Before you silently race around Switzerland producing zero emissions, you should ask yourself the following questions: What is the distance I need to cover? If, say, you commute 50 kilometres to work each day, an electric car of the first battery generation can manage that – even during the cold time of the year. But if you have to drive more than 100 kilometres, things could become difficult for e-cars with an older battery. Then it makes more sense to opt for a bigger and newer battery.
Is the car primarily to be charged at a wall box at home, at your employer’s or at a public charging station? The question is important because electric cars employ different charging technologies. That’s what makes them so varied in terms of flexibility of use. For instance, an e-car capable of fast charging (direct current) is ready in a relatively short time to cover a longer stretch.
But if all that is available is a normal alternating current charging station, it will take a few hours or even the entire night before the e-car’s battery has enough power again for a sizeable distance. In such a case, it would make more sense to charge the vehicle at home. It is essential that you find out beforehand about the charging infrastructure in place and take note of the charging technology.
You will have guessed as much: The battery is the most expensive component of an electric car. The more charge cycles it has gone through, the more serious the ageing. Batteries can last 500 to 1000 charge cycles without a problem. And the bigger the battery, the smaller the risk that it will soon reach the end of its life. Be sure to ask about the battery’s state of health, or SOH for short.
You should also insist on seeing the test logs and the service booklet. Garages subject the battery to a thorough inspection whenever they do maintenance and service work. The utmost caution is advised if the salesperson is unable to show a log. Another tip: When buying a battery, check whether it is still under guarantee, and if so, for how much longer. What are the terms of guarantee and can you live with having to waive guarantee claims?
Don’t be taken in by the manufacturer’s distance specifications. The distance capacity decreases as the battery ages. What’s more, battery performance depends on a number of factors such as driving behaviour, outside temperature or the use of heating or air-conditioning. In winter, for example, a distance capacity of 200 kilometres can quickly turn into just 100 kilometres. Ask the salesperson for figures based on their experience.
An electric car has much fewer expendable parts than a conventional car with an internal combustion engine. It would be a pointless exercise to look for spark plugs, cambelts or an exhaust pipe in an e-vehicle. But pay attention to the brakes. E-car brakes are sometimes more susceptible to rust than is the case with normal vehicles. Why? A lot of e-car drivers tend to accelerate and brake with the gas pedal, neglecting to use the actual brakes. This allows energy to flow back into the battery, a phenomenon referred to in technical jargon as “recuperation”. As a general rule, you should check the overall condition of the used e-car and take it for a test drive where possible. And if necessary, have the car assessed by a specialist before making a purchase.