Electric cars - saviour of the young driver?
Young drivers - and in particular students - tend to put up rather a fight towards paying automotive-related expenses.
Even in the days when a Ford Ka could be filled up for nothing more than a £20 note and the price of a Twix (people still ate those back in '96), there'd be no reason to put in any more than was strictly necessary to make the fuel warning light go away.
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The move towards electric cars, then, should come as a welcome change. Not only can you 'fill it up' for free at various public charging points but - thanks to a surprisingly simple set up under t'bonnet - there are no serviceable bits like oil filters (or oil for that matter) that require changing.
Cheap to power, cheap to maintain: wonderful. Practically designed with us in mind, surely?
Sadly not: electric cars are very much still in their infancy and, as you might have noticed, they're all huge, Focus-sized things at £20,000-a-piece - hardly first car territory in other words.
Let's get Twizy
Enter the strange, slightly terrifying object you see at the top - Renault's Twizy, in selected showrooms now for members of the public to go and have a play with. Don't be put off, though - initial reports suggest that it's actually rather good fun, despite coming to market with the same basic body style as a Little Tykes Cosy Coupe.
What's more, it's cheap -
cheap. £6,500 will net you a 'basic' model, and Renault reckon it'll only cost upwards of £1 to charge fully on those cheapy-cheap overnight electricity plans.
It might have no doors, no boot and no weather protection to speak of, but something on the specification sheet made my eyes light up: a miniscule power output of just 17bhp and a limited top speed of 50mph. So, you know what's coming - I'm going to wax lyrical about how wonderfully cheap it is to insure.
Having run a few quotes for an 18 year old though - naturally hoping for a fantastic saving - I'm sad to say that the Twizy came out at £2,000/year, a touch more than the £1,800 figure for a basic Twingo. Drat.
Why? Well, I reckon it all comes down to that irritating 'you can drown in two inches of water' fact: no matter what the limit on size, speed or power output of a car, there's always a chance you're going to drive into a ravine or reverse into a Bentley. You can only remove so much risk.
What about those day-to-day running costs, though - perhaps the Twizy can earn back some of that painful insurance premium? Again, I'm afraid not: part of its low initial cost is because you haven't
bought all of it - Renault still owns the batteries, and you're required to lease them back from anywhere between £45 and £67 per month.
The figures vary based on how long the contract is and how many miles you'd like to do, but effectively you'll be paying at least 8 and at most 15 pence per mile before you think about charging. Just for comparison, a distinctly non-electric Toyota Aygo - or any other over-53mpg car - costs around 12 pence for every mile of unleaded in today's fuel prices. There's not much in it, in other words.
No, I'm afraid the bitter truth is that nothing represents an easy, cheap route into getting onto the road. We're screwed, effectively, and short of buying a bicycle there's not a lot we can do about it.
On the upside though, if you are tempted by a Twizy and its zany looks, it's certainly no more expensive to own than any other car on sale. Just make sure to factor in the cost of a coat.