The benefits and disadvantages of electric cars: are they worth it?
11 December 2020 | Stephen Marcus
These days, it’s not so uncommon to hear – or, more accurately, not hear! – the quiet hum of an electric car. As the cost of buying one continues to drop, it’s becoming more mainstream to make the change to electric vehicles – or EVs, for short, as they’re more broadly known. And that trend is only set to continue, following the recent government announcement that sales of fully petrol and diesel cars will be banned from 2030. (This doesn’t include hybrids, which are allowed until 2035.)
If you want to make a difference for the planet, as well as have an impact on emissions in your local area, then you might have already considered making the switch to electric.
The good news is, electric cars offer all kinds of other advantages, too. They range from savings on fuel, tax and maintenance costs, to the (as some would argue) superior driving experience. Here, we walk you through the many perks of EVs, their downsides, and all the other basics you need to know.
Top 10 benefits of electric cars
1. Cheaper to run
The cost of running an EV is significantly cheaper than a petrol or diesel car. Electricity powers your car more cheaply than petrol. So while the price to buy many EVs is still higher than that of their petrol or diesel counterparts, you’ll spend less on fuel costs each year.
Maintenance costs are also lower. In general, there are fewer moving parts in electric cars. This means:
- You’re far less likely to have expensive repairs on replaceable parts like brake discs and pads
- The car will spend less time off the road, because services or repairs will usually be simple
- Servicing costs shouldn’t go beyond a basic check-up
Read our guide to the differences between electric vs petrol vs hybrid cars to find out which option is best for you.
2. Environmental benefits of electric cars
Many of us are drawn to EVs because of their lower impact on our planet. It’s possible to power fully electric cars with 100% renewable electricity – which is a vital step towards decarbonisation. Plus, they don’t emit any exhaust fumes, which can have a huge impact on reducing local air pollution. And that’s a much-needed and very welcome change for our congested cities.
Want to know more about EVs’ green credentials during the manufacturing process? Check out our explainer to see how EVs are made, and what it means for their carbon footprint.
3. Discounts on congestion charges
With the introduction of Clean Air Zones (CAZ) by cities like Bath and Birmingham, electric car-drivers across the UK could benefit from this new government scheme. The details for different regions are still being finalised, but find out the latest from the government.
EV drivers in London can also save money on the Congestion Charge. Fully electric cars that emit no carbon are exempt until 2025, while certain hybrids can avoid paying it until 2021. If you plan on entering the inner-city congestion zone between 7am and 10pm, this means you’ll save £15 each and every time. Read more on the TfL website.
4. Improved driving
Driving an electric car is a smoother, safer experience. This is for 2 main reasons:
- The electric motor makes EVs responsive when you put your foot down, but also whisper-quiet on the road
- The weight and distribution of the batteries means a low centre of gravity, for improved handling and comfort
5. Government funding towards a charge point
Government grants are available through the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) to help with the cost of installing a charge point. They have grants of up to £350 up for grabs towards the cost of installing a home charge point.
There are also incentives for local authorities to create charging points, to try and solve the issues around urban charging. Plus, if you want to encourage your staff to use EVs, the Workplace Charging Scheme gives support to eligible businesses who’d like to install charging points at the office.
6. Get up to £3,000 off the purchase price
You can also make a big saving on the cost of buying a new electric or hybrid vehicle through the OLEV plug-in grant. For cars, this could be up to £3,000, and for other vehicles – such as motorcycles, taxis and vans – the discounts vary in size. The grants are managed by the dealers, so you don’t have to do anything to benefit from them.
Find out more in our complete guide to the full range of government grants and incentives for electric and hybrid cars.
7. Free parking
To encourage more drivers to make the switch, many local authorities offer free street parking (and often free charging) for electric cars. Find your local authority to see what benefits might be available.
8. Solid re-sale value
The value of most new cars goes down as soon as you drive them out of the dealership. Amazingly, this isn’t the case for some electric cars. Their value drops much more slowly than for petrol cars – and, in some extraordinary cases, their value can even go up1!
And because their batteries are also worth a lot, EVs are unlikely to drop below a base price. You won’t find a Nissan LEAF for less than £5,000, for instance – no matter how old it is, or how many miles it’s clocked up.
9. Reduce noise pollution
Who hasn’t been annoyed by the sound of a noisy car or motorcycle? Another great benefit of electric cars: they can help to minimise this anti-social aspect, being naturally much quieter than petrol and diesel vehicles.
They’re so quiet, in fact, that a new law has been introduced requiring EVs to have an Acoustic Vehicle Alert System (AVAS) fitted. These emit an artificial sound, signalling their presence to pedestrians when reversing, or travelling below 12mph.
Their quiet hum makes EVs very handy for reducing both noise and air pollution – which is great news for local neighbourhoods and inner cities alike.
10. Easy and convenient charging
With an EV, the world is your oyster – or at least, it soon will be – as many local authorities start to expand their public charging facilities. It means that rather than going to the petrol station, you can charge an electric car wherever there’s a suitable socket or plug.
How about the disadvantages of electric cars?
They can be costly to buy upfront
While the government’s plug-in grant brings down the cost of many EVs to similar levels as their petrol or diesel counterparts, upfront costs can often still be more.
Currently, the choice of EVs isn’t as broad as it could be. But that’s improving all the time – and options will continue to grow as we approach the 2030 ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars.
They can be tricky to charge
People who regularly drive long distances are still quite wary when it comes to an EV’s range. As mentioned earlier, this relates to the UK’s current charging infrastructure. But the good news is that there are more and more charge points springing up all over the UK – making it much easier to safely plan long journeys with your EV.
Find out more about the costs of charging your EV at home, at work or on the go, in our useful guide.
Do I want an electric car or a hybrid?
This really depends on your driving habits. It’s important to consider how regularly, and how far you usually drive. Ask yourself:
- Do you plan to do a lot of long-distance driving?
- Do you struggle to get easy, dependable access to charging points?
If you regularly drive long distances, but you don’t have a reliable charging infrastructure nearby or en route, a hybrid is perhaps your best bet. But bear in mind that if cutting your carbon is the priority, a fully electric car will always be the greener option.
If you want to learn more before making a decision, check out our handy guide comparing electric cars to hybrid and petrol vehicles.
Thinking of buying an EV?
Go green now with our OVO Drive tariff. It’s fueled by 100% renewable electricity2, and it’s ideal for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle owners. We’ll help you charge your electric car for less.
With our Drive, you’ll get:
- 100% renewable electricity as standard2
- A tree planted in your name every single year you’re with us3
- An award-winning smart meter experience (Uswitch 2020)
- A £50 gift card every time you introduce a friend
- A 5-Star TrustPilot rating by 30,000 members
Get a quote in 2 minutes, and see how you could power your EV with 100% renewable electricity from OVO.
Sources and references:
2 The renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs))
3 Each year, OVO plants 1 tree for every member in partnership with the Woodland Trust. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so tree-planting helps to slow down climate change.