The Peugeot iOn and Citroen C-Zero are four-door electric cars specifically designed for the European market, and will soon be seen across the UK.
Together with the identical Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the brands have built 2,500 for Europe and expect to sell the cars in 15 European countries.
All three are four-seat, fully electric vehicles and they will go on sale months before the much talked about Nissan Leaf enters the UK market.
Peugeot recently named Perrys in Milton Keynes as a specialist electric car dealer in preparation for the Peugeot iOn. This means the dealership will receive special training on selling the electric car and engineers will be fully qualified to service and maintain the car once it is sold.
If you’re considering buying an electric car, there are sure to be a lot of questions. Here are some of the more common ones:
Are electric cars more expensive than normal cars?
The simple answer is yes. The high cost of the battery pack in electric cars does add a premium to the price, but the cost is falling all the time.
Plus, electric cars such as the Peugeot iOn and Citroen C-Zero are currently available with £5,000 discount as part of the government’s Plug-In Grant, which brings starting prices much closer to petrol and diesel alternatives.
There are also benefits once the car is bought. Electric cars are cheaper to run because electricity is less expensive than petrol or diesel, which has hit prices of 130p per gallon in recent days.
They also qualify for zero road tax and are exempt from the London congestion charge. In some areas of London and other cities, the cars are also allowed to park for free.
A higher lump sum at the start could easily be cancelled out by the above savings, but it depends on the individual driver and how they will use the car.
Other options include leasing the vehicle. In the case of the Peugeot iOn this works out at £415 per month before VAT.
What about range anxiety?
Electric cars currently available in the UK tend to have a range between 90 and 100 miles before they need to be recharged. This can take eight hours through a standard charging point or half an hour for an 80 per cent charge via a fast charging station.
However, despite a recent BBC feature which saw a Mini E driven 443 miles in which the driver expressed ‘range anxiety’, the electric car doesn’t pretend to be for long journeys.
Instead, the new range of electric cars is intended for commuting and city driving on short journeys. The majority of people drive less than 100 miles a day, and these are the people who may be tempted by an electric car.
It is also true cold weather will affect the length of the battery, but a charging infrastructure is currently being put in place across a number of UK regions, making it easier for electric car owners to find somewhere to top up the battery.
Are they really zero emissions?
In the eyes of the government, electric cars are zero emissions. This is because when they are driven, no CO2 is emitted from the cars.
This qualifies the cars for road tax exemption and free entry into congestion charge zones. However, this doesn’t mean the cars are completely zero emissions.
Energy is needed to build and dispose of the cars, and the likelihood is all electricity will come from the national grid, which uses fossil fuels to power it.
However, even using energy from the national grid, Mitsubishi claims the i-MiEV offers 30 per cent less CO2 emissions than an equivalent petrol model.
Will insurance be higher?
This is a tricky area. The high cost of the cars could push insurance premiums up. However, they are more likely to be lower because electric cars tend to have limited top speeds and drivers are likely to use the cars less because of the 100 mile range.
However, if the car is bought but with a lease on the battery, as many manufacturers are offering, it is always worth checking you are covered if the battery is damaged in an accident, as it is the most expensive part of the car.
What about servicing?
Servicing electric cars will be a specialised business, but manufacturers such as Peugeot are specially training technicians to be able to service electric cars.
Electric engines have far fewer moving parts than a combustion engine – sometimes as low as four compared to hundreds – and electric car manufacturers claim this will ensure they will be more reliable and easier to service.
Will I need to install a home charging station?
The option is there to install a fast charging station, but this can add up to £3,000 to the price of the car. Luckily, most electric cars can be charged using a standard household socket.
If it is charged overnight, it will mean customers can take advantage of the lower electricity rates as well.
However, as charging is done through a cable, it can only really be charged in a garage or on the owner’s property because a lead trailing across the pavement could be a health and safety issue.
Where can I buy an electric car?
More dealers will be stocking electric cars as new models come out. At the moment, there are a few specialist dealers with dedicated sales people to answer any further questions you may have.