A Leaf costs £70 for 7500 miles per year regardless of whether it’s for a 22kWh or the newer 30kWh pack. That’s quite a lot to spend on a used car for which you might also be paying on a monthly basis. You must also factor in a domestic wallbox charger, which will cost £279 for a 3kWh unit, or £359 or £354 for 7kWh (from Podpoint and Chargemaster respectively) with a government grant. But there are compensations, including 2p-per-mile fuelling costs (according to Nissan and assuming a dual domestic tariff and overnight charging) and maintenance charges as much as 75% lower than a conventional car’s. Plus you’re driving a zero-emission vehicle.
Buying a car that includes the battery obviously means no monthly rental fees but also no means of easily replacing it. That said, EV battery life appears to be pretty robust, with the earliest Japanese-market Leafs giving up their batteries for a second life to provide electricity storage for the grid, although most UK-sold EVs are too young to have reached that point. When the battery pack does deteriorate to the point that the range is affected, the owner must weigh up whether it’s worth spending a sum greater than the car is worth to replace the battery, or scrapping a car that will otherwise have loads of life left in it, given that electric motors and gearboxes are good for hundreds of thousands of miles.
Check out the Renault Fluence forums, for example, and you’ll find a few owners contemplating the possibility of scrapping their cars rather than renewing the battery pack, because they can’t bring themselves to commit either to an expensive three-year lease or to pay for an entirely new battery for a car that could be worth as little as £2500 despite it having covered far less than 100,000 miles.
The issue of determining what to do with your car once the battery lease has expired is common to the owners of many electric cars. Is it worth getting into another three-year contract with a bank – because it’s a finance house rather than Renault or Nissan that the battery lease contract resides with – for a car of limited value? The occasional unhelpfulness of banks doesn’t help matters, either.
It’s interesting that Nissan reported a significant improvement in the residual value of the Leaf when it introduced an approved-used £175 per month PCP deal for older models, suggesting that buyers of used EVs are looking for more manufacturer support than another commitment to a finance house for a battery lease.
Issues such as these, together with the new car market’s sensible caution, explain why EVs remain relatively uncommon and help to explain the presence of some quite keenly priced used examples for sale.
The numbers aren’t vast, though. Of the 141,000 or so cars currently on sale with Pistonheads, only 290 – just 0.2% of that total – were pure EVs at the time of writing. That’s partly because EVs haven’t been on sale many years but also because owners are keeping them – the majority of cars are still young and many of them come with the strings of a battery lease. The choice for now is a little limited, then, but there’s an array of second-hand electric cars for sale that are interesting for their popularity, desirability or cheapness.