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These are the questions you should ask when shopping for your first electric vehicle


Fuel-price hikes have pushed South Africa’s petrol and diesel costs to unprecedented levels. Since there’s seemingly little respite in sight, you may be thinking of entering the world of electric cars.

Let’s take a look at points you should consider and questions you should ask when shopping for your first electric vehicle (EV).


1. How do you spend your leisure time?

When in the market for any car, it’s imperative to determine whether the vehicle in question will fulfil the range of requirements specific to your lifestyle, from tackling the daily commute to facilitating activities that form part of your leisure time. If you often trailer a quad-bike to your local forest track, for instance, you might ask: “Can electric cars tow?”

Thanks to the instant torque available from their electric motors, most EVs are actually well suited to this task, with many boasting impressive homologated towing capacities.


2. What should you know about your first EV test drive?

If you’ve spent your entire driving life behind the wheel of a combustion-engined vehicle, piloting an electric car for the first time might bring a few surprises. For instance, there’s little to no acoustic feedback during even rapid acceleration. Meanwhile, some EVs, such as the Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge, don’t have start buttons – you simply climb aboard, put your foot on the brake and select drive.

You should also be prepared to experience regenerative braking, an energy recovery system that slows the vehicle when the driver lifts off the accelerator. Thankfully, this so-called “one-pedal” style of driving (where you seldom need to use the traditional brake pedal) is fairly intuitive.

Where can you test drive an electric car? Well, your best bet is to head down to your local dealership.


3. What equipment will you need to run an electric car?

Very little special equipment is required to run an EV, but since most of your charging will likely be performed at home – generally overnight – a professionally installed wallbox is a great idea (and an item best suited to a garage or private driveway). A few automakers offer a wallbox as part of the all-electric car’s purchase price, along with any other required cables.

Question is, when it comes to public charging stations, are electric-car chargers universal? In South Africa, virtually every modern EV uses a Type 2 Plug for AC charging and a Combined Charging System (CCS 2) for DC fast charging, so you’ll be well covered.


4. What is the length of your daily commute?

“What electric car has the best range?” is a question often posed by buyers considering a battery-powered vehicle. But first ask yourself just how far you drive on a typical day. The average daily commute is far shorter than many people realise, making modern electric vehicles better suited to the majority of vehicle owners than they might think.

Still, battery technology has improved over the past few years, leading to more impressive single-charge range claims. The aforementioned XC40 P8 Recharge, for instance, has a listed range of 418 km, making it capable of undertaking road-trips as well as excelling at city commuting.


5. Will your EV function as a family car?

As with petrol- and diesel-driven automobiles, the shortlist of electric vehicles you ultimately consider will be informed by whether or not you need the car to function as a family hauler (requiring space for more than just yourself). Furthermore, if you have a teenager who is learning to drive, you might ask the following question: “Can you get your driver’s licence in an EV?”.

Interestingly, the answer is yes, though it’s worth noting that obtaining your licence in an electric car means you will not be able to lawfully drive a petrol- or diesel-powered vehicle on public roads.


6. How much are you willing to spend on an EV?

How much does it cost to buy an electric car? Currently, prices for EVs in South Africa range from around R720 000 to more than R4 million. Battery capacity (roughly comparable to fuel-tank size, measured in kWh) plays a role here, while also largely dictating single-charge range.

Electric models available on the local market right now feature claimed figures from a little over 200 km to more than 600 km (just short of the range that Tesla – which is still absent from the SA market – claims for its latest dual-motor Model S).

Ultimately, as with any big-ticket purchase, it’s crucial to do your research when shopping for an EV. Try to find the best balance between price and battery capacity, while also ensuring the vehicle is capable of serving any practicality-driven needs.


Read: Warning to motorists in South Africa: higher costs on the way



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