Should you join the electric car revolution?

You’ve probably noticed more electric cars on the road and toyed with switching. We give you the lowdown on the costs involved.

Ultra-low emission registrations up 386% on first quarter of 2014 (Image: OLEV)

Ultra-low emission registrations up 386% on first quarter of 2014 (Image: OLEV)

It’s becoming clear to anyone monitoring the UK’s roads that electric cars are here to stay. The numbers are increasing to the point that they now represent over 1% of new UK car sales – not a lot but enough to make them visible and get people thinking: “Should I be joining them?” That’s what we’ll attempt to answer here.

Sales are increasing – to the end of July this year, they rose an impressive 211% over the year to 16,170 registered. That’s split between roughly a third pure electric cars and two-thirds plug-in hybrids, which keep a regular engine to extend the range when battery power is exhausted.

The government so far remains pro EVs (electric vehicles) and PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles). It has extended a generous purchase grant to “at least” February 2016 after it looked like the previous allocation was about to run out and has said that it wants every new vehicle sold in the UK from 2040 onward to be an ULEV (ultra-low emission vehicle – you’d better get used to the acronyms if you want to join the ranks of buyers).

The list of cars that qualify for this grant of upwards of £5,000 off the list price are growing all the time (see box for the current list). Whereas two or three years ago your choice was limited to a handful of geeky machines in strange sizes, now you can zap about in electric-powered cars to suit all tastes, including versions of ordinary, practical models such as the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. You can wow neighbours in a PHEV supercar (the BMW i8) or lord it in the outside lane in the pure electric Tesla Model S, a phenomenally quick (and pricey) limo, which is surprisingly long-legged for an electric car. There are superminis, PHEV SUVs, people-carriers and even a minibus.

Read more: Moneywise

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