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Five electric vehicle myths and facts

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1 They’re not ‘proper’ cars

Things have moved on since the days when cheaply-made ‘quadricycles’ or one-off aftermarket con-versions were all that was on offer.

The Nissan Leaf became the first all-electric car to achieve a full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests. It is a practical and comfortable C-sector car.

The Citroen C-Zero, Peugeot Ion and Mitsubishi i-MiEV feel little different to Mitsubishi’s i-city car on which they are all based.

Meanwhile, Renault’s trio of Kangoo Van ZE, Fluence saloon and Zoe supermini are likewise no compromise over the conventional alternatives.

Performance is not a problem in the new breed of EVs either – acceleration and mid-range torque are sufficient to keep pace with traffic, and top speeds strong enough for motorways – even in an electric vehicle less exotic than the £88,000 Tesla Roadster supercar.

2 EVs can’t go everywhere

To a certain extent this is true – if you take the spec sheets literally.

While most EVs currently available are capable of less than 100 miles from a full battery charge, in practice the majority of daily journeys for all but the longest-distance commuters and travelling salespeople are well within range.

Fleets operating around a fixed area or from a central location can easily adapt to use EVs if they install charging points.

Once more high-voltage quick-charge points are available in public places, longer distances become ever-more feasible.

The ongoing installation of charging points at Welcome Break motorway services is opening up cross-country electric travelling.

To date, there are almost 300 charging points nationwide, with a further 7,000 planned, plus 30,000 privately-owned locations – although most of these are in London.

3 EVs are expensive

Purchase prices are high, but grants of up to £5,000 per car are available until the end of March 2012.

For the next five years, EVs will be exempt from BIK and annual road tax, and qualify for 100% first-year Write-Down Allowance.

They are exempt from the daily £10 London congestion charge, giving a potential saving of £2,500 a year.

Energy can cost as little as 2p a mile, depending on the electricity tariff used; a full charge giving 90-100 miles can cost less than £1.

As for SMR, an EV powertrain is simpler and contains fewer moving parts than a conventional engine/transmission so should cost less.

None of the pricing guides offer running costs data on EVs, although an early BT Fleet estimate for the Renault Kangoo ZE put costs similar to the 1.5 dCi version.

Add in congestion charges and the EV would be around £10,000 cheaper (excl funding costs) over four years/36,000 miles.

4 EV batteries will become less effective over time

The latest EVs have been extensively studied in trials and field tests – but to reassure fleet buyers, companies are offering comprehensive all-in lease deals covering SMR and extended battery warranties.

Renault is to lease batteries separately, with maintenance included. Its reasoning is that the cost of fuel is not included in the purchase price of diesel vehicles so the cost of the battery should not be part of the EV price.

Battery capacity will reduce over time with frequent charging cycles.

Degradation starts around 5-7 years after which a full charge will offer less range compared to new.

With fleets likely to keep EVs longer than conventional vehicles to offset the higher purchase price, this needs to be taken into consideration. It could also affect residuals.

5 EVs aren’t any ‘greener’ than normal cars

While charging your EV with electricity from a coal or gas-fired power station is obviously still contributing to a hefty carbon footprint, EV users tend to opt for tariffs involving renewable-source electricity.

Some committed fleets are installing their own wind turbines or solar panels at their premises to supplement grid power.

Though EVs tend to be more carbon-intensive to build, the latest research for the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership has found that, over their projected life-span, they still win out over petrols and diesels.

Overall ‘well to wheel’ carbon dioxide emissions are significantly lower.

They give out no tailpipe emissions, either.

Manufacturers are also working on recycling and refurbishment solutions for end-of-life batteries to reduce the environmental impact further.

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