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Electric Cars, Ambrose? It’s A No Brainer!

December 28, 2015

By Paul Homewood 




I have not had a look at costings for electric v conventional cars recently, particularly in the light of much lower fuel prices currently.

I was reminded by another rant against fossil fuels from Ambrose Evans Pritchard the other day, when he sneered at OPEC for forecasting continued growth in oil markets up to 2040. AEP repeated his usual claptrap about how the whole world had made a “solemn and binding promise” to end global warming, conveniently ignoring the fact that most of the world studiously refused to do anything about it before 2030! And how we would all be driving electric cars before much longer.

What especially struck me was that if OPEC followed his advice, stopped further drilling and began to wind up loss making fields, we would more than likely end up with a major oil crisis on our hands in a few years time. We only need to remember the 1970’s to see what damage an oil shortage can do to the world economy.


Anyway, back to the cars. The Nissan Leaf is the best selling plug in car apparently, so let’s compare costs with the Ford Focus, which is pretty comparable from a spec point of view.




Leaf Acenta Focus Zetec
1.0T Eco Boost
On the Road Price 24490 18595
Govt Rebate 5000  
True Cost 29490 18595



Both models are mid range, and the Acenta includes battery cost. (It is worth noting that the Focus Electric version is priced at £31145 before rebate, so if anything the Focus is a higher spec).


Performance figures for the Focus give a combined mileage rate of 61.4 mpg. As manufacturers’ figures are always overstated for normal driving conditions, let’s assume 90% of that figure. 55.3 mpg.

With a current petrol price of £1.02/litre, or £4.64/gallon, and mileage of 10,000 a year, the total cost of fuel over three years would be £2517. Given that the Leaf costs £10895 more to buy, as far as money goes, this one’s a no brainer!

Parkers Guide suggests trade in prices would be similar after three years, so there is no extra residual value to be had from the electric car.

And, of course, this is all before we start to work out the cost of the electricity it would require.


Money is not everything when we buy a car. If it was, we would all buy Fiat 500’s! Nevertheless, low running costs are the main selling point advanced by Nissan, and the Leaf certainly has little else going for it.

Nissan themselves admit that, although in perfect conditions you might get 155 miles range, if you want the heater or aircon on, you’ll get much less. In any event, nobody drives their car till they get to the last teaspoon full of petrol. In the same way, nobody is going to embark on a trip of anywhere near 90 miles, unless you want to take the risk that you will find a rapid charger point somewhere.



Based on the Acenta 30KW


There is one more issue, and that is that the above prices for petrol include fuel duty tax of 58 pence per litre, not to mention 20% VAT. The real cost of petrol currently, excluding tax, is only 27 pence per litre. At this price, the cost of fuel over three years drops from £2517 to just £666.

In contrast, American figures suggest that electric cars would use 0.22 KWh/mile. At 13 pence/KWh, it would cost £858 in electricity over the three years.

While this may appear to be an academic point at the moment, once most of us are driving electric cars, that tax revenue will be lost to the government. In which event, we will all simply have to cough up in some different way. In other words, we will all be a lot worse off.

One of these days, electric cars may take over, but certainly not with their current level of technology and cost.{network}:MICROSOFT&searchid=ppc:UK-Focus-Exact:Focus-Exact:ford%20focus:e:c:b:MICROSOFT

  1. chrism56 permalink
    December 28, 2015 7:12 pm

    The electricity would cost more than you calculated. The battery charger is not 100% efficient. If it is about the typical 80%, the power cost would be 25% more. If one wants a rapid charge, then the house would probably need rewiring and if enough people did that, then the whole distribution network as well.

    • John F. Hultquist permalink
      December 29, 2015 3:40 am

      Despite massive waste and fraud commissioned by the US Government, the home ownership rate in the Nation can’t break out of the 65% (+/-2) range. UK and France are about the same, while Germany is lower, ~53%. I don’t know how condominiums are treated to get these numbers. Anyway, providing a charger at apartment buildings would either require an expensive retro-fit or, for new developments, an upfront cost. A renter or owner would have to have, or expect to have, an electric auto before moving in. So, these are also negatives.

  2. David Richardson permalink
    December 28, 2015 7:37 pm

    If every car was replaced with an electric one, where would we get the electricity from?

    We have seen the hyped denouncement of oil-burners in recent times, but most modern diesel cars have particulate filters – these cause their own problems unless used for longer journeys, at least some of the time – BUT they do reduce particulate emissions substantially.

    Government advised the use of diesel to reduce CO2 emissions but now they need a reason to divert us to electric to be able to argue that the electric used will be “renewable”.

    You see the same slight-of-hand with the Renewable Heat Insanity [RHI] – (sorry that was Incentive). Buy a heat pump (run on electricity) instead of a gas boiler and you get big handouts. As was pointed out recently, whenever you divert away from gas to electricity you move up the cost scale. Electricity is three times the price per kWh as gas so people are being subsidised through RHI to move from gas to electric on the promise that heat pumps which give you about three times the energy you put in, will save you money? They have their place where gas is not available but they cost a lot more and often have a troublesome efficiency, especially as the temperature falls.

    The whole idea is to steer people to electricity which as we all know is renewable??!! they will argue.

    Imagine when when we all drive electric cars and heat our homes with electricity – imagine where with the current chaos in generation where that electricity will come from? AND as Paul says imagine the government giving up all that tax revenue!

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      December 29, 2015 12:15 am

      David Richardson
      The situation is far worse than just 30+ million electric cars/vans/lorries requiring charging, there is another elephant in the room, the phasing out of gas for cooking and heating.

      Every time the subject of electric cars is raised I ask the question where is the power coming from. The fact no-one has answered suggests that no-one has thought about the problem and electricity will magically become available.

    • December 29, 2015 12:34 pm

      Aw, come on. We’d drill electricity wells in the Irish Sea.

  3. December 28, 2015 7:42 pm

    Paul, Lets consider another scenario. A Toyota Corolla a friend of mine bought new last year in Nebraska cost about $18000. It always gets better than 30 mpg. Nearer 40 but we will use 30 and be very conservative. Sixty liter fuel tank means a range of 400 miles. Theoretical range is a little farther.

    Gasoline is less than $2 a gallon here. But using two dollar a gallon gas your calculated fuel cost for a round trip to the coast (3,000 miles) is going to run less than $200. Considering a Nissan Leaf is totally impractical for a round trip to Lincoln, Nebraska – let alone the coast. Why would any buy a Leaf? Your fuel costs represent less than seven cents a mile. The federal tax allowance for the total calculated vehicle cost per mile is 57 cents. AEP is just not thinking clearly (to say the least) There is something farcical not solemn about the ‘pledges’ made at Paris. Obama structured his so Congress would not have to ratify it. And that means they don’t have to fund it. And they won’t. Obama’s promise is his own, it means nothing, He can’t speak for the United States on the matter, because only Congress has the power to act. You would have to be brain-dead to buy an electric car in Nebraska.

  4. dangeroosdave permalink
    December 28, 2015 7:47 pm

    I want an electric car!
    -No you don’t, you’ll pay more to buy it and to operate it….
    I want an electric car!
    -No you don’t they cost way too much to build, they depreciate lickety split, they’re inefficient, there’s no infrastructure, performance sucks, the sunk energy costs of manufacture are higher…
    I want an electric car!
    -No we told you before, it’s just not economical, there’s no profit motivation.
    I want an electric car!
    -We could do it, but it would be a massive subsidy…
    Here’s your subsidy.
    -Here’s your car. It’s pretty neat.
    I love my car.

  5. BLACK PEARL permalink
    December 28, 2015 8:15 pm

    A little more info if anyone can supply
    What’s the cost of battery replacement and when ?
    Is that subsidised like the car also ?

    • December 28, 2015 8:35 pm

      Hybrid Transit buses have huge battery banks. They are an absolute maintenance nightmare. Battery banks can cost over $40,000. Replacing batteries is scheduled maintenance every three or four years. They cost at least fifty percent more than a conventional transit bus when purchased new and they improve fuel mileage no more than 20%. Most of the of the hybrid buses in service struggle to improve fuel economy at all. Hybrid Transit buses appeal to an assumed environmental conceit. They don’t really benefit the environment at all. They make utterly no economic sense. Yet that is what all the Metropolitan Transit Authorities are buying.

    • December 28, 2015 8:54 pm

      Battery replacement depends on how the car is used. Life is affected by depth of discharge, rate of recharge, … So never letting the battery get more than half discharged (short trips only), and never rapid recharging, will make it last longer than otherwise.
      The Chevy Volt ( extended range plugin) expectation is >8 years as warranty is 8 years/100,000 miles, which surprised the industry. Battery only Volt range is about 40 miles before engine/generator kicks in. Nissan Leaf was forced to follow GM on the warranty, and many in the industry think they are going to get burned given the marketed more than double electric range over Volt.
      If one is willing to accept degraded performance and range then maybe 10 years. (LiIon batteries don’t die, they fade.)

    • December 29, 2015 11:20 am

      Nissan do offer a battery lease option, at £93 month based on 12000 miles pa

  6. Keith permalink
    December 28, 2015 9:53 pm

    Excellent that you are pointing out AEP’s ridiculous anti-fossil fuel bias, again. He does love a shock jock schlok story. If we had listened to him, we would all have missed the rise of the S&P 500 from 683 in 2009 to over 2000 now, as he serially predicted post-crisis doom. If the UK government had listened to him, there would have been no austerity, and the deficit would be much greater, but would we have the decent present-day growth figures? He forgets that present-day cheap oil just makes the economic comparison lean even more towards fossil – fueled transport and away from electric cars. (Of course the electricity may well have been generated by fossil fuels anyway). Another thing he complained about was Opec’s forecast of 110 M bopd oil demand in 2040. Even in his high renewables scenario, he forecast oil demand in 2040 of 72 M bopd. EIther way, the oil industry will be pretty busy supplying that over the next 25 years.

  7. December 28, 2015 10:07 pm

    At this point electric vehicles – like the CarForTwo – are “second vehicles”, used for urban downtown driving.

    This another ironic thing about the eco-green dream of electric vehicles: only those who can afford a second or four vehicle will buy one. For long distance or long-duration driving, an electric vehicle has neither the range nor the refueling attractiveness of a gasoline or diesel vehicle.

    The eco-green love the environment, pray for nature and worship the wild spaces. Funny thing is that their desired low-carbon way-of-life would make nature too difficult to get to for almost everyone, including themselves. But this is the thing: they are mostly theoretical nature-lovers. They are the grown-old versions of the campus philosophers who advocated a classless, non-materialistic society and then went on to Wall Street and a home in the Hamptons. Nature is what they are shown on National Geographic channels or from the deck of a cruise ship off the coast of Alaska. The real nature lovers slogging through the woods and building a fire to keep warm in winter are the enemies of the eco-green warrior.

  8. J Calvert N(UK) permalink
    December 28, 2015 10:08 pm

    My local super market has eight electric-car charging/parking spaces. They are always empty – without fail. Eight wasted spaces!

  9. December 28, 2015 10:19 pm

    Thanks, Paul. Interesting futurology.
    I’m still waiting for the time a real alternative to the wonderful internal combustion engine might come around, some technology that stores more energy than a tank of gasoline, weighing the same. Then I would look at the respective efficiency of the technologies, and the safety of it. Hydrogen cells? Micro nuclear reactors?

    • December 28, 2015 10:36 pm

      It wont be any form of hydrogen, including fuel cells, any time in the foreseeable future.. Worked out the several reasons why in essay Hydrogen Hype. You can get better net energy efficiency for 1/3 the cost with no need to change infrastructure by just buying a Prius hybrid.

      • December 28, 2015 11:07 pm

        Yes, both of my questions have yielded no good answers yet.
        Meanwhite, Honda writes:
        Honda Natural Gas – Increased Efficiency
        Natural Alternative: The Civic Natural Gas
        The Civic Natural Gas is the cleanest internal-combustion vehicle certified by the EPA. It meets Tier-2 Bin-2 and ILEV requirements—a claim no other vehicle with an engine can currently make.

        The Civic Natural Gas runs entirely on natural gas, and it was developed with the real world in mind. Unlike other flex- or dual-fuel vehicles, which operate primarily on gasoline, the Honda Civic Natural Gas is run on compressed natural gas and operates virtually pollution-free. In fact, during testing, we found that hydrocarbon emissions were so low we had to develop new techniques to measure them.

        The Civic Natural Gas hits all three of Honda’s environmental targets: low emissions, high fuel economy and use of an economical, North American-based alternative fuel. But we are not just out to make an environmental statement. The strongest message about the Civic Natural Gas is that we didn’t design it only to satisfy fleet or government customers, but to satisfy Civic customers as well.

        I am a satisfied ex Honda Civic (regular gasoline) owner.
        The reason I switch to a Honda CRV was road safety, with more mass around passengers and carrying capacity. Also a little bit higher above a flooded road. 😉

      • John F. Hultquist permalink
        December 29, 2015 3:57 am

        Apart from hydrogen, the most common thing in the universe is stupidity.” [Harlon Ellison and/or Frank Zappa using various phraseology.]
        Claim is made that Toyota has the Mirai {“future”} coming to the US in selected places with a few refueling stations. Cost $60,000, range ~400 miles, 3 minute refueling time. I recall an article about 10 years ago about how GM was going to produce a whole series of such things. That might have been in Scientific American. I’ve seen nothing since.

  10. Brian Jones permalink
    December 29, 2015 12:37 am

    I wonder how many jobs would be lost if we actually moved to electric cars. For one all
    the muffler shops would go out of business.

  11. John F. Hultquist permalink
    December 29, 2015 3:22 am

    In the weekend edition (Dec 26-27) of the Wall Street Journal, Dan Neil reviews the General Motor’s Electric Blue Chevy Volt. Price of the tested model is $39,830; I would have to pay an additional 10% tax and fees. [I’ve no idea on rebates or subsidies.]
    Looking toward “one of these days”, Dan mentions urban living and low emissions zones, and the advance of “progressive” agendas. He also mentions the miles of average daily commute in the US being 37 miles. Faster charging and wireless charging are also coming. All such things will help in the sales pitch.

    Where I live it gets cold so defrosting and heating are a must if the car is to be used year-round. A small regional center is 50 miles, one-way. The nearest large place, Seattle, is 100 miles or so, depending of the final destination. So, right now, for me, such a car isn’t fit for service. I’ll likely be motoring around in a powered wheelchair before such cars will be serviceable here. For someone living in a nice village in Provence it might work, though.

    • AHP permalink
      December 30, 2015 8:48 am

      -5C in my small Provence village this morning. Nearest city is 45mn drive one way. No electrical cars around here.

  12. Alberto Zaragoza Comendador permalink
    December 29, 2015 7:10 am

    One factor you haven’t considered is the increased pleasure and time savings of not having to fill up your car with gas. Hey, that must have some economic value right?

  13. December 29, 2015 10:51 am

    OPEC isn’t what it used to be. The Saudis and the Iranians don’t like each other – to put it mildly – for a start, so agreeing on reducing output seems unlikely, especially for Iran.

    And the US shale drillers will pile in to any gap in the market.

  14. December 29, 2015 11:12 am

    Great comparison Paul. Perhaps the expensive Focus is not so great as a reference. How about an £8000 Hyundai i10? Seats 4 comfortably. All the practicality and capabilities of the Focus without the bulk. Let’s see an electric car beat that combo of price and performance!

  15. CheshireRed permalink
    December 29, 2015 11:22 am

    I don’t have any ideological opposition to electric cars (or even ‘renewable’ energy come to think of it) No, my opposition is purely pragmatic; electric cars just either aren’t competitive or are simply not real-world viable. Pretty much the same as ‘renewables’, then.
    When they go head to head with the IC engine and beat it on merit is the day when they’ll take off as a successful product.

  16. manicbeancounter permalink
    December 29, 2015 12:09 pm

    In terms of new car registrations, electric cars have enjoyed phenomenal growth.
    Of those eligible for the Plug-in Car Grant the numbers (with percentage of total registrations) are:-
    2013 (Jan-Dec) 3583 0.16%
    2014 (Jan-Dec) 14498 0.59%
    2015 (Jan-Nov) 25096 1.02%

    It would be interesting to see how many of these are in London, where electric cars avoid the congestion charge. Other than inner city driving, or for people commuting a short distance, electric cars are impractical.

    • December 29, 2015 12:40 pm

      Just the job for the school run in Central London, then.

      • manicbeancounter permalink
        December 29, 2015 4:52 pm

        Provided you have a parking place where you can plug the thing in. If they could get a supersize version with leather seats it could replace the standard Chelsea Tractors.

  17. A C Osborn permalink
    December 29, 2015 3:34 pm

    Come on guys, you can buy a fantastic Electric Car, 350 miles per charge, Racing Car Acceleration.
    OK so what if it costs £60,000+, rich people worried about the environment are queing up to buy them.
    All the top manufacturers are copying Tesla and offering them.
    They can drive from the airport in their eco friendly car after flying in in their Private Jet and feel all smug that they are “saving the world”.
    Do I need a Sarc tag?

  18. Alan Davidson permalink
    December 29, 2015 3:50 pm

    I could understand people living in a detached house with a garage working in the same city as they live in or near, thinking about having an electric car. But in UK a large proportion of residential areas are houses with only on-street parking or blocks of flats, making electric car charging at home quite impractical. Wouldn’t this considerably reduce the potential electric car UK market? (if there is one)

  19. Stonyground permalink
    December 29, 2015 4:12 pm

    “I’m still waiting for the time a real alternative to the wonderful internal combustion engine might come around,…”

    A few years ago the stirling cycle engine looked as if it might get an update and be presented as an alternative. It basically works by pumping air or an inert gas back and forth between two vessels, or to opposite ends of a single vessel. One vessel, or end, is heated, the other is cooled and the resultant expansion and contraction drives a piston. The clever part is that as it passes back and forth, the gas is sent through a mass of steel wool or similar substance which, by storing heat from the gas, cools it on its way to the cool end and heats it on its way to the hot end.

    Of course, it isn’t a true alternative as it still needs to be powered by some kind of flammable fuel. One advantage is that the engine can be cheaply adapted to be powered by different fuels, basically anything that burns can be used. It should also burn very cleanly as there is no complicated combustion process, just burning stuff to produce heat.

    I read about a modern version being developed maybe twenty years ago. As nothing has come of it I’m presuming that it turned out not to be practical.

    • Bulaman permalink
      December 29, 2015 7:44 pm

      Many years ago a US Sawmill company dropped $14 million developing micro power stations to provide household electricity from burning biomass. A paten dispute saw them loose the lot but they were very close to having a commercial system when it all went bad.

  20. Stonyground permalink
    December 29, 2015 4:26 pm

    Well I thought it wasn’t practical but, after doing a bit of research, now I’m not so sure.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      December 30, 2015 3:09 pm

      Filmed at the Cattle Market (if I’m not mistaken). Funny he chose Shell LPG – if he’d used the more commonly available Calor gas they have a depot 200 yards away! On second thoughts, they would probably take one look and refuse to supply him…

      As to Sterling engines themselves, I believe there are some CHP units aimed at the domestic heating & power market, and also for use on yachts and boats instead of the usual diesel engined gensets. The biggest problem is the wait while they warm up before any useful power is developed. They also can’t be “throttled” like a conventional piston engine, and that’s why he had the crude “clutch” working on the drive belt tensioner. However for CHP usage this isn’t so much of a problem.

  21. Stonyground permalink
    December 29, 2015 5:49 pm

    I apologise to our host for the embedded video, it did it automatically, I hope it isn’t a problem.

  22. BLACK PEARL permalink
    December 29, 2015 10:33 pm

    Just been reading that a Leaf battery costs $15,000 (£10,000) to manufacture
    A little under £5,000 with £1000 cash back on the old one to replace at the dealers
    So who picks up £6,000 difference ?

    • dangeroosdave permalink
      December 30, 2015 2:04 am

      SUBSIDY- the money we pay people to undertake work that makes no economic sense, as effort>reward. It gives people enough preliminary reward so they sensibly expend the necessary effort to get the rest of the reward. Unless they just eat the carrot, then go bankrupt….

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