The electric car revolution has arrived. When the Tesla Roadster launched in 2008, as the first road-legal all-electric car running on lithium-ion battery cells, the world sat up. Electric cars were cool, futuristic – exciting.
Fast-forward to today, and electric cars are rapidly being seen as, well, just cars. And, as with all kinds of cars, electric vehicles (EVs) have their own particular, common challenges.
Are these gripes worth putting you off making the change to electric, though?
Well, to help you decide, we’ve rounded up the most common problems associated with electric cars.
Limited driving range
This is probably the most often talked-about challenge with electric cars. Can they last the distance? It’s a valid concern.
We rely on our cars to take us wherever we want to go, whenever we want to go there.
Filling up at the beginning of the journey, there’s always the satisfying knowledge that if you start to run low, you can refuel at a station, no doubt, very nearby.
Although the range of most electric cars has improved in leaps and bounds over the last few years, ‘range anxiety’ – the worry that your car will run out before you reach your destination – is still very real for many.
So let’s look at the facts.
According to the Department of Transport figures, the average annual mileage in the UK is 8,500*. This works out to around 20 miles a day. Of course, we don’t all drive the average every day – there are those weekend trips, longer work commutes and aimless road adventures.
But, currently, the majority of modern EVs can go anything from 150 to 300 miles in a single charge.
How you drive has an effect on the range, too. Plus another quirk of the electric car is that they can go further in summer than winter.
So, if you take a car that has an average range of 160 miles, you may find that it leaps to 180 in the summer, but drops to 140 in the winter.
If range anxiety is a dominating issue when it comes to purchasing an electric car, you could simply wait a few years.
The range of some of the early electric cars was less than 100 miles, so they’ve come a long way in just a few short years and lithium-ion battery technology is improving all the time.
When making the change to electric, you need a car that suits your needs. But is there enough choice?
While electric car buyers in the UK have a greater selection of vehicles to choose from than ever before, the choice is still fairly limited compared to petrol and diesel.
Currently, electric cars are aimed at the higher end of the market too, although second-hand electric cars are slowly coming into their own now.
However, as the public’s attitude begins to shift towards electric cars – along with the help of government grants – more models are being produced all the time.
As that happens, prices are likely to continue falling and EVs will become even more mainstream.
The battery doesn’t last long
An electric car gets its power directly from a big pack of batteries composed of thousands of individual lithium-ion cells.
When the car is charging, electricity is used to make chemical changes in the battery and then, when it’s on the move, the changes reverse to produce power.
It’s basically a massively scaled-up version of the battery in your mobile phone. And much like your mobile phone, charging and using the batteries all go towards wearing it out over the years. Which is fine for a phone, but not so great for a car.
To counteract this problem, the manufacturers have put everything into making the battery last as long as possible. That includes special cooling systems for the battery, as well as ‘buffering’ them, so you can’t use the full amount of power stored.
In fact, manufacturers are so confident about the lasting power of their batteries that many guarantee it with their warranty.
Both Nissan and Tesla warrant that their electric car batteries will last eight years or 100,000 miles.
Slow charging time
We’re used to it taking less than five minutes to top up our petrol and diesel cars, grab a quick snack, flick through the newspaper and be back on the road.
So the thought of it taking hours and hours to charge an electric car is, understandably, a negative for most.
The actual amount of time it takes to charge an EV depends on its battery capacity and the charger you’re using.
A 7kW charging point will take just under eight hours to fully charge an electric car with a 60kWh battery.
However, fully charging cars now with some chargers can be done in as little as four hours. Some superchargers can tackle the job in an hour.
Ultra-rapid charging technology is progressing all the time, and charging is getting faster. Charging at home or at work is still an option, and charge points in places such as supermarkets and shopping centres are popping up frequently, making it even more convenient to charge your car while you’re getting on with your day-to-day life.
Environmental sustainability of batteries
Electric cars and most hybrid vehicles rely on large lithium-ion batteries. Contrary to popular belief, these can be recycled.
The challenge, though, lies with the fact that they’re difficult to recycle and there aren’t many places that accept them…yet.
The challenge has been put back to manufacturers and most are already on the case, investing in recycling facilities that’ll expand with growing demand.
These are early days in a rapidly growing environment for electric vehicles and continual research into how best to recycle all the components of these batteries continues.
While some companies are repurposing the EV batteries into solar energy storage, others are creating new batteries with a combination of new and reused parts.
Like all new technological innovations, electric cars aren’t 100% perfect yet. However, what were once seen as disadvantages are not quite such big problems anymore, as technology moves fast.
The truth is, it all comes down to what you want from a car. While buying or leasing an electric car isn’t a decision you should make lightly, it definitely is one worth considering.
Finding the right electric car
If you’d like to find out more about electric cars, their pros and cons, and which vehicles we’d recommend, click on one of our helpful guides below.
- Electric Car FAQs
- 11 Electric Car Myths Debunked
- 9 Benefits Of Electric Leasing
- How Do Electric Cars Work? The Beginner’s Guide
Alternatively, you can search through our entire EV range; from the Honda-e up to the Mercedes-Benz EQC and Tesla Model Y, we have a huge selection of electric lease deals available for quick delivery.
*Data for 2019, pre-Covid-19 pandemic