Is It Time To Go Electric?


Despite government incentives and PR Campaigns electric car sales have been slow, but with a host of new options on the way is it now time to go electric?

Few people in Ireland have opted yet for electric cars and only 46 EVs found Irish homes last year. For many the reason is simply not knowing enough about them but also price and limited range has been seen as a major deterrent.  With the Nissan Leaf named European Car of the Year 2011 and the Opel Ampera scooping the award this year attitudes are certainly changing toward electric cars.

Electric Cars are not however a realistic option for everyone. If your commute to work is a long one or your job necessitates long hours spend on the road then hybrids are a more practical option.  But for urban dwellers or anyone doing low mileage a year the low running costs of electrics can be very tempting in these euro pinching times.

The year sees a host of new options for Irish motorists and below are a few worth considering.

The Opel Ampera/ Chevrolet Volt

The Opel Ampera/ Chevrolet Volt  

Opel promises to take electric motoring to a whole new dimension with their Ampera when it arrives here in Autumn.   With its range extended capabilities it hopes to solve the issue of ‘range anxiety’ for electric vehicle drivers once and for all.  The Ampera operates as an electric vehicle for anywhere from 40 to 80 kilometers, and then it shifts to power from a petrol engine for up to 500 kilometers distance. Therefore it combines two systems seamlessly.

Technical: A 16 kwh lithium ion battery powers the 111kw electric motor.
Performance: 0-100 km 9 seconds, top speed 161 km
Range.  More than 500 kms (Combined Range)
Price:  €40,000 approx


The Renault Fluence ZE

The Renault Fluence ZE  

The Renault Fluence ZE is an all electric vehicle version of the Renault Fluence ZE stands for Zero Emission. The battery rental starts from €82 (Including VAT) a month for 36 months based on 10,000 km a year. According to Renault comparing the running costs of a Fluence Z.E. with the diesel version and over three years at 15,000km per year, the savings on Fluence Z.E. would be in the region of €2,500.  Renault also have the little Twizy an urban 2-seater, and a purpose-built hatchback called the Zoe in their electric range.

 Technical: 22kWh lithium-ion battery.
Performance: 0-100 km 13.7 seconds, top speed 84 miles
Range: 185km
Full Charging: Approx 10 hours
Price:  €21,610*


Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf

The first purpose-designed, mass-production electric car the Leaf runs on battery power alone and must be recharged from an external power source when the battery runs down — usually after less than 175 kms on the road.

Technical: 80kW lithium-ion battery
Performance: 0-100 km 15.9 seconds, top speed 145km/h
Range: 175 km
Full Charging: Approx 8 hours
Price: €30,595*


Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Mitsubishi’s bug-eyed battery car the i-M iEV stands for Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle, is based on Mitsubishi’s “i” platform. The all-electric car has room for four inside and has a maximum speed of 130km/h. The i-MiEV is also sold by Citroën as the C-Zero and Peugeot as the iOn.

Technical: Electric motor, 330V/16kWh lithium-ion battery
Performance: 0-100 km 15.9 seconds, top speed 130km/h
Range: 150 km
Full Charging: Approx 7 hours
Price:  €29,557*


Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius is one of the pioneers in fuel efficient cars and was the first hybrid that has sold well among best-selling cars of all types.  Petrol-electric hybrids capture energy otherwise lost in stop-start city driving and this is reused to drive the motor, otherwise a hybrid is fuelled as normal. The Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid promises increased capability and has a larger battery capacity than the normal Prius with recorded official CO2 and fuel economy ratings of 49g/km and an astounding 2.1 litres per 100 kms.  It is due here later in July.

Technical: 1.8-Litre Hybrid
Performance: 0-100 km, 10.4 seconds, top speed 175km/h
Price: €28,685

Of the more than one billion road vehicles in use worldwide, 95 % run on oil. Clearly this is not a sustainable situation and alternatives must be found. Questions however still exist as to whether the environment is really better off as a result of electric cars when you consider the emission generated by the electricity plants that provide the power to charge them? In countries such as France where there are 15,000 electric cars, making it the largest fleet in Europe and the third-largest in the world after the USA and Japan, it is worth noting that 90 % of their electricity is nuclear generated.

The attraction of electric cars however, to large number of consumers, remains frustrated by the limited number of charging points nationwide, limited range, high costs, the long term reliability of the battery and the worry regarding residual values.

* retail price includes €5,000 SEAI grant and Government VRT relief for Electric Vehicles.



Author: Geraldine Herbert

Contributing Editor and Motoring Columnist for the Sunday Independent and editor of wheelsforwomen. Geraldine is also a regular contributor to Good Housekeeping (UK) and to RTÉ Radio One, Newstalk, TodayFM and BBC Radio. You can follow Geraldine on Twitter at @GerHerbert1

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