Is now the time to buy an electric or hybrid car?

Best cars and options explored

The future of driving appears to be electric, with Formula E in full effect, supercars adopting hybrid drive systems and range getting further all the time. Fuel powered engines may have their days numbered. But is it time to make the change to electric?

Now that the big car manufacturers are creating hybrid and electric cars we can be assured that it’s the future. And thanks to infrastructure improving all the time for charging stations range isn’t becoming such a big issue. But last year’s Tesla owners won’t get updated with the latest self-driving tech of this year’s Tesla, not a very nice reward for early adopting.

So is it still too early to adopt? Are batteries in cars suddenly going to improve to make current models a joke? We’ve looked at what going on to help give you a clearer idea of what to do.

Pure electric cars right now

The selection of pure electric cars right now isn’t huge, but it’s more than ever before and range is now good enough for day-to-day use. Prices, in the UK at least, are kept reasonable thanks to government assistance taking £5,000 off the price and offering free tax. If you offset petrol costs too you’re saving even more.

At the top end there’s Tesla with its Model S boasting all wheel drive and self-driving smarts starting at around the £50,000 mark. But this is in a league of its own with sports car performance, plus the latest model is not actually going to be in the UK until July 2015, even if you can buy yours now.

Then there are established brands like BMW, Ford, VW, Nissan and Renault all making fully electric cars at affordable prices right now.
Range, charging times, price and power

When going electric most people will be juggling these few key numbers: range, charging time, price and power.

PRICE: Firstly there’s price, at which the Renault Zoe wins by a fair margin starting at £14,000. Nissan’s Leaf can be bought from £16,500, Kia’s Soul EV is £25,000, the VW e-Golf is from £26,000, and BMW with its i3 is from £31,000.

RANGE: The range winner, from the reasonably priced cars, is the Kia Soul EV with 135 miles. In close second is the Nissan Leaf with 124 miles. Coming in behind them is the BMW i3 with a 118 mile range along with the VW e-Golf also sporting a 118 mile range, followed by the Renault Zoe with 93 miles.

Of course if you include the Tesla Model S that wins with its base model eeking out an impressive 240 miles on a charge and its top end offering 312 miles a go. But you get what you pay for.

CHARGE: This is a fairly even playing field with the cars all offering a rapid charge to 80 per cent in half an hour. Across the board it’ll cost you to upgrade your home charger for faster charging but this can result in as fast as a 3-hour charge to full.

POWER: Electric cars deliver all their torque instantly and the engine directly powers the wheels, this means they feel really nippy pulling away. The Nissan Leaf utilises 107hp to do 0-60mph in just 7 seconds making it the quickest of the lot off the mark.

The BMW i3 has 170hp for a 0-60mph time of 7.2 seconds, the Renault Zoe has 83hp for a 0-60mph time of 8 seconds, and the VW e-Golf manages 0-62mph in 10.4 seconds thanks to its 114hp motor. In last place is the Kia Soul EV with its 108bhp delivering a 0-60mph time of 10.8 seconds.

So for price the Renault Zoe wins it, but for range and power the Kia Soul EV comes out on top.

Plug-in hybrid electric cars right now

Hybrids have been around for years with the Toyota Prius leading the way with its dual-drive system. These are now more common than ever with Uber drivers using Prius as the car of choice.

But the market has grown, especially recently, with plug-in hybrids that allow drivers to charge at home so they may never need to use the fuel engine, instead reserving that for long distance journeys only.

From the Volvo V60 Plug-in and Ford Mondeo Titanium Hybrid to the Golf GTE or the BMW i3 with range extender, hybrids are fast becoming viable alternatives to single engine cars. The extra you may spend on the new technology can soon be made back in the petrol and tax savings they offer.

Range, charging times, price and power

Plug-in hybrid cars mean less of a worry about range than pure electric while also offering power and a reasonable price.

As with the Tesla we’re not going to include the likes of the McLaren P1, BMW i8, Porsche 918 and Ferrari LaFerrari as they’re all reserved for the super rich. And we’re only using plug-in hybrids as straight hybrids are fast becoming outdated in favour of the electric only options and extended range of plug-in hybrids.

PRICE: The plug-in hybrid range have all arrived at a similar time with manufacturers savvy to the government’s £5,000 contribution. For this reason they’re all very similarly priced.

The winner, by a narrow margin is the Ford Mondeo Titanium Hybrid from £25,000, with Mitsubishi PHEV GX3h from £28,250 in second and closely followed by the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid from £28,395.

Then we have the Vauxhall’s Ampera from £29,000, Audi A3 Sportback e-tron from £35,000, BMW i3 Range Extender from £34,000 and Volvo V60 Plug-in hybrid from £45,000.

RANGE: Winning with an impressive 967 mile range is the Ford Mondeo Titanium Hybrid but it only manages around 20 miles on electric alone. Closely behind that is the BMW i3 with range extender that offers a 930-mile top end with pure electric for 105 miles, making it overall cheaper to run than the Ford. The Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid can manage up to 700 miles in one journey but loses on electric alone with just 15 miles on a charge.

Audi’s A3 Sportback e-tron can last for 585 miles with 31 of those miles on electric alone. Despite its size the Mitsubishi PHEV GX3h manages 500 miles with 32 on electric alone. Vauxhall’s Ampera eeks out 310 miles with between 20 and 50 of those miles on battery.

CHARGE: As in pure electric cars this is a fairly even playing field with the cars all offering a rapid charge to 80 per cent in half an hour. Across the board it’ll cost you to upgrade your home charger for faster charging but this can result in as fast as a 3-hour charge to full.

POWER: The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron, as the name suggests, wins this with a 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds thanks to 204hp. The BMW i3 Range Extender model is second offering 170hp for 0-60mph in 7.9 seconds.

The Vauxhall Ampera does 0-60mph in 8.7 seconds with 148hp, despite having 178hp the Ford takes 9.2 seconds to get from 0-62mph, the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid gets from 0-60mph in 11 seconds from 134hp, the Mitsubishi PHEV GX3h does 0-60mph in 11 seconds and has 186hp.

The winner for price is the Ford Mondeo Titanium Hybrid but the BMW i3 takes it for range with the Audi offering the most power.

Future electric and hybrid cars

The future of electric cars and hybrid machines is looking positive. Charging infrastructure is cropping up all over the country with Tesla’s Elon Musk promising to install his Supercharger network UK wide by the end of next year.

Crucially, right now, it’s possible to drive pure electric all the way from the top of Scotland to the bottom of England thanks to fast chargers along the way. It might take a little longer than petrol cars since you have to stop for half an hour to recharge, but it won’t cost as much by a long shot. So adopting right now, especially if you’re going for a hybrid, isn’t as risky as it once was.

Another issue is batteries. Developments are being made more and more regularly as car manufacturers pour money into research. But worrying about having an older battery shouldn’t be an issue as, hopefully, manufacturers will be able to swap out old for new future-proofing any car you buy now.

Next year Tesla hopes to offer a car which is nearly completely self-driving. But since that’s out of the price range of most people current electric car offerings are plenty futuristic.

If you’re already driving a car and the cost of petrol and tax are proving too much then electric or hybrid could be your way out.

Source: Pocket Lint

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