We all know that the world of motoring is changing – manufacturers are looking to consign the regular internal combustion engine to history in the near future, the governments will be banning petrol and diesel cars within the next decades and the niche market of hybrids and electric vehicles is growing in popularity.
But what is the true cost of being environmentally friendly? Is it as simple as buying an economical car?
Do insurance and maintenance costs go in line with prices of such cars?
Buying a Car
There are a myriad of options available right now. With a few years to go until the ban, many people still buy cars with the internal combustion engine.
While cars such as the Peugeot 208 Blue HDi achieve 94.2 mpg, and a price of £16,124, going for something a little more modern and hybridised like the Toyota Prius costs £24,115 (and the mpg is up to 94.1mpg).
Discounts are available for purchasing hybrids and electric vehicles – the government wants to encourage people to buy these vehicles, so you may find the £24,000+ price tag reduced. On the other hand, you could equally find a heavily discounted car without it being hybrid or electric.
We know that hybrid or electric vehicles are generally more expensive to purchase. The cheapest model currently available (aside from the not very practical Renault Twizy at £6,995) is the Renault Zoe, priced at £14,245.
So a regular internal combustion engined car may cost less to purchase but its emissions will be more damaging to the environment. As our environmental awareness is constantly growing, many drivers nowadays want to reduce their carbon footprint. Also, the perspective of diesel cars being banned is becoming real and this shifts their attention towards green cars even more.
Green Car Insurance
Another kind of expenditure to consider is insurance.
Due to the smaller size of electric cars’ engines, their power is usually reduced when compared to the old generation of cars. This, in theory, implies more safety on the roads, so some companies offer insurance for these vehicles at lower rates.
In the countries where governments try to promote environmentally-friendly driving, more companies will be likely to offer discounts. However, this is a double-edged business. Sometimes, the eco car insurance services can even be upgraded and considered “premium” level, therefore more expensive than for conventional cars, with the companies taking advantage of less popularity, demand, and more uniqueness of such product.
What is crucial for green car owners when choosing the right policy is verifying if such components as leased batteries and power cables are included in their policy, as these might be the highest possible repair costs to face. Also, it is recommended that these kinds of repairs are guaranteed to be conducted by specialists in electric cars instead of regular car mechanics.
Generally, electric car insurance is still a new issue for most insurance companies, and they are still developing their policies and conditions. For the time being, the key factor most insurance providers take into consideration is the driver’s risk profile, rather than specific aspects related to driving an electric car.
Further Maintenance Costs
The average cost for charging the Zoe to 100% is around £5.74, and this (in theory) will give you a range of 250 miles – the equivalent of 2.3p per mile. But again, we need to think further – that’s through a dedicated charging socket rather than a 13A regular plug socket, further adding to the expense.
And then we get on to servicing costs – certainly the early servicing costs are extremely competitive – no oil or filter change helps that, but year 3 sees the battery needing replacement, and costs depend on whether you own the battery outright, or lease it.
Now, what happens at the end of its life? How do we go about recycling the batteries and tech that are necessary to make hybrids work? Or just how harmful are the manufacturing processes to make the tech in the first place? There is no simple answer here: basically, any new car manufactured will have an impact on the environment, be that diesel, petrol, electric or a hybrid.
Also, the infrastructure has to be upgraded if we all decide (or get forced) to drive electric cars, and who’ll pay for that?
Added to the complexity is the length of time that you expect to keep the car, but again, that could apply to any new mainstream car being bought; once that vehicle leaves the showroom, you’ve instantly devalued it by around 30% (at least).
What we don’t yet know is how the technology stands the test of time – it’s entirely possible to take an engine from the 50’s or 60’s and once fuelled up, it’ll fire up and run like new if it’s been looked after. Will an electric motor offer the same level of service in 40+ years?
There is always an element of planned obsolescence within nearly every industry or product, but will the manufacturers of these electric or hybrid vehicles have to reduce that even further? Whilst the electric motor may well be capable of giving years of service, battery technology is changing at such a rate that it’s entirely possible that the older generation motors won’t be able to use them – that doesn’t happen with petrol or diesel.
Not being aware of how the industry will develop may lead to further indirect expenses and huge changes in the car insurance business. As these might be insecure times for the insurance companies, they will want to play it safe and avoid the risk. This means clients have the opportunity to hunt for the best deals but they should be extremely careful signing long-term contracts.
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About Giles Kirkland:
Giles Kirkland is a dedicated car expert with passion for all things automotive. He enjoys commenting on financial aspects of the car industry, sharing his knowledge with other motor enthusiasts, and giving advice on money saving.