by Charlotte Neale

I find it really exciting to think about the huge potential electric cars have to reduce our emissions from transport. Even on electricity from the national grid, an electric car can save up to 40 per cent of the CO2 that a fossil fuel-burning one produces. As the grid is de-carbonised this will continue to improve.

However, the car-buying public isn’t totally convinced just yet.

So, with help from the Energy Saving Trust, the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has produced a fact-filled Electric Car Guide 2010 in an attempt to allay current misgivings about electric cars.

For those who don’t have time to read all 34 pages, here’s a summary:

Electric cars can be very good-looking! Take the currently available Tesla Roadster 2.5, or the Lightening GT, due in spring 2012 – these are cars that could survive the Clarkson treatment.

Unfortunately, as with good-looking gas-guzzlers, these cars can come with a hefty price tag. According to the SMMT, the average electric car costs £28,300, compared to £19,500 for a normal one. And the government, in an attempt to increase uptake of electric motors, is offering to pay for 25 per cent of that (up to £5,000).

As for fuel costs, the SMMT calculates the average price of petrol as £1.19 a litre, and the price of electricity as between 4p and 14p a kWh. So, taking into account miles per gallon and other costs like vehicle excise duty, SMMT calculates a cost of 46p per mile (averaged over 10,000 miles) for a normal car and 45p per mile for an electric one. Over 15,000 miles this goes down to 36p and 33p per mile respectively.

So the good news is that there’s not really much in it. And the even better news is that a canny green-tech investor could save more by charging it up using their own domestic renewable sources.

Range and speed:
According to this guide, a typical electric car has a range of 100 miles. In the UK the average total daily usage is 25 miles – about three journeys, at an average of 8.6 miles. So, range may not be much of an issue in normal use. As with petrol, electricity consumption – and therefore your car’s range – will be affected by how you drive (and also by very cold weather).

The average speed of an electric car ranges from 60 to 125mph, depending on the model.

Most cars, most of the time, will be recharged overnight at home. But this isn’t always an option; and those taking longer journeys will need places to charge up.

The government is co-funding ‘Plugged-In Places’, a scheme to create 11,000 charging points by 2013. These will be in London, the north east, and Milton Keynes, and additional locations and more charging points will be announced by the end of this year.

Length of time to recharge:
Pure electric cars take six to eight hours to recharge from standard points (such as your house) – but at a rapid charge point it can take under half an hour.

According to this guide, electric cars will be subject to the same warranty conditions as standard. As for emergency and breakdown services, from January manufacturers will be responsible for ensuring that all relevant people – from engineers and mechanics to repair and breakdown staff, and even emergency services – are familiar with electric cars. So you should have no worries on that score if you break down.

CO2 is obviously a key ingredient in the decision to buy an electric car – so what about the production process? As with other consumables, there is no standard methodology to assess CO2 emissions from manufacture. But manufacturers claim that they are considering emissions at all stages of the process, to reduce the environmental impact.

I personally am pro-electric cars, and if I could afford a new car I would get one. But, I think that we need to massively de-carbonise the grid to improve emission reductions and to make sure that there are enough charging points for people to feel secure that they can get home again!

In the absence of a spectacular, mind-blowing conclusion I leave you simply with a video of the upcoming Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid. A girl can dream!