Okay it’s a been a month (originally bought June 2016) since we got our electric car. So what’s the verdict? …….. (drumroll please) ….. we absolutely adore it. Maybe we love it just because we feel more virtuous driving it but I’m not sure it, just feels ‘cleaner’ to drive. I accept that the production of electricity in Ireland is not as sustainable as it should be, but i think it has the capacity to improve and that’s what we’re betting on.
I really love how quiet the care is. It’s completely silent when stationary and there is only slight noise as it moves off.
I also love the display that shows you if you’re driving efficiently and I feel like it’s a challenge to drive as economically as possible. I now know that having a fan on in the car uses up a huge amount of energy so we only have it on when we can’t open a window. It’d be great to see these energy metres in all cars. I think it’d really help us all use less fuel when we can.
I love that I don’t have to visit petrol stations anymore, even though I catch myself checking the price of fuel every once in a while without realising.
Based on night rate electricity, an overnight full charge will cost approx €2, while average daytime charging is likely to be €4 for a full charge, but we’ve gotten very good at charging our car at the charge points around the city when we’re out and about so we rarely have to do a full charge now. There are also a few fast charge points that allow you to charge the car up to 80% in about 30 minutes.
I’ll be honest, having an electric car won’t suit everyone and given the number of charge points in the city you do have to plan your car use a bit more than you do with a petrol / diesel / hybrid car.
Our car is a 2012 and has a projected range of 150km on it. Given it’s 4 years old the battery life isn’t quite 100% so the projected range is more like 140km and in reality we find it’s more like 120km, which with our driving patterns would require a full charge every 3 days if we didn’t keep topping it up regularly. This suits our driving needs and if we want to make a long journey we do need to plan around charge points, but we make long journey’s so rarely we figured it was worth going for an electric car.
Our plan is to set aside the savings we make from having an electric car – car tax is only €120- to get a newer model with a longer driving range in the future.
Sustainability of Electric Cars
There is no denying that using public transport, cycling or walking is far more sustainable than owning a car in the first place and before anyone decides to buy a car I would suggest asking if you really need one. If the answer is yes, then the second question is do you really need to replace the one you have. The energy taken to make a car is huge and maintaining an existing car may be more sustainable than replacing it, even with a more efficient one.
Efficiency – Electric motors operate efficiently over a wide range of speeds – 80’s to high 90% – while an internal combustion engine varies between 0% to mid 30% range. Some energy is lost during charging resulting in an efficiency rate of 70-73% for electric cars, which compares to tank-to-wheel efficiency of 16% for petrol / diesel cars. For more detailed information on this check out this blog post on Electric Car Efficiency.
Battery – There has been a lot of concern around the mining of lithium for use in electric car batteries. According to well-respected online journal Treehugger the environmental impact of electric car batteries is less than expected (about 15%) and the impact caused is due more to the copper and aluminium used in the battery than the lithium. Also electric car batteries are fully recyclable, including the lithium which can be recycled and reused. This is not the case with traditional nickle batteries used in petrol / diesel. Incidentally lithium batteries are used in most tech appliances these days so this issue isn’t just confined to electric cars.
Source of Power – It’s true to say that electric cars are only as green as their power supply. If the electricity used to charge their batteries comes entirely from solar, wind or tidal then it is obviously going to be much cleaner than if it comes from peat, coal or gas. In 2016 renewables made up about 27% of electricity generation in Ireland with the vast majority coming from wind. Also the time at which electric cars are charged matters. Most cars are charged at night and although wind energy is generated at night, solar isn’t and so the mix of energy sources used to charge cars over night may very well result in the overall emissions of the car being greater than come ‘cleaner’ petrol / diesel cars. Of course the more renewals used in energy production and the better we get at storing energy generated by them, the greener electric cars become.
It’s also worth pointing out that unlike gasoline cars, electricity loses energy as it is transmitted across the grid to customers. According to Wikipedia transmission and distribution losses in the USA were estimated at 6.5% in 2007. , i.e the discrepancy between power produced (as reported by power plants) and power sold to the end customers. That said i’m sure there are inefficiencies in the extraction and processing of oil so i wouldn’t imagine that transmission losses render petrol / diesel cars more efficient than electric cars.
Particular Matter Emissions – I have come across research that would seem to indicate that because of their heavier weight, electric cars may produce more PM emissions than petrol / diesel cars. These emissions include tire wear dust, brake pad dust, tiny road particles, and road dust re-suspension and are created by all vehicles, including bikes. Having looked at the figures it seems that it’s the re-suspension of road dust (i.e. throwing up dust already on the road) that gives electric cars a higher reading in this regard. Now PM emissions don’t affect CO2 levels but they do impact on health. Obviously as electric cars get lighter electric cars scorecard in relation PM emissions will improve.
Apart from the whole sustainability issue here are some personal and practical pros and con’s to having an electric car.
- I refuse to freeze in the car so have the heater on practically every day, even though it eats up power. With the school runs and errands during the day this means that we have to charge our 2012 Nissan Leaf every evening, which is fine as long as you don’t forget and have to spend 20mins of your morning charging your car at a fast-charge point! But trust me, you don’t do that twice
- Travelling long distances where you’ll need to charge your electric car more than once just isn’t worth it in my opinion. Although the ESB map is great at showing you which charge points are out of action, it’s of little comfort if it happens when you’re on route and there isn’t another charge point in range! As this car is our only care we hire fossil fuel cars for long journeys.
- As electric cars become more and more popular the wait at charge points on popular routes becomes longer and longer.
- I don’t tend to need to recharge away from home now but once I was once locked to a charge point that crashed and the ESB couldn’t reset the machine because someone else was charging at the same charge point. They said they’d send out an engineer who’d be there in under an hour! Thankfully the other driver came back so they could reset the charger and release me. That said this has only happened once and I’ve been told that they’re replacing first generation chargers with more reliable ones.
- I can set the heater to come on in my car at a predetermined time so the car is warm when i get into it.
- I still adore how quite it is. I’m like a silent ninja.
- Charging the car every night during winter does put up the cost of the car but overall our ‘fuel’ costs are still much lower than fossil fuel cars.
- You get free parking in the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Council area when you’re charging and i’ve heard that other councils offer free parking in any space to EV drivers.
- You can still get free ‘fuel’ when you park at charge points. No other car owner can say that!