We decided to switch to a fully electric car three years ago. It was a significant change for us, and we weren't sure if it was the right choice. But now, after three years of owning our electric car, we can confidently say that it was the best decision ever made! Here's why.
How we came to be one of those electric car people
Before diving in, I'd like to give some context about what pushed us to jump from a traditional combustion engine to a fully electric car.
In 2018 I stepped back from my 16-year career to embark on the No Spend Year (2019). I planned to use our 2008, 1.2 petrol Open Astra estate for the indefinite future. At the time, I didn't have a great urge to buy a new car or upgrade in any shape or form. This car didn't owe us anything, and we had decided to save up and buy our next car for cash.
However, circumstances forced out, and the car promptly went to car heaven one week after passing the NCT, receiving new tyres, oil sump, and several other costly internal organs. Then, unfortunately, the gearbox died, and we couldn't locate a reasonably priced replacement one.
So the decision was made to take the leap and go electric. The original plan was to wait a few more years, keep the petrol one we had while we saved up. We were also happy to wait as we liked the idea of going electric, but we were sure if moving the family car to electric was the best option.
So when this happened, it was a total leap of fate, and we weren't sure if it was the right move. But after much deliberation, these are why we choose a new electric car.
Our reasons for going fully electric
1. Greater Reliability
The car had an 8-year warranty. This gave us confidence. Too many days had been lost bringing an older car to and from the garage. Had the car been a combustion engine car, we would have chosen a low mileage one a few years old. I believe the premium attached to petrol or diesel is too high to buy new. However, the electric car came with favourable grants and a scrappage deal
2. Lower Fuel Costs
Petrol and diesel are expensive line items on any budget. With an electric car,
this budget item all but disappears. Changing electricity providers annually
ensures that electricity stays as affordable as possible. We installed a NightSaver meter,
which halved the cost of night-time charging, bringing the fuel cost even
lower. This reduced the charging cost to approximately €1 per 100 km in the first couple of years. Although I have to say things are changing on this front with electricity prices rising, the charging cost is increasing too. For home charging, this cost is close to doubling.
This becomes especially noticeable if not charging at home. Therefore, from April 2022, the ESB rose its charging costs.
The standard, the slower charge, increased from 23c per kWh to 35c, a rise of 52pc
Fast charging ports jumped from 26c to 41c, a rise of 53pc
The monthly subscription charged to use the ports will also rise from €4.60 to €4.99
Those who are not members and just use the ports in a pay-as-you-go fashion will also see their fee rise to 39pc per kWh for standard charging and 45c for fast charging, increases of 45pc 48pc, respectively.
Fees for staying at charging ports longer than required will also rise to €8.
Although even with these sizable jumps, the cost of charging a car is still notably cheaper than filling up at the pump. From our last home budget calculation, it's still 70% - 80% more affordable if you are charging primarily at home and have a night saver metre.
3. Lower Car Tax
Electric cars fall into the lowest tax bracket, saving money in that department. When writing this, the lowest tax band is €120 per year.
4. Cheaper Servicing
An electric car is pretty much a laptop on wheels. Just like any laptop, it should be able to run for years with very little going wrong with it. However, electric cars don't have alternators, spark plugs, oil sumps or fuel filters, which can cause servicing headaches.
Aside from tyres, brakes etc., there shouldn't be much to service except for those mentioned earlier and various pollen filters and coolants. There are not as many moving parts to wear down as in a combustion engine. The average servicing cost has been notably lower than with previous cars.
Three years in, servicing remains cheaper. I've observed that the braking system is quite different in electric cars, and the tyres don't need replacing as often. The basic service runs between €65 - €100 plus any tyres, brake pads etc.
This is also a reason why we chose not to go hybrid. The way I saw it was that a hybrid has 2 engines to service and that's a headache I wanted to avoid.
5. Convenient Refuelling at Home
Refuelling at home is a personal favourite of mine. There is a lovely convenience of having a full tank every morning in the car. No more hunting for a petrol station at 6 a.m. on a cold and frosty morning. Instead, the car has a full tank every morning and is ready to go when you are.
6. Lower Carbon Footprint
Electric cars do not have emissions. So I'm hoping this will work in my favour for the inevitable NCT next year.
The electric car we bought has a maximum range of 290 km, which at the time was relatively good. However, in only three short years, the average range has grown significantly in any new car coming to the market.
The range has never been too much of an issue in staying that. Most driving is within 150 km of where we live. This almost eliminates the dependency on the external network for charging with the expectation of longer journeys. On the other hand, if a trip exceeds 200 km, I will at the very least need a coffee and the kids a run around. So a charging break is often welcome.
8. Lower Insurance
I cannot vouch that this will happen for everyone, but when we transition from third-party fire and theft on our old 1.2 petrol to fully comprehensive on the new EV, our insurance drops! I honestly thought that I misheard the person on the phone. I can't hazard a guess yet as to why that was, but it was an unexpected win.
9. Lower tolls
The electric vehicle toll incentive is still in-force three years on. If you have a toll tag, many of the toll gates in Ireland are reduced for electric cars. Tolls are charged at the standard rate on the day. Then the discount is credited to your account the following month. It's a great way to keep costs down while travelling.
Many apps help plan trips according to where charge points are located, making planning trips much more manageable. In addition, service stations are cottoning on to this and may offer play areas, food choices, bathrooms etc.
Important things that I have learned:
Driving electric is a very different mindset from operating a traditional car. You need to think in kilometres and distance rather than tank volumes, i.e. half a tank and do the guesswork to see how far that will get you.
Range and battery charge are accurate and in real-time. Learning to trust the dashboard readouts took some time. However, the range left in a charge is correct and adjusts in real-time, depending on your driving style and weather conditions.
The batter range depends on the weather. Electric car batteries need to be kept and a constant temperature. This has little impact on the range for spring, summer, and much of autumn in Ireland. However, the range will drop in the colder part of winter as more of the battery's energy will be diverted to keep the battery running smoothly. In my experience, there could be up to 50km of a difference in range between summer and winter. Don't worry. The range is accurately shown on the dashboard. Battery size is something to remember when deciding what battery size will work for you.
Three years in driving an electric car has been a game-changer from a running costs perspective. With over 75k on the clock, maintenance and issues have been minimal, and almost every other cost has been reduced. I can't see us ever moving back to petrol or diesel again.
Although time will reveal the actual proof for electric cars over time, much will depend on carbon taxes, government regulation, and rising fuel costs. However, by my calculations, if an Electric car is kept over the long term, say ten years, the savings can easily offset the cost of the vehicle on running costs. This makes a car, for the first time, cost neutral, in our experience at least. I never thought I would see the day when a car was a total money pit.
While an electric car will not be suitable for everyone, it may be worth a second look to see if it might fit your life, budget and lifestyle.