So, will you  make the switch to plug-in motoring? The car manufacturers are relentlessly pushing us towards electric – but will it all end in tears? We look at the other side of electric cars and ask: are they worth paying the excessive premiums in order to ‘go green’ when as a country, we contribute only 1% to the planet’s CO2 emissions?

Initial cost of vehicle

The first thing to consider is the cost of your new car, it seems that manufacturers are asking a premium for electric cars. We looked at a new standard family car (petrol/diesel) that cost £24,000, equivilent electric car cost £32,000. That’s a whopping £8,000 difference before you even drive off the showroom floor. If you equate this to miles it works out to over 20,000 miles of driving.

The battery

People seem to think they are saving the planet when buying electric, well think on! Ask yourself, how did the battery end up in your car?  Firstly, all of the materials (lithium-ion technology) that make up the battery are mined in Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile and China, some of the worlds largest CO2 polluters. This is due to the significant amount of energy required for the procurement of raw materials and the manufacturing process itself. Although there are other EV battery chemistries, lithium-ion cells are by far the most popular, thanks to their cost-efficiency and relatively high energy density, offering an optimal trade-off between electricity storage capacity and price. 

Some studies have shown that the manufacturing of a typical EV battery can result in higher carbon emissions compared to petrol and diesel cars. This is due to the significant amount of energy required for the procurement of raw materials and the manufacturing process itself.

Lithium is mainly produced from salt flats or underground brine reservoirs, with most of the production concentrated in South America (namely Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile) and China. Extracting lithium from the brine is fairly straightforward and is done by evaporating the water to leave behind a lithium-rich solution.

Because of this evaporation process, lithium mining uses a large amount of groundwater that gets lost in the process. This can deprive local communities of drinking water and harms farming by reducing the water available for irrigation – especially given that most of the world’s lithium is extracted in arid regions with scarce water supplies in the first place.

Cobalt is perhaps one of the most problematic materials used in electric vehicles, both environmentally and socially. Cobalt mines produce toxic residues that can leach into the environment, poisoning groundwater and harming nearby communities. Additionally, smelting cobalt ore produces fumes with a high concentration of sulphur oxide and other air pollutants.

On top of that, the remaining liquid left after lithium is extracted can contain toxic or radioactive elements and needs to be cleaned and stored before it can be released. 

Manganese is the fifth most abundant metal on Earth and is often found alongside iron deposits. Manganese is usually mined in open pit mines, with around 80% of manganese production coming from South Africa. Australia, China, India, Ukraine, and Brazil also produce significant shares of the metal. Because of its mining in open pits, manganese extraction can cause substantial air pollution, especially in dry areas where dust from mining can rise easily. Additionally, manganese can pollute the soil and water supply, including by introducing other chemical elements.

Range anxiety and charging

Currently in the UK the main problem facing the popularity of electric cars is a real lack of public infrastructure, there are simply not enough charge points. The minute you get in the car you have range anxiety, you ask yourself will I make it to where I’m going or will I run out of charge. Another factor is will the charge point be working when we arrive. Even using a fast charge point be prepared to be there at least an hour.

The range can vary quite considerably between the summer and winter, again the manufactures do not allow for this in their specs. 

A popular car magazine carried out tests regarding range on their test track using 14 different models and found that the rage varied from 20-40% LESS than the manufactures claims.

It’s proven that EV’s are more expensive to run than petrol/diesel cars if you have to use public charging points, only 70% of the UK population has the facility to charge at home.

 Currently if you charge your car at one of these public charging points it will be more costly than your petrol/diesel equivalent, even 5 years on, there’s a thought. 

Re-sale value

Re-sale values will vary considerably due to the fact that to replace a battery in an EV is very expensive, you’re talking up to £15,000, this will surely affect the part exchange value.

Conclusion: While electric vehicles can play an important role in reducing emissions, they also contain a potential environmental timebomb: their batteries.

By one estimate, more than 12m tons of lithium-ion batteries are expected to retire between now and 2030.

Not only do these batteries require large amounts of raw materials, including lithium, nickel and cobalt – mining for which has climate, environmental and human rights impacts – they also threaten to leave a mountain of electronic waste as they reach the end of their lives.

As the automotive industry starts to transform, experts say now is the time to plan for what happens to batteries at the end of their lives, to reduce reliance on mining and keep materials in circulation.

Some EV facts you should be aware of:

  • From 1 April 2025, electric vehicles will need to pay for VED – road tax.
  • People who currently have to use a public EV charging point, need to pay 20% VAT to charge their vehicles, compared with the 5% VAT for people charging at home.
  • EVs tend to be higher value; therefore, they are more expensive to insure.
  • Electric vehicles loose half their value after just 3 years on the road.
  • Only 16% of all cars sold in 2023 were electric.
  • Manufacturers are offering up to 10% discount in a desperate attempt to attract buyers.
  • Few drivers are willing to plan their lives around finding a charging station and waiting around for their battery to top up.
  • Its been reported that electric models suffer 79% more maintenance problems than petrol-powered cars.
  • An EV with a dead battery is a headache. It requires the use of a tow truck to move it to the nearest charging point to charge it.
  • Using the heater or air con in an electric car will have an impact on their range, and batteries hold less charge when it’s cold.
  • Making an EV approx emits 16-19 tonnes of CO2. Making a petrol or diesel car releases about 7 to 10 tonnes of CO2. So at this point, an electric car appears to possibly be worse for the environment than a fossil fuel one.