A brief history of the electric car
Electric cars are not a modern invention, The first rechargeable battery capable of storing electricity in a vehicle was created in 1859 when the lead-acid battery was invented. But it wasn’t until 1884 that the first production electric car was built.
Petrol became more available after the end of the First World War, and so combined with improved methods of starting gasoline-powered vehicles, the greater range available and faster refuelling time this soon reduced the popularity of the electric car and the electric car died out.
The U.S. congress passed the Electric Vehicle Development Act in 1966. This was due to concerns over declining air quality as a direct result of pollution produced from gasoline-powered vehicles. The Electric Vehicle Development Act helped to provide funding for universities and laboratories to research the electric car.
The1970s and 80s energy crises revived a new interest in the electric car and the potential independence from the inconsistency of the hydrocarbon energy market. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) began to push in the early 1990s for vehicles that had lower emissions and were more fuel-efficient. Automakers responded by producing a range of electric models.
In 2004 Tesla Motors development of the Tesla Roadster began and by 2008 customers had received their first delivery. By 2010 deliveries of the Nissan Leaf in the United States and Japan began, followed by several European countries and Canada in 2011.
By 2013 the Nissan Leaf worldwide had sold more than 50,000 units and in 2014 made its patents freely available to help increase production and encourage competition within the industry.
From January-October 2015 the Nissan Leaf was the worlds best selling plug-in car with sales of over 38,000 worldwide. Concerns over pollution, global warming and petrol prices are making electric cars ever more popular.
Electric cars – Are they right for you?
There are many things to consider when choosing to go electric. Plug-in cars may not be for everyone as they can cost more than a petrol or diesel car, and the battery of an electric car has a limited range so a family or household that only have one car could find them impractical.
Electric cars are also effected by the climate and the range of the car can significantly fall in cold weather, the optimum temperature is around 70 degrees. If your daily drive is much more than 60 miles on average electric only may not do it.
They do have on the other hand a far lower running cost, and if your normal daily commute is around 40 miles the electric car could be for you. For longer journeys an infrastructure of charging points are becoming available across the UK.
The electric car motor will require less maintenance than a conventional petrol or diesel engine witch need regular fuel filter and oil changes plus electric cars have no spark plugs, transmissions or exhaust systems. So apart from rotation of the tires there is very little else.
The motor in an electric car has only around 5 working parts as apposed to a petrol or diesel engine which has hundreds. There are less fluids to change and due to regenerative braking the car hardly uses its friction brakes as by simply lifting off the accelerator you will slow down as if you were using your brakes. Driving in the city as apposed to motorway miles your range will be extended for when you go down hill or brake you get charge back into the battery.
The most expensive part of an electric car is the battery and in the case of a Nissan Leaf the cost to change them will be around £5,000. Estimates of a typical lithium-ion battery have a predicted range of more than 100,000 miles before a change is needed.
But now for the good news, increases in lithium battery manufacturing are bringing the prices down, so if you purchase an electric car today in 5 years time prices could be up to 50% less.
The advantages of electric cars
- CO2 emissions – Electric cars reduce local pollution as they produce zero CO2 emissions. They have been shown to significantly help in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but you must also take into consideration how clean the method of energy production is from the plants energy source from which you charge the batteries. For example energy production from wind turbines, biomass, solar vs. coal.
- Reduce fuel costs – The running costs of electric cars are much lower than a comparable petrol or diesel car. To fully charge an electric car on average costs around £2.00 and will have a range of approximately 70 to 100 miles.
- No road tax -With electric cars producing zero CO2 emissions, you have no road tax to pay as road tax is based on CO2 emissions.
- Grants available – There are grants towards the cost of a new electric (plug-in) car which are administered by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV). Grants available are 35% off the cost of a car, up to a maximum of £5,000.
- Fun and faster than you think – For example the Nissan Leaf has a top speed of over 90mph and impressive acceleration of 0-60mph in under 10 seconds. And with electric cars having no gears this makes for a fun, smooth, easy and quiet driving experience.
- No congestion charge – The congestion charging scheme in London does not apply to electric cars as they are exempt from paying the charge.
Charging Electric Cars
The most common way to charge an electric car is at home and over 90% of charging is done there. This is considered to be more convenient than fueling a petrol or diesel vehicle. It only takes a few seconds to plug in as you get home and the same time again to unplug and start your journey.
In most cases electric cars can simply be plugged into a socket in the home and charged overnight, but always have a qualified electrician survey the wiring to make sure it can cope with the electrical draw. This is not the fastest way to charge your car as per every hour of charge this will only add around 4 miles of range and take around 6-8 hours. This method is fine if you only drive 20-30 miles a day and have enough time between charges.
For a faster charge you can always install a home charging point, so for an electric car with a 100 mile range charging times would be around two and a half times faster than using a UK standard socket. Home charging points will cost around £800-£1000 at the moment but prices do vary.
When you are away from home or planning a longer journey there are free charging points available in the UK and depending on the model of your vehicle a rapid charging unit will allow an 80% capacity charge in just 25-30 minuets.
But always remember to make sure your charging cable is long enough as you should never use an extension .
If you’re a small to medium sized company that install charging points or services electric vehicles and would like to apply for membership with the Renewable Energy Guild, please contact us here.