Not quite. We'll try to break down the key differences / pros and cons to both while also looking at some of the issues that aren't getting any attention.
What is the difference between a fully electric car and a hybrid?
A fully electric car or Battery Electric Vehicle (BEVs) use a battery to drive an electric motor which turns the wheels / powers the car. It does not have an internal fuel combustion engine.
A hybrid car uses an electric motor that works alongside a petrol or diesel powered internal combusion engine, with typically the electric engine taking over in city driving or at lower speeds, while the combustion engine might kick in at higher speeds or where battery level drops.
Overview – Electric Vehicle (EVs) have many benefits
There's no doubting that there are many benefits to electric cars over their petrol / diesel counterparts. A fully battery powered electric car will produce zero tailpipe / greenhouse gas emissions and so are kinder to the environment, and as they don't use either petrol or diesel can save the average motorist over 1000 euro in fuel costs per annum.
Electric cars also have many clever design features too. The engine is typically turned off when idle or stopped at traffic lights, and even braking can charge the battery in small increments due to "regenerative braking *".
In Ireland, you can apply for a grant of up to €5000 when buying an electric car and up to €5000 Vehicle Registration Tax relief, and you'll typically pay only €120 motor tax per annum **. You can even get a grant of up to €600 to install a home charging point, and you're safe in the knowledge that if you plug in your car at night that it'll be fully charged and ready to go in the morning.
So what are the drawbacks?
Electric cars are revolutionising the car industry but many feel they are not yet reaching their full potential. Many electric cars have a maximum journey distance of 100 miles - and this decreases where they are driven in cities or congested areas due to the stop start nature of the daily commute.
While this is fine for most general driving on a day to day basis it may be too low for some heavier road users. Designs are constantly improving and newer models can achieve 250 miles or more on a single charge.
Misconceptions - an electric car need doesn't need servicing?
There is an increasingly popular notion that electric cars don't need servicing. While it can be true that they may need less servicing, all cars are a complex network of moving parts from the engine to the wheels, steering, brakes, gears and tyres etc so of course electric cars will need to be serviced.
Remember also that as electric cars are a relatively new phenomenon - certainly in Ireland - that not all garages are fully equipped or have the skillsets to service them. All our staff in Coby Autos are fully trained up on servicing electric cars and we have the necessary equipment to test and repair any issues that arise.
Electric car engines are generally much more simple than their combustion engine counterparts and have a much smaller amount of moving parts As such they are typically cheaper to service where a problem occurs.
However there are key systems in electric cars that can cause very serious problems where they fail.
Air Conditioning – only for the summer?
With standard combustion engine cars we tend to think of Air Conditioning as something that we only need in the summertime when the good weather makes for an uncomfortably hot interior.
With an electric car the Air Conditioning is a vital part of the cars' system as it also keeps the car batteries from overheating.
Where the Air Conditioning fails in an electric car the results can be (at best) car shutdown, where you're stuck on the side of the road or (at worst) where your vehicle can massively overheat to a point where it can catch fire.
Typically an electric car will have an array of batteries running under the seats from the front to the back as illustrated above. Where a fire occurs it can be very difficult to put out as the batteries are essentially encased between the seats and the floor of the car.
If you're really unfortunate and suffer a fire as the result of such a system failure you may be left with not much more than a shell of a car once the fire is extinguished.
We don't wish to be overly alarmist here however – we are fans of electric cars and it's hard not to see them as the future of motoring. We're also not trying to suggest that they aren't perfectly safe and viable in today's Ireland.
Remember, every single car on the road needs to be serviced and maintained to ensure safe driving for you, your employees and your family. Electric cars are no different in this regard.
Finally – a note on replacing the batteries
This is where you may get some unexpectedly bad news. Much like the batteries in our smartphones or laptops, the large bank of batteries in electric cars also deteriorate over time.
While at first this will not be noticeable, over an extended period it can become a real issue that needs to be addressed – as maximum distances covered on a full charge decrease.
Current estimates suggest that an electric vehicles batteries should be good for roughly 100,000 miles while maintaining a reasonable driving range - or up to 66% of its' original driving range. This number may differ somewhat for various makes / models / efficiencies etc.
Should you at some point find that you wish to replace the batteries then you may be in for a nasty shock. In the US current estimates on replacing the batteries on a Nissan Leaf in 2018 can be up to $3,000 – yes, three thousand dollars – and that's for refurbished batteries. A new pack can cost over $6,000. Add to this the fact that Volkswagen estimate that there will be a shortage of suitable lithium ion batteries by 2025.
Perhaps things won't be so bad. Manufacturers are aiming to get the cost of batteries for electric cars down through improved designs and with every new or emerging technology there can be shortages (which are usually temporary). It's important to just be aware that there can be potential hidden costs to driving an electric car that may only become apparent once you've owned one for some years.
* Regenerative braking is an energy recovery mechanism which slows a vehicle or object by converting its kinetic energy into a form which can be either used immediately or stored until needed. (Source: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regenerative_brake)
** See the SEAI website for more information:
A maximum grant of €5,000 is available for qualifying electric vehicles when purchased privately. Approved EVs with a List Price of less than €14,000 will not receive a grant.