The buzz in Australia today is all about the increasing number of new electric cars spotted on the country’s roads, led by the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt. But since EVs are rather new products to the Aussie market, we asked various AEVA experts in next-generation automobiles to mull through the hype and provide us with some realistic electric vehicle buying tips. They came up with these ten things to know before buying an electric car.
1. Is it the right fit for me?
If you often drive over 200 km each day, then an electric car is probably not a good option for you now. As earlier indicated, most Australians drive less than 40 km each day, and most households have a second car. You can consider replacing the ‘runabout’ with an Electric Vehicle. As an alternative, you can also hire a standard petrol car when travelling long distances.
2. Used or new?
As new EVs continue to hit the market, the second hand stores are likely to grow, providing an affordable electric driving experience. Besides the typical things to check in a used car (mileage, worn tyres, rust, ANCAP ratings, money owing etc.), used electric vehicles have some unique features to inspect, particularly the battery’s status. In most cases, converted vehicles with DC motors do not have regenerative braking, so you need to replace the brake pads much sooner. In addition, ensure that the vehicle’s compliance and licensing paperwork is up-to-date.
As discovered by every new electric car driver, the normal EV offers 80-100 miles of driving range. During normal usage, the useful capacity and power of batteries decrease over time. Driving less than 40 km a day shouldn’t be an issue, however if you plan to do a 100 km stretch more frequently, you might need to think twice about buying an electric vehicle! You can take a test-drive with your dealer and try to rack up a whole 80 km or so, ensuring that the final destination is a fast charger. Making some more laps around the neighbourhood until the battery pack passes E or its warning lights appear will help you gauge the range. Ending your trip at a fast charger is a surety that you’ll get home safe without a tow-truck. If the EV starts struggling to get back much of the claimed range, renegotiate a better deal with the seller.
4. The Battery’s condition and warranty
If you are an electric vehicle enthusiast, you must have heard of the myth that after just a few years of use, you’ll be slammed with a shocking bill for replacing your car’s battery. I bring you great news. That is highly unlikely! Yes, you’ll incur some loss of range over a period of 5 or more years; and may be faster in areas with harsh hot weather.
If you are going for a used EV, you need to do a range test to determine the battery’s status. Even though batteries lose capacity over their life span; which is normal, their warranty clauses can sometimes be interesting. Usually, plug-in cars have substantially separate battery warranties, mostly in the set of 8 years and 100,000 miles or longer. These fully cover battery problems such as excess loss of range. But hey, rest easy because these batteries do last the vehicle’s lifetime.
Note: With their handy data readers, electric vehicles transmit relevant vehicle data including battery health, motor temperature, economy, cell voltage etc. on the dashboard or to your smart phone or laptop. A graphical cell display will show whether the pack is out of balance or overheating.
5. Charging requirements
Find out prior to buying an EV whether your home has an undercover parking spot. Is there a public charging point nearby? Thankfully, new electric vehicles come with a handy dedicated EV charger from the dealer which is usually mounted on the garage wall. Although convenient, there are cheaper options. Motorists can use an ‘occasional use’ charging lead as long as the power point for transferring electricity is up and running. More often, these leads are accompanied with a 15 amp plug which has a big earth pin that ensure its only plugged into the 15 amp rated socket which is designed with its own circuit breaker. Check with your electrician whether the onboard charger will adequately meet your needs. Consider getting a more powerful onboard charger if you find yourself heading out for some juice immediately after getting home. A powerful charger ensures that you get maximum charge in a short stay.
6. Public charging options
Before buying, check the EV’s charge port and ensure it is compatible with available public charging infrastructure near you. For instance, a few of 2010 Mitsubishi i-MiEVs are designed with a standard single-phase charge port to facilitate slow charging, however this model cannot use some public charge points because of this important safety interlock feature (subsequent models have complied, so find out if the upgrade has been fitted in the car you are interested in). Most EVs have a DC fast charging option. The BMW i3 is quite unique and only uses the SAE combination, which unfortunately is not supported by the DC fast charger. On the other hand, it’s highly unlikely that converted cars will come with a connector compatible with any public infrastructure, unless it’s a mere 15 amp outlet.
7. Use renewable power to charge!
Critics have it that electric vehicles also pollute since they are powered with electricity from grids dominated by gas and coal. Compared to petrol cars (which can only be powered by liquid fossil fuel) EVs can run on electricity generated from alternative sources of energy like the sun, waves, wind, or hydro schemes. The Act of Parliament requires that consumers who purchase green power from an electricity retailer, you must be provided with renewable energy. If this is not the case, consider charging your electric vehicle from an array of rooftop solar (see Australian Solar Quotes). Despite the unattractive export tariffs, your car will directly be charged from the sun, and no grid power will get into the battery. Charging your car off-peak is also cost effective, with a complete charge costing nearly as much as a small cup of coffee.
8. Software/hardware/firmware upgrades
One of the benefits of electric vehicle modern production is the ease with which their control firmware and software can be upgraded. The Tesla Model S is upgraded over-the-air on regular basis, to improve the driving experience through the new settings and bug fixes. Before making the purchase, confirm that the car has all the latest upgrades done. Although considered sophisticated, upgrades are all the same necessary in other EVs. In the near future, older models will have the option of upgrading using new parts such as onboard chargers as well as motor controller power settings. Eventually, it will be possible to make complete battery upgrades.
9. Installing a Home Charge
Despite many studies revealing that electric vehicles have a lower overall cost of ownership compared to a gas-powered vehicle, keep in mind that a home EV charger installation, which costs less than $1, 000 is excluded in the total cost. The off-board charger, now called an E.V.S.E. or EV supply equipment, provides 240 volts of electricity juice; significantly reducing your charging time at home. I bet you’ll one.
10. Convert or buy an OEM?
Modern electric vehicles are of the highest quality, with comprehensive warranties. If you are the type that is motivated by economics, an EV production from the sales lot would be ideal. Converting an old but sound car can be a rewarding challenge and an opportunity to create something really unique.