How to Choose the Best Electric Car For You

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If you’ve ever felt guilty about your car’s emissions and the impact it’s having on our environment, then buying an electric car may have crossed your mind. We know it’s crossed ours! Or you might have just been wondering whether it’s even worth venturing into the world of green cars.

Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, did you know electric vehicles have many time and money saving perks too? Sounds like a dream come true, right?

If you think you’re ready to take the plunge, it’s worth doing a bit of research because there are lots of things to consider when switching from fossil fuel-powered cars to electric ones.

Luckily, we’ve done the hard work for you. Read on for our pro’s guide on how to choose the best electric car for you.

The benefits of buying an electric car

The initial upfront costs of buying an electric car are often higher when compared to their fossil fuel counterpart. However, their ongoing fuel and maintenance costs are significantly lower. And with thoughts around how to save on fuel on everyone’s minds at the moment thanks to skyrocketing petrol prices, electric-car drivers are laughing all the way to the bank.

The latest report from the Electric Vehicle Council (EVC) has found the cost of running your car on fossil fuel is approximately $1.50 per litre, compared with $0.33 per ‘elitre’ for electric cars. And to make things fair, they even compared the costs during periods of high electricity prices and low petrol prices.

The result: a potential saving of around $6,500 over 5 years. Wow.

To add to those savings, an electric car doesn’t require the same level of servicing as a car with a combustion engine. There’s no need to replace filters and spark plugs, change oil or maintain the different moving parts in the petrol or diesel engine. So if you prefer low maintenance, you’re winning.

Of course, estimates will vary according to your car use. But the time and money savings from reduced servicing is enough to make us want to learn more. Why not get a more accurate cost comparison with this Electric Vehicle Comparison Calculator?

And don’t forget the eco benefits. The EVC data also tells us that Australia could eliminate 6% of our total greenhouse gas emissions if we all switched to 100% electric cars. Impressive.

If you’re considering hybrid instead of full-on electric, we’ve got everything you need to know about whether hybrid cars are green enough and what their impact on the environment is.

dmagaing your car can be as easy as parking incorrectly like this line of cars

What you should know before switching to an electric car

Your individual driving habits and transport needs are going to be the biggest factors in helping you decide which electric car is best for you, if that’s the path you decide on.

First, read this article about the four different types of electric vehicles available on today’s market. They’re not all built exactly the same, and don’t come with all the same benefits. Once you’ve decided if you’re more a PHEV or a BEV person, you’ll have a good starting point.

Then, read on below.

Electric car range comparison

The maximum distance you can travel in an electric car on a single charge varies between models, from 150km for a Mistubishi i-MiEV all the way up to 660km for the Tesla Model S (Long Range).

If your driving habits match that of the average Australian (at around 38kms a day), you’ll probably have nothing to fear from a battery that can only take you 150km before needing to recharge. Sometimes though, you need to go further. Or you need a car with different capabilities. After all, what happens when you want to go on a caravan holiday or a loooong rural road trip? You know, the kind where electric charging stations aren’t exactly a dime a dozen.

If you have access to a second family car, this might be a better option – at least until the infrastructure catches up and electric charging stations are as common as petrol stations.

That said, everything in your car uses power, so it makes sense that the way you drive also has an impact on your car’s range. You can manage the amount of power you use and potentially keep it to a minimum, if you:

  • accelerate smoothly and avoid hard braking
  • stick to easier to navigate routes (with even terrain and less hills)
  • keep your tyres at the correct pressure (and reduce the energy needed to propel your car forward)
  • are conservative with air con and heating, and
  • travel light when possible (to reduce the load on the engine).

And here are some more ways to eco-boost your car.

Battery and charging time

Battery technology is advancing all the time, meaning the power, range and affordability of electric cars will continue to increase.

Consider the battery size

Most modest-sized sized electric vehicles have batteries that range from 16 to 24 kWh. Bigger models, like the Tesla Model S, are fitted with a 60 or 85 kWh battery. The bigger batteries might be more effective and give you a longer range, but they are also much more expensive.

What is the expected charging time?

How long do you usually spend at a service station filling your car with fuel? Ten minutes? Compared to their fossil fueled cousins, your electric car’s charging time can be anywhere from half an hour at a fast charge station, 4 hours with a specialist charging socket (if your car needs one) and up to 8-20 hours from your home power socket.

So on a long trip, you’re looking at a lunch break or an overnight stay to recharge, not a quick stop for a couple of minutes. Planning is key to avoiding range anxiety and adding hours to your trip. This electric car charging map will help you plan ahead.

Check the battery’s warranty

The good news is, most manufacturer warranties cover the battery for around 8+ years, meaning the average car owner will probably never have to replace it in the time they own it.

Which is great if you buy new, but cold comfort if you’re a second-hand electric car buyer.

However, battery prices dropped 80% between 2010 and 2016, so if the previous trends continue (and they are expected to) this won’t be such a problem. Especially considering the other running cost savings of owning an electric car.

Research says a 40kW battery today would cost around $8,000 USD to replace (ouch!), but in 2030, the same battery is expected to cost $2,800 USD. So you’ll just have to hold on for a few more years to make those savings!

Of course, an older car might cost more in maintenance, but over its lifetime the running cost savings make the cost of replacing a battery a much easier pill to swallow.

Electricity costs and limitations

It’s true that the cost per year of charging your electric vehicle at home will still be cheaper than filling your car with fossil fuels. It will increase your electricity usage, so make sure you’re on the best energy plan.

Canstar helps you compare electricity deals. Don’t be afraid to ask the utility provider for a discount – you’d be surprised how often these companies cough up to sign you on.

It’s also worth checking with an electrician if your home’s electrical support is adequate to support the charging load. Those built in or before the 1970’s might need an electricity supply upgrade before you can charge your car at home.

Limited towing capacity

One major downside of almost all electric vehicles is their unsuitability as towing cars (think boats, trailers and caravans). There are a number of reasons for this, but if towing is an important part of your regular driving then you can expect to pay a premium price for the privilege. And you probably still won’t beat a good old Hilux.

Before you take the plunge, ask the manufacturer what the maximum load rating is on their electric or hybrid models.

Comparing price

A quick comparison of many of electric models shows prices are between $20,000 to $100,000 more expensive than your average petrol car. The cheapest model (at the time of writing, in April 2022) is the MG ZS EV starting at around $44,900. Then there’s the Nissan Leaf and Hyundai IONIC, both of which are around the $55 000 range, and the Hyundai KONA at around $60 000 – but which is a proper SUV.

There’s not much in the way of middle ground, so after those “budget” selections, you’re looking at a big jump up to Jaguars, Teslas, and BMWs, which could set you back anywhere from $100 000 to $150 000 or more, depending on what you want from your electric car.

If these prices are still too high for you, a hybrid might be your next best option. The difference is usually only marginal (think $1,500 extra than their petrol-powered versions). These cars provide you with some of the extra range and environmental benefits without the massive outlay.

It’s worth doing the sums to see how fast you could recoup the extra outlay and whether you think the long-term savings and eco benefits outweigh the higher price.

Which electric car is best for you?

We hope you feel more confident comparing models after reading through our guide to buying an electric car. We want you to be able to make the best decision for your circumstances.

As well as the savings benefits of going green, did you know there are also financial perks of being the sole owner-driver of your car? At PD Insurance, we offer insurance discounts for exclusive drivers.

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