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Although the idea of buying an electric-powered car as opposed to a petrol or diesel-powered model has gathered pace in the past few years, with sales rising across the world, many are still sceptical about buying one themselves. While they might agree with the idea of buying electric cars, there are a number of reasons why they believe that they are not yet a valid alternative to traditionally-fuelled vehicles.
The bottom line is the top reason here, because even though pro-electric campaigners point to the low maintenance (due to the lack of an engine, which can become riddled with problems) and running costs of electric models compared to fuel-powered models, this is balanced out by the fact that electric models are more expensive to buy than their fuel counterparts. They can be a lot dearer, even with various government grants contributing towards some of the purchase costs and the fact that the most effective models are tax-exempt. For instance, the 2014 Toyota Prius hybrid model is 43% more expensive than the 2015 petrol-fuelled Ford Fiesta, at US$25 335 and US$17 705 respectively.
In addition, an electric car generally isnâ€™t able to achieve the sort of mileage on a full charge that a petrol-powered car can on a full tank on a motorway or in a rural area (though it is often more fuel-efficient if used in a city). This means that it is only effective for relatively short journeys â€“ anything longer can only be handled if you know that thereâ€™s a charging point en route or at your destination where the car can be recharged. Which brings us on toâ€¦
Lack of charging points
Although there are 8,000 charging points located throughout the UK, not every charging point covers every type of electric car or user need. For instance, alternating current and direct current connectors are used in different makes and models and your model might not be covered by a certain point, which may also only offer a slow charge but not a rapid charge â€“ this obviously isnâ€™t any good if you need a speedy boost of power.
You may be able to charge your car at home, but what happens during your daily commute or when youâ€™re at the office? Unlike petrol stations, almost all of which cover both diesel and petrol cars, youâ€™re not guaranteed to find a point that handles your car.
In addition, the ubiquity of petrol stations as opposed to charging points means that itâ€™s easy to find one relatively quickly â€“ with a charging point you might have to drive miles (which you might not be able to do) to find one. The lack of infrastructure here is clearly an issue and will affect drivers, at least in the near future. The UK governmentâ€™s Plugged-In Places charging point installation initiative has been successful, but local councils are still applying for more points to be created and by 2020 the government will have contributed nearly Â£1 billion towards integrating electric vehicles into the mainstream.
Long charging times
While itâ€™s alright to charge your car overnight, long charging times make it difficult to charge it during a journey. Even rapid charging units, which can provide an 80% charge in around thirty minutes, donâ€™t work particularly quickly. If youâ€™re in a hurry, an electric car that takes half an hour to charge when a fuel-powered car takes five minutes to fill up isnâ€™t going to be the best option for you.
Although you might be able to live with these four drawbacks depending on your location, transportation needs and the amount of time you have available to potentially sit around waiting for the car to charge, many people canâ€™t. For them, the idea of an electric car might be a nice one but, until a more reliable or higher-performing model is released, they will have to wait to buy into it. The industry (especially Toyota, which has made the most significant commitment to the production of electric and hybrid car models) will naturally be aware of these issues and be working to produce higher-performance hybrid cars at cheaper cost prices (see Toyotaâ€™s development of chips to increase fuel efficiency in hybrids by 10%), but itâ€™s a growing industry and it will take time for the breakthrough to come, especially when attention and resources are also being used up in the production of fuel-powered cars.