Electric cars: A guide
Electric cars were once expected to be the ultimate travelling option of the 21st Century only to be maligned when initial efforts such as the Ford Think failed to earn a sizeable share of the UK market. However, with further technological advancements, electric cars are once again emerging as a viable alternative to the fuel guzzling and polluting vehicles that most of us drive today.
What is an electric car?
An electric car uses an electric motor for propulsion. Unlike a hybrid car, there is no petrol used by an electric vehicle. However, whereas most electric vehicles, including trams and trains, do not rely on a battery, an electric car does need a battery to function.
How do electric cars work?
In the majority of electric cars, there is a single electric motor connected to the wheels through a transmission, although some electric cars use an electric motor in each of the wheels themselves. All of the power to run the vehicle comes from an external source charging a battery. Electric motors are used to slow the vehicle and pass energy back to the battery. When the electric motors are used within the wheels there is no transmission making the car lighter and more fuel efficient.
What are the pros and cons of electric cars?
If you are environmentally conscious, then electric cars are almost certainly the best car option available at the moment. Though hybrid cars are currently more popular, they are reliant on petroleum power alongside electric power, meaning that they pollute more heavily than electric cars, which have zero tailpipe emissions. As a consequence electric cars have numerous health benefits too, as cleaner air means fewer pollution-related illnesses such as respiratory problems, some forms of cancer and even birth defects.
Some critics argue that electric cars merely displace the environmental problem and while they might not be responsible directly for pollutants, the energy they rely on from power stations negates their advantages. However, this argument is easily dismissed as electric cars can be used with renewable sources of energy. Indeed the majority of electric car owners are highly environmentally conscious and will already be using a green energy source in their homes. The issue of battery disposal is also being addressed with the introduction of more lithium-ion batteries with longer life-spans and that are less harmful to dispose of.
Along with the environmental advantages, electric cars are great for your pocket too. They are cheaper to run, costing around a couple of pence per mile, and they generally have lower maintenance costs than conventional vehicles. Owners of electric cars in the UK also have the added bonus of paying zero road tax and being exempt from congestion charges.
The main downside to electric cars at this point is their limited availability and their range. Most electric cars have a low top speed (though they are quick to accelerate) and long recharging times can make them unsuitable for longer journeys. It is hoped that as electric cars become more popular, there will be an influx of recharging points established across the UK. The introduction of lithium-ion batteries has also extended the range electric cars offer significantly.
Where can I charge up my electric car?
TheGreenCarWebsite.co.uk has a map of publically available charging points in the UK provided to us by OpenChargeMap.org. Electric cars can be charged from home or workplaces as most can be plugged into a domestic socket, however many are available with quick-charging systems which use a higher voltage to reduce charging time. Such high voltage systems can be installed at home or in workplaces if requested.
To see the database of on-street and car park charging points go to the: Available UK electric car charging points page on the website.
What electric cars are available in the UK
At the moment there is not an extensive range of electric cars available in the UK, but with increasing demand the numbers are expanding. Here is a list of the electric cars currently available in the UK – click on the links to find out more about each one:
Electric cars available overseas:
Chevrolet Equinox AMP
Ford Focus BEV
Honda Fit EV
Scion iQ EV
Tesla Model S
Think City EV
Toyota RAV4 EV
Here is a list of some of the models that may be coming soon:
At this juncture, electric cars cannot be used for long journeys but they are ideal for city driving and for those who use their car to travel short distances – such as on a school run or a shopping trip. If you are keen on an electric car then it is usually a good idea to set-up a green energy source to make your vehicle even more environmentally friendly.
What about electric vans and commercial vehicles?
Currently in the UK market, there is the:
- Goupil G3 available as a drop side pick-up, tipper, box van, canvas van, and waste collector with lambo doors among other options.
- Aixam Mega MultiTruck, available as a Tipper, Chassis Cab, Dropside and Pick up or the Mega Worker also available as a Dropside, Van or Tipper.
- Faam-three commercial vehicles available from this Italian firm; Ecomile, Smile and Jolly 2000.
- Ford Transit Connect EV
- Mia U- a lightweight commercial vehicle offering 1,500 litres of cargo space
- Micro-Vett: Choose from Carrier, Fiorino, Doblò, Daily Bimodale and Ducato commercials
- Renault Kangoo Z.E- an electric version of Renault's popular small LCV, the Kangoo
- Stevens ZeVan
- Smith Electric Vehicles offer the 7.5 to 12 tonne Newton, the 3.5 to 4.6 tonne Edison van, the Edison minibus and the Edison chassis van
- GEM eLXD
- Modec box van, also available as a chassis or dropside van
- Peugeot eExpert and eBoxer: are electric versions of Peugeot's Boxer and Expert models, adapted by Allied Electric.
- Peugeot eBipper and ePartner: electric versions of Peugeot's Bipper and Partner models, adapted by Allied Electric
Last updated August 2012.
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