Electric Vehicle Buyers Guide

With petrol hitting $3 a litre there’s never been a better time to buy an electric vehicle (EV). PAT PILCHER decodes the info.

 

There’s almost as much misinformation as information about EVs, so Witchdoctor and Vocus decided it was time to gather facts to help buyers out.

EV Pros & Cons

The reasons for buying an EV are many, but they can be broadly classified into the following:

  • Environment: EVs run up to 60% cleaner than their fuel-burning counterparts. EVs emit 80% less CO2 than internal combustion powered vehicles because electricity generated in NZ is 80% renewable. Battery-powered EVs typically emit 60% less over their full life expectancy than petrol vehicles. According to www.genless.govt.nz, these lower emission figures apply even when raw material extraction, battery and vehicle manufacture and shipping are considered.
  • Reliability: EVs tend to be far more reliable than their petrol burning counterparts. The electric motors used in an EV have far fewer moving parts, which means they are less prone to breakdowns.
  • Running costs: These are lower than internal combustion vehicles. Even though EVs command a steeper purchase price than internal combustion-powered vehicles, their running costs are much lower over the longer term.
  • Discounts: Government-funded rebates can be had when purchasing an EV. Buyers can get up to $8625 for new EVs or $3450 for used EVS. Rebates apply to EVs with a three-star safety star rating that cost under $80,000.

As compelling as these reasons sound, some gotchas apply too. These are:

  • Cost: EVs often command a price premium compared to their internal combustion counterparts. This is most evident when buying a brand-new EV. Plugging an EV into existing electrical wiring at home translates into slow charging. So the hidden cost of getting a fast charger wired into your home is rarely considered by buyers.
  • Charging: This can take anywhere from 20 minutes to a full night, depending on the type of charging you are doing. Plugging your EV in at home is very slow unless you buy a fast charger and get it wired in. Because charging can take considerably longer than filling up with petrol, you need to plan any longer trips around the location of charging stations.
  • Second hand: Buying a used EV can mean factoring in replacement batteries as batteries in an EV (like other batteries) have a finite number of charge cycles before wearing out.

Types Of EVs

While there are plenty of reasons to consider an EV, what type of EVs are there?

  • Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV): use an internal combustion engine and an electric motor/battery pack to reduce fuel consumption. The electric motor drives the car in situations where an electric motor can deliver the best performance. The petrol engine is used where it’s the most efficient option (such as cruising on the motorway). The big benefit of HEV is that they offer great fuel economy. There are also no range issues as charging is done by the petrol engine and regenerative braking. The biggest downside of HEVs is that you’re still coughing up money to put petrol in them, and they still emit CO2 and other greenhouse gases.
  • Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV): plug-in hybrids combine petrol engines with an electric motor and battery pack, but there are differences. PHEVs have larger batteries and bigger electric motors. They can also be driven in electric-only or petrol-only mode. PHEVs use the petrol engine and regenerative braking to automatically charge the battery. You can also plug PHEVs in to charge them, and they offer HEV level fuel efficiencies.
  • Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV): They’re all-electric, solely powered by electricity. As BEVs are 100% electric, they have larger capacity batteries than HEV and PHEV. Because of this, BEVs typically cost more, and they must be charged before being driven.
  • Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV): Like BEVs, They are totally electric but store energy using a chemical reaction with hydrogen fuel cells. This means FCEVs must be filled with hydrogen, so they don’t need to be plugged in and charged like a BEV or PHEV. FCEVs’ only emission is water. That said, there are few hydrogen filling facilities in New Zealand.

Driving an EV

  • EVs offer some compelling driving benefits over internal combustion vehicles. These are:
  • Torque: Electric motors are very efficient at accelerating. This means that an EV will smoothly and quickly accelerate, moving rapidly from a standing start.
  • Handling: The additional weight of a battery pack gives most RVs a lower centre of gravity, which translates into improved handling.
  • Ride Noise: EVs are also incredibly quiet. This means conversations are far easier in the car, and the stereo doesn’t need to be cranked up as much.
  • Energy Consumption: If much of your driving time is spent stuck in traffic, constant stopping/starting tops up your battery. Regenerative braking will also reduce wear on brakes. When still, no power is consumed by the motor until you put your foot on the accelerator.
  • Gears: There are none. You simply hit the accelerator to go. Lifting your foot off the accelerator slows an EV as regenerative braking kicks in.
  • There are some downsides. These include:
  • Overall performance: HEVs often don’t have particularly powerful electric motors or internal combustion engines, which means they can lack power.
  • Accessories/Range: Using air conditioning/heating, the stereo, headlights etc, can have impacts too as they draw power either from the same batteries used to drive the electric motors or a separate 12v battery. If the 12v battery runs flat, most EVs will refuse to drive, even if there is plenty of charge in the EV battery pack.

 

You should buy an EV

  • If most of your driving is within the EV’s battery range (eg, short distance/medium distance driving)
  • If you have off-street parking and access to a plug/charger
  • If you are looking for a cheap to-run second car
  • If you’re stuck in traffic often

 

You Shouldn’t Buy an EV

  • If you need a car for regular long-distance travel
  • If you be towing a boat/trailer/caravan

 

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EV Buyers Checklist

  • Battery
    • Size: This is in kilowatt-hours (kWh), the battery’s capacity. More kWh translates into more range.
    • Age/health: Beware that battery performance will degrade over time as all batteries have a finite number of charge/discharge cycles. Battery health can be measured in several ways ranging from the capacity remaining, the battery’s state of Health (‘SoH’) and so on. A data reader can be plugged into the battery, and a health check performed. Some EVs have onboard diagnostics that will help you work out how long the battery is expected to last based on use/charging. Confusingly, an EV can have low mileage but a reduced SoH if it has had a lot of fast charging. Counterintuitively, this means that An EV with higher mileage but better SoH might be a better choice.
    • Warranties: Does the EV have a specific warranty for its batteries? Most new EVs have battery warranties that guarantee the battery for a period of time (typically 5-8 years, sometimes longer) or distance (often up to 100,000km).
  • Charging
    • What Sort of charging does the vehicle support? Not all EVs support fast charging.
    • Are portable charging cables supplied?
    • What is the cost of getting a charger wired into your home?
  • Misc
    • Do some homework by checking the safety range ratings of different EVs (a good choice is www.right car.govt.nz, which allows you to compare running costs of EVs with internal combustion vehicles)
    • Does the EV you are considering have the latest software updates installed?
    • Remember, all the mechanical issues that apply to an internal combustion vehicle also apply to PHEV HEVs.

 

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