What's it really like to own an electric vehicle in Merton?

Updated: Jan 27



With electric vehicle ownership soaring, is it time to make the switch?


Sustainable Merton's Community Champion Energy Team have been speaking to electric vehicle owning Merton residents to find out what it’s really like to own and run an electric vehicle in the borough. Here's what they found...

In September 2020, across the UK registrations of Battery Only Electric Vehicles (BEVs) were up a huge 165% in the year to date, with plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) also making significant gains with an 83% increase. This was at the cost of both diesel and petrol models. (Source: SMMT).


https://www.zap-map.com/statistics/

With the popularity of both EVs and PHEVs rising rapidly, we thought we would ask some EV owning Merton residents what it’s like to own and run an EV in the borough.

We asked some basic questions to try and establish the benefits and challenges associated with EV ownership.

Overall, the feedback has been hugely positive, with some being longer term adopters, having over 6 years of EV ownership under their seats, and some having made the switch more recently.

The positive aspects of ownership that people raised were:

  • No Road Tax

  • Low Parking Charges in Merton - £20 for annual EV parking permit compared to £65 - £150 p.a (whilst diesels have to pay an additional £150 surcharge on top of that!)

  • Easy, fast and smooth to drive

  • Cheap to maintain

  • The feel-good feeling of knowing you aren't contributing to local air pollution (as much as others)

There were a number of challenges that EV ownership brought:

  • Planning for longer journeys is required - but this is getting much easier with new charge points appearing everyday. The Zap-Map app was recommended as the easiest way to find a charging point.

  • The potentially confusing array of charging options and different cables

  • High initial cost of purchase, but these are offset by lower costs of use and maintenance

All our respondents had the ability to charge their cars at home, which is likely to be a cause of anxiety for some drivers who have to park on the street. However, the network of chargers both on-street and elsewhere is growing all the time. Zap-Map makes it simple to find these and even updates in real time, so you will know if a charger is available before you turn up.

To help address this concern, you can apply to Merton to install one on your road - (if they get enough demand). So you could lobby with your neighbours to make this happen on your street.

Range anxiety is also another common concern, but our respondents mainly used their vehicles for journeys within their range or, if going further afield, planned their routes to take charging into account. No one saw this as outweighing the benefits.

The introduction of contactless payments on chargers was also seen as a big positive - without the need to download numerous apps for different charging stations.

When asked what advice they would give to people looking to buy an electric vehicle, they recommended that people research aspects like insurance and the widening range of EV options now available, and then take the plunge and go full EV.

One EV owner summed things up nicely and responded that the “Which?’ Report on new cars said that ‘EV owners are the happiest!”

Can't argue with that.



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Stuart's Story


How long have you owned an EV?

Since March 2020

Do you have a drive or on-street parking?

Driveway

Do you charge from home?

Yes, but home chargers are not always necessary, particularly if you live close to on-street charging points.

Where else do you charge?

Wherever I can find a free charging point (yes they do exist!, mainly in supermarket car parks) or failing that a convenient paid-for charger

How do you find charging points when away from home?

Now that is an interesting question! There is an art to finding EV chargers, the Zap app is the best way of finding chargers or use one of the apps provided by the main charging companies e.g. Pod-Point, Source London or Ecotricity

What is the best piece of advice/resource you think Sustainable Merton could provide to our readers about electric car ownership?

Don't be afraid to take the plunge and go straight to 100% electric! There are a wide range of EVs available, read the reviews on them, and select one that suits your needs and budget. If you park your car on the street in a controlled parking zone remember that Merton Council only charge around £10 for an annual parking permit for an EV. Get the Zap app on your smartphone and practice with it even if you don't yet have an EV.

What has been the highlight of EV car ownership?

Saying goodbye to the internal combustion engine and the smell and pollution! Never having to queue up for petrol again!

What has been the biggest challenge?

For long journeys over say a 250 mile round trip you need to plan ahead, where will I re-charge etc. With planning this is very easy to do though. Most EVs with a full battery charge will let you drive from 150 to 300 miles before needing to recharge. The myriad different types of chargers and cables can be confusing, some chargers have their own cables for others you need to use the cable in your car. If you install a home charger you don't need to have a permanently attached cable just use the cable in your car.

Are you able to compare the costs of owning an EV compared to an internal combustion engine vehicle (if applicable)?

This is difficult, EVs are relatively expensive to buy even taking account of the government subsidy but in the medium to long term their running costs are lower as fewer moving parts and lower price and use of electricity compared to petrol

What is the best piece of advice you would give to people looking to buy an electric car?​

Do your research! On different types of car, chargers, etc, switch to a car insurer that encourages EV ownership and has competitive rates. At first sight it may seem confusing but you'll soon get the hang of it and you'll have a lot of fun too, the cars themselves are great and very easy to drive. And EV drivers love to talk with other EV drivers!



Sarah's Story

How long have you owned an EV?

16 months


Do you have a drive or on-street parking?

A drive


Do you charge from home?

Yes


Where else do you charge?

En route when going on long journeys – wherever the charging points are, supermarket, National Trust property, service station, ordinary car parks


How do you find charging points when away from home?

Using Zap-Map which is regularly updated (though our car would tell us too though it might not be up to date)


What is the best piece of advice/resource you think Sustainable Merton could provide to our readers about electric car ownership?

The Which? Report on new cars which said EV owners are happiest!


What has been the highlight of EV car ownership?

How lovely it is to drive – glides along, noiselessly (except wind), no smell, no smelly petrol stations, vast majority of time simply charging at home. So easy to maintain.


What has been the biggest challenge?

As old geezers, mastering the different charging networks – there are a number of different ones; you need an app for each and a password.


Are you able to compare the costs of owning an EV compared to an internal combustion engine vehicle (if applicable)?

We had always had old cars before so there was the upfront cost as we bought a new one. Otherwise, no road tax, servicing very straightforward, and especially as we have PV on the roof we don’t notice the running costs at all.


What is the best piece of advice you would give to people looking to buy an electric car?

If you can have a charger at home, go for it! You won’t regret it.



Zoe's Story


How long have you owned an EV?

We have had a second hand Nissan Leaf for about 6 years. (We also have a campervan we use for occasional longer journeys.)


Do you have a drive or on-street parking?

A drive


Do you charge from home?

Yes from our own charge point about once a week. We set a timer to charge overnight which is more economical. The range of our 2012 model is realistically about 75miles


Where else do you charge?

Very rarely from a rapid charger at a service station or petrol station if we do a journey over about 40miles. This has been needed about twice in the 6yrs we have owned it.


How do you find charging points when away from home?

By using the Zap-Map app


What is the best piece of advice/resource you think Sustainable Merton could provide to our readers about electric car ownership?

Living in a city most of our journeys are short so we thought an EV would be ideal. The range of batteries is increasing all the time, new models having almost a 200mile range so charging doesn’t need to be done that often. I see more and more charge points appearing all the time and contactless payments are as easy as at the fuel pump. An ordinary home power point could also be used if really needed. If you have off-street parking you would hardly ever need to use a charge point elsewhere.


What has been the highlight of EV car ownership?

Our EV has been brilliant for the family for short and medium distance journeys. It can also take on any other vehicle on fast roads! It feels good knowing that we are using one of the most efficient types of car available and are not adding to local air pollution, which as a regular pedestrian and cyclist is something that I find very concerning.


What has been the biggest challenge?

If we eventually upgrade our EV it will be good to have a bigger range battery for longer trips. Currently we need to be mindful of the distance of a round trip not being more than about 80 miles unless we can locate a fast charger en route. However for the vast majority of our journeys it is great and the benefits far outweigh any challenge.


Are you able to compare the costs of owning an EV compared to an internal combustion engine vehicle (if applicable)?

Our EV costs about 4p a mile to run and we have not had any mechanical problems with it,


What is the best piece of advice you would give to people looking to buy an electric car?

Work out the length of each journey you make over say a 4 week period and you may be surprised how easy it is to find an EV that suits your needs. If you can get your own chargepoint it is very easy to install one, if it’s not practical just locate fast charger near to you for easy top ups, just as you would find fuel stations for diesel or petrol car.