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 stood up. Electric cars were cool, futuristic – exciting.
Fast-forward to today, and electric cars are rapidly being seen as, well, cars. And, as with all kinds of cars, electric vehicles (EVs) have their particular challenges. The fact is, we’re all going to move to electric one day, but is it worth leasing an electric car now?
We’ve rounded up the most common problems associated with electric cars so that you can work out whether you should lease one.
Limited driving range
Range is probably the most commonly talked-about challenge with electric cars. Can they last the distance? It’s a valid concern. We rely on our vehicles 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 vehicle 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*, 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, most modern EVs can go anything from 150 to 300 miles in a single charge.
How you drive affects 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 with 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 leasing an electric car, you could wait a few years. The range of some of the early electric vehicles was less than 100 miles, so they’ve come a long way in a short space of time, and lithium-ion battery technology is improving all the time.
There are also plenty of EV charging stations popping up all over the UK, so finding a charging point nowadays shouldn’t be too tricky.
When it comes to leasing an EV, you can take out a shorter contract (1-3 years), so as range improves, you can switch your vehicle to give you peace of mind.
When making the change to electric, you need a car that suits your needs, but is there enough choice?
While electric car leasers in the UK have a broader selection of vehicles to choose from than ever before, the choice is still somewhat limited compared to petrol and diesel. Currently, electric cars are at the higher end of the market, too, although second-hand electric vehicles 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 electric will become more mainstream.
When you lease an electric vehicle, you’re only keeping it for a set period before handing it back, so as more electric cars start to enter the market, you can switch vehicles and get something different.
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 vehicle is charging, electricity makes chemical changes in the battery, and then, when it’s on the move, the changes reverse to produce power.
It’s 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, 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 cannot use the full amount of power that is stored.
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 a little under 8 hours to charge an electric car with a 60kWh battery fully. However, some cars can charge 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 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, batteries are recyclable. However, the challenge lies with the fact that they are 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 will 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.
Should I lease an electric car?
Like all new technological innovations, electric cars aren’t 100% perfect yet, and probably never will be. However, what was seen as disadvantages are not such big problems anymore, as technology moves fast.
The main advantage of leasing an electric car is that you get to give it back, so if you find the range isn’t what you’d hoped for, or you don’t like the car, you can always try something different. Contrast that to buying an EV, and it could end up being an expensive problem to fix.
The truth is, it all comes down to what you want from a car. There are risks associated with any vehicle, whether it’s diesel, petrol or electric. And while leasing an electric vehicle isn’t a decision you should make lightly, it’s worth considering.
*Data for 2019, pre-Covid-19 pandemic
If you are looking to make the change, and ready to go green, you can browse a large range of electric and hybrid models, or alternatively, check out our latest Electric car FAQ’s to get you in the know.