Things to Know Before Buying an Electric Car
Everything you need to know about electric cars including reasons for buying an electric car and detailed information about the first-generation Nissan Leaf which is most common in New Zealand.
Reasons to buy an electric car
Our reasons to buy an electric car were mainly environmental. We wanted to be able to drive whenever we wanted and not feel guilty about the pollution we were putting into the atmosphere. 82% of New Zealand’s electricity is made from renewable resources so we can charge our car knowing we’re using the most sustainable driving method we can.
Another added bonuses that helped convince us to actually buy an electric car was the savings we would make. Charging our car at home costs a few dollars a week which is much lower than what our petrol costs would be. We also save on maintenance and repairs as the car is much newer than the petrol cars we were looking at and there’s much less that can go wrong with an electric engine.
We also test drove an electric car before we bought it and really loved how easy it was to drive and the space inside was perfect for getting around town, parking and carrying passengers if needed.
What’s the difference between an electric car and a hybrid vehicle?
Basically, a fully electric vehicle requires no petrol and has no alternative system to switch to if the charge runs out. A hybrid vehicle will run on petrol if the battery is low or if travelling over a certain speed. Because you don’t charge the battery in a hybrid vehicle (although, there are newer plug-in hybrids now) it is only used around town when the car charges itself by braking or going downhills. Hybrid cars reduce your petrol use and can be very cost-effective especially if you use the car both for city use and longer trips.
How much does an electric car cost?
For many people, the budget will be the ultimate factor in whether or not they purchase an electric vehicle. The prices will vary hugely depending on the model, age and where you’re purchasing, but second-hand early models can be far more affordable than you’d think. Here in NZ, we paid $12,600 NZD for a 2011 Nissan Leaf with 18,000km on it. This is the oldest and cheapest model so prices will only increase from there.
What are the best models of electric car?
Unless you’re planning on investing a lot of money, your best bet will be a Nissan Leaf. There are already 2 generations of these and they are proven to be reliable and efficient cars. The first generation was released in 2011 with many of the first models still in great condition. Anything from the second generation (2017) onwards will get you much further and have better battery life.
Audi, Hyundai, Renault, BMW, VW and of course Tesla also have reliable electric vehicle models. There are many more options these days but it depends on which part of the world you’re living in as not all models are available everywhere.
Where can you charge electric cars?
The first and easiest way is at home in any normal plug. There is also a network of rapid chargers throughout NZ where you can charge using an app. Have a look at this map to see where they are, there are more being added each month. PlugShare is an app which shows alternative charging options such as campgrounds and private properties willing to let you plugin, there may or may not be a cost for this.
You can also purchase an intermediate charger for your home which will charge about twice as fast a normal plug but not as fast as the rapid chargers.
How long does it take to charge?
There are two types of chargers for electric vehicles. The first are slow chargers which are what most people use when charging at home, they take about 10 hours to charge the car to full and are best used overnight which takes advantage of lower power rates. There are also fast chargers which are slowly being installed throughout NZ’s main highways. These are pay to use and can charge the car to 80% in about 15-20 minutes.
How far does it go?
This really depends on the model and your battery life. Ours is a first-generation and came with 76% of its original battery life. This means we can go about 80-100 kms on a charge depending on what speed we’re going. The battery goes a lot further around the city travelling at 50km/h than on a motorway. This means we only need to charge every second or third day during the week but if we’re going on longer trips we need to plan our charges carefully. Newer models will be able to go up to 200km on a charge.
Is it worth buying an electric car?
This is a big question and can really only be answered by each person individually. For us, we feel that the environmental benefits make it worth it plus we get to have a nice car and can drive around the city without any hassles. However, it was a large initial investment and, even with the petrol savings, it will take us a while to make our money back. We also find it quite difficult for longer trips and wouldn’t recommend it for families with only one car who travel long distances often. We’ve had to swap cars with family members to go on some weekends away as the fast chargers were too far apart, hopefully, this gets better in the next couple of years.
It is the perfect solution as a second family car or if you just use it to get to work and do the shopping around town. If you just have one car and want to go on weekend trips regularly it might be a good idea to have a look at the several hybrid options.