Nissan claim that they have the leading, environmentally friendly, affordable family car (or LEAF if you write it as Leading, Environmentally friendly, Affordable Family car) with their full electric hatchback that offers 99mpg.
But as electric car technology improves, questions are increasingly being raised in the industry as to whether they, and their hybrid counterparts, are actually worth it. In the long run, are electric cars cheaper than petrol cars? And, the big question, are they actually any better for the environment?
You may have heard the industry led fanfare that surrounded the government subsidy of £5,000 for electric cars. Cynics say this simply led to manufacturers raising their prices by £5,000 but there are plenty of ways that manufacturers of petrol cars inflate their prices so the subsidy is more than welcome. Each of the prices quoted below includes the £5,000 discount unless otherwise stated.
Let’s start by looking at the Nissan Leaf. Though it is regarded as an affordable family car, the price of almost £26,000 is unlikely to tempt many in a recession. Further down the scale is the Renault Fluence which is a bargain in comparison at £17,495.
Next year, Renault also plan to release the Zoe in the UK which will cost less than £15,000.
The cheapest of all is electric cars also comes from Renault in the (unusual) shape of the Twizy which is just £6,690. This doesn’t include the government subsidy as it doesn’t qualify for one given that it’s not technically a car.
The Real Cost
And therein lies the problem. Though all electric cars offer excellent miles per gallon, the real cost is in the amount of time the vehicle needs to spend off the road. On a full charge the Leaf can travel just 109 miles whereas the Fluence will get you 90 miles and the Twizy just 35, meaning that unless you plan on simply tootling around town, your car will spend the majority of its life on charge.
The Environmental Cost
There is no doubt that from a pure energy usage perspective, an electric car beats a petrol car hands down when it comes to green credentials. However, Norwegian scientists recently released a report that suggested that the difference between electric cars and petrol powered cars is so close that even a minor factor, such as whether fossil fuels produce the electric to power the car, can change the outlook completely.
So What’s the Verdict?
The rush for electric cars has almost certainly led manufacturers to release models years before the technology has been perfected which leaves the consumer with the choice of an expensive car that may be better for the environment or a more cost effective internal combustion model.