Before the energy crisis, it looked like the next few years were going to be the renaissance period for electric cars. A combination of environmental concerns, prices dropping, charging points increasing and distances extending for a single battery charge all contributed towards people contemplating making the switch.
When the Government announced that sales of petrol and diesel cars will be phased out from 2030, that sealed the deal for many motorists.
However, a lot can change in a year. The stratospheric increase in the price of energy, along with the impact of the cost-of-living crisis has resulted in people cutting back on spending, patching up their existing vehicles and even reducing millage due to the cost of petrol and diesel.
Needless to say, the antics of the world’s most contrary billionaire have also had a big impact on how the industry is perceived, both as a financial viability and as a company you want to hand over thousands of pounds to.
Yet as your car reaches the end of its natural life, you may well be considering switching to an electric vehicle. Here are the big areas of complaint that people have contacted me about – and what you can do to avoid problems.
The charging point is broken/not working
There are 35,000* EV (electric vehicle) charging points in the UK – far more than most people think. Yet the fear of being left with a flat battery and no assistance is one of the main concerns about buying an electric vehicle that people contact me about
Firstly, forewarned is forearmed. So don’t leave home on a long journey without checking out your charging options. Zap Map has a great list of all of the charging points in the UK here. Public charging networks (in other words, not attached to someone’s home or a private business) exist in a number of forms, like petrol stations but most allow for contactless card payments. Many online EV charging point locators will show broken points too.
However, the last thing you need is to turn up and find that EV charging points are not working. Research has found an unacceptably high number of damaged or broken charging points.
If you can’t make it to the next charging point, then you’ll need to fall back on your roadside assistance policy – but this can affect your premiums as you’ll need a specific electric car policy and generally, most brands can’t be towed. So broken charging points can hit your bank balance.
If you want to pursue compensation, you’ll need complain to the manufacturer of the charging point. This is an emerging sector, so there isn’t a definitive law or regulation covering compensation. So take a few photos or videos on the scene to demonstrate the what’s gone wrong, then write to the business to set out what went wrong, your costs and what you want to sort out the issue.
The vehicle proved to be too expensive to run
I’ve spent quite a bit of time hunched over a hot calculator trying to work out if it’s more expensive to buy/lease/run an electric car in comparison to a more traditional model. The simple answer is there are too many variables to say definitively, but there’s not a lot in it when it comes to day-to-day costs.
Because the cost of energy is high, there isn’t a huge amount of difference between petrol versus charge at the moment, however, that may change as 2023 progresses. Of course, it’s not just about powering your car. Electric and hybrid cars are expensive to buy and the same goes for finance. Leasing may be an option for those who use a vehicle irregularly, but if you aren’t going to save a huge amount the more you use your car. Many experts suggest that a hybrid is – appropriately enough – a good ‘half way’ measure for those who want to go electric but aren’t ready to go all in. Check out Times Money Mentor’s guide here.
Many of the complaints I hear about affordability stem from how the vehicle was sold. Millions of vehicles on the road at the moment are purchased through credit deals. These enormously complicated deals can mask a multitude of sins and can be quite tricky to extricate yourself from.
As with any mis-sale complaint, note down what the salesperson told you when you bought the vehicle. If you were actively misled about costs for energy, millage per charge, or anything else, you can make a formal complaint. With a standard PCP finance deal, you could potentially complain to the retailer, insurance company and credit provider all at the same time. So I’d write down a bullet point list covering what you remember about the sales process and what you want to resolve the matter, and send it to all three.
And, of course, if you are buying a vehicle outright or on credit, get the salesperson to confirm in writing their claims about energy savings and efficiency.
Competition for charging spots
The big difference between charging an electric car and filling a tank with petrol or diesel is the time it takes. It might only take a few minutes to fill up at a traditional pump which means turnover is much higher and queues are not as long.
It can take between 30 minutes to 12 hours to charge an electric vehicle – but before you panic about that longer estimate, that tends to be on a home charge. Most public charging points have rapid charges that can top you up in about 30 minutes.
The Government announced in 2021 that over 1 million charging points would be in place by 2030, however, we are currently well behind that rate of installations. So for the time being, we’re going to have to adapt to the occasional queue to charge a vehicle.
The obvious choice is to get a charger fitted at home. Prices for this vary considerably online, but most of the estimates I’ve been given hover around the £400 mark. There isn’t one set model, so do a bit of research online at first to see what your options are. I’d talk to friends or colleagues who already have a charger to get a feel for their experience. And as always, if you’re not happy with a home installation, check the installer’s website before agreeing to the work so you know if they are a member of a trade body that can mediate if you have a complaint.
As with any significant change to your property, you’ll need to notify your home and contents insurer about the charging point.
Electric cars, like any vehicle, can pack in for a variety of reasons. I’ve heard from a number of people who have argued that their battery isn’t delivering as promised or their top of the range vehicle is full of digital glitches.
I regularly talk about the Consumer Rights Act in this column and the act (mostly) applies to all vehicle purchase (including second hand vehicles). The law states the vehicle must be fit for purpose, of satisfactory quality and as described.
Things are easier if the vehicle is playing up within the first 30 days. During this period you are entitled to a repair or replacement and failing that a refund or appropriate reduction to reflect the nature of the problem. This may sometimes include a minor deduction for usage (your vehicle loses value as soon as you drive it off the forecourt). This may factor in things like milage.
For the first six months, as with other purchases, the dealership needs to prove that the vehicle is as it’s supposed to be. This is the point where you might want to get an independent assessment of how the vehicle is performing from a garage (agree a price first with the dealership). Even after the first six months you can still complain, but you may need to prove that the issue isn’t down to standard usage. Your legal rights relate to the retailer but the manufacturer can also consider complaints – as can your insurance company or finance agreement provider too.
There is a Motor Ombudsman if you aren’t able to resolve a complaint, though they don’t cover every dealership.
Featured in Times Money Mentor – Martyn James