Cars as we known them have been with us for almost 140 years. We are used to them; how they work, what the servicing requirements are and so on. We also accept any new technology that advances, say, benefits to the environment or safety or economy, without quibbling. In the case of electric cars though car buyers have been a little more wary. In truth, there is very little to worry about.
Our Driving Future
Battery electric vehicles (BEV) and related hybrids do have something new to offer and, in the case of the former, eliminate the internal combustion engine completely. In the early days motorists were sceptical. They had to think differently about these vehicles despite the fact that we use a similar hose now to fill up with fuel that is the equivalent of the charging cable required for BEVs and plug-in hybrids. The only difference on filling up is time.
Topping Up The Power On The Road
As the development of electric cars gathers pace, drivers who take to the road in electric cars understand that they have to ensure there is enough charge in the battery pack to get the trip done. Hybrid users of course have a fall-back position with the petrol engine but users of true EV’s need to pay attention to the rate of discharge. That's why all electric vehicles come with a standard charging cable.
If a top-up is required when away from home then the increasing prevalence of public charging stations and those at hotels and employment work places is good news. The availability of these units is increasing and, slowly but surely, charging times are getting shorter. It pays to research public charging.
Early systems could be very slow but with the newer rapid chargers, most owners can get an 80% top-up in around thirty minutes. That's why a rapid charging cable suitable for the particular vehicle is on-board as charging rates can vary. The fact is though that for ninety percent of the time our driving is local and a single charge will be fine. As battery development moves forward though, these cars are capable of higher mileage range and some are now reaching the 300 mile mark. There is no substitute however for forward planning and that means ensuring the car is fully charged before leaving home.
It has always been accepted that we charge our BEV over night or when not in use. That much is obvious. Early examples used a charging cable that plugged into a standard domestic three-pin socket. It works but it is very slow and over longer periods doesn't do the cable a lot of good. That's why brands offer to fit exterior or domestic garage fitted charging points (at extra cost naturally) to speed up the process.
There is also a growing availability of dedicated wall chargers that are universal, meaning that the wall chargers do not have to change when the vehicle is renewed. These come in different or variable power ratings and can be much faster. Sure, there's an initial outlay but over time this will be recouped by savings on fuel. Some of the more expensive models can even be controlled remotely by apps. That's how far we have come.
It is worth paying the extra for this always remembering that this is a job for a fully qualified electrician. No DIY when it comes to electricity.
But Are They Reliable?
Battery electric cars can be purchased new with confidence from all the usual sources including online new car dealers where savings can often be made, easily sufficient to pay for the latest home wall charger for example. It has been clearly shown that the most dependable new and used cars on sale are hybrids and BEV's, which have shown long term reliability across the board and there is a reason for that. There are far, far fewer moving parts in an electric motor and electronic parts tend to be more reliable than mechanical parts which can wear quickly. Also, regenerative ‘engine’ braking, whereby the kinetic energy generated is stored in the battery, means brake discs and pads last longer, too.
User statistics have shown that battery longevity and ability to hold a full charge is not the issue it was first thought. Tesla, for example, have customer vehicles that have easily exceeded 100,000 miles or more. battery technology gets better all the time and there is ongoing large scale investment. That means that battery costs are dropping. All good news.
How Do I Service An Electric Car?
Ideally, you don't. Even the good old home mechanic of the olden days of motoring will not be able to help. When buying new it makes sense to use a dealer for the brand in question. Certainly, at least for a BEV, the servicing costs should be a little cheaper overall; there's no clutch to be replaced for a start and no oil or filters. Hybrids being a combination of traditional engine and electric motors should be about the same.
On the minus side, servicing an electric car requires specific expertise. That's why owners will need a main dealer rather than a potentially much cheaper independent garage. Thanks to the rising popularity of BEVs though this is changing. Good independent garages are moving with the times and, increasingly, investing in training. Today we know we can trust our local garages to maintain even brand new cars, so why should they not look after our electric vehicles too?