charging, will become the norm.
Do you own an EV, or have you driven one?
Keen to hear what you think about them in the comments below...
(positive or negative!)