Paint Protection Film for Electric Cars – Is it worth it?

A Tesla Model S – a lot of car to hit with stones!

As it says on the right hand side of this page (or down at the bottom if you’re on mobile) I hate stone chips on cars. I mean, really, they are inevitable – after all, you’re driving something at speeds up to 70 MPH on roads that, if you look carefully are covered in little stones, bits of grit and random things (I once got the end of dinner fork stuck in a tyre, much to the bemusement of the tyre fitter at Costco!) All of these can get kicked up by the vehicle in front and pinged at your car and it’s unavoidable that some will hit the paint work and chip little bits of paint off, normally leaving an unsightly black mark instead of paint. If left, these marks can rust if they happen on a metal panel.

A Mk 4 Ford Escort – not much to stone chip!

The problem is exacerbated by two things – firstly there is more traffic on the roads than ever before, all kicking up these delightful little missiles at your pride and joy, and secondly, modern cars (post 2000) tend to have fully painted/colour coded front ends leaving a wider potential landing zone for these aforementioned missiles. I think my old Ford Escort I drove when I was 17 had two chips on the front end at 50,000 miles!

How do you prevent paint damage?

So if you don’t want to have the front end of your car peppered with chips by the time it has done 50,000 miles, you can have it resprayed, but that will cost around £1000 in the UK for a bonnet and bumper partial respray, and you run the risk of the paint not matching, or being a poor finish. Plus you have to spend the first 50,000 miles looking at the ever increasing range of pimples on your car. The alternative is PPF or Paint Protection Film – this clear, highly robust plastic film covers your car’s paintwork and adds a physical barrier to the paint meaning that most rocks will bounce off and not be able to chip the paint underneath. It is also incredible at preventing scratches and can even prevent people keying your paintwork. Even if they do manage to cut through the film, the chances are that the paint underneath will be fine when you remove the film. That’s the other benefit – if you do manage to damage the film, then individual panels can be peeled off and replaced by a trained installer.

Professional PPF install

What does it cost, and where can you get it done?

PPF on whole panels such as bonnets (hoods) and bumpers needs to be installed by a professional. However small elements to cover headlights, lower sills and doors, and even the boot (trunk) lip where you load objects in and out of the car are able to be installed by a competent DIY enthusiast. EV Protect sell small kits that help protect vulnerable areas such as the Tesla rear sill/rocker panel (which gets horribly chipped up) on eBay and many hundreds of owners have reported that they helped protect their Tesla’s paint and prevent chips. Click this link to browse their products. £45 will stop this damage, but you’ll ideally need to apply it before it gets chipped.

damaged Tesla paint
Paint damage on a Tesla Model 3 at 8000 miles

If you want a full car covered in PPF, or even just a bumper or front end, then I would suggest you visit a professional for a quote and to see vehicles that have been protected. Mint Condition UK in Chelmsford, Essex have protected many cars for me over the years, from a Lotus Elise, to Tesla Model 3, S and Y. Prices will range from £500 – £4000 depending on what finish you require (gloss, matte, even colour changing!) and how much coverage you require. Their website is here and they can provide you a bespoke quotation.

What about Ceramic Coating?

I need to be very clear here that ceramic coatings or nano/glass coatings that are often sold by car dealers will not prevent chips and scratches. These coatings help to improve the gloss of a car and certainly make it easier to wash, but they provide a bonded coating that is a few microns thick and will eventually wear off. PPF is a physical and very tough adhesive film and protects the paint underneath by completely sealing it away. If you want to keep your paint factory fresh, you need PPF, after all, it is only factory paint once!

PPF fitted to a Tesla (red outline to show the area)

Road use charging – the only sane way to replace lost fuel duty for EVs?

It was inevitable really wasn’t it? The £35bn black hole in the UK government’s finances through the loss of road fuel tax revenue and a CO2 based Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) scheme that was designed to push the move to low and zero carbon vehicles has left the treasury wondering how the heck it’s going to pay for everything. Although EV’s are more expensive on the whole, so they get more VAT revenue which is usefully forgotten in the report issued today by UK Govt.

Cars and a Van on a road
A long road to travel…

So, how do the Whitehall mandarins get back this c. £35bn per year in future to help pay for all the COVID related debt (and lets remember that fuel duty revenue dropped significantly as no-one was going anywhere in the lockdowns and the pump prices plummeted too due to lack of demand)? I think it was always obvious that it would be via road pricing – its the only fair way really, and all of those who (like me) have been riding the free buffet of EV ownership for nearly ten years paying 5% VAT on our fuel and zero tax may feel a bit hard done by – “we sacrificed our range-confidence for the environment!” Fuel duty, like it or hate it, is a virtually perfect tax – if you do more miles, you use more fuel and you pay more towards the upkeep of shared resources like roads, or the NHS bills for lung disease patients in hospitals. Bigger vehicle? More fuel, more tax. VED adds a balancing power to this so if you have a tiny car, you pay less again than those in the big cars that might wear the roads more. HGVs pay a phenomenal rate of VED too.

The question is, how do we ensure that you pay an equal or less amount for the road pricing /new VED scheme and it be as fair as what is arguably a pretty fair taxation system? …and how do the current government, faced with having to make people pay more tax generally when all their bills are going up? I’d hate to work in Govt, I really would.

In my mind, the best way would be reinstate VED regardless of fuel type – it is bonkers frankly that an over 2 tonne Tesla Model X pays zero VED – its a big, heavy thing, and a luxury. It also goes way less far on its energy than a Model 3 – a 75KwH Model X has a range around 150 miles, a Model 3 with the same battery could touch 300 on a good day. So lets bring back £300+ of VED for the Model Xs and Mercedes EQCs and return £7bn according the report above in 2023. Won’t this put people off EVs? Well, the horse has already bolted here, so you won’t slow the uptake as all manufacturers know this is their future – its led as much by the industry now as consumers. If you really want to put off buying a petrol/diesel then slap £200 on top again – the Lambo buyers can afford it, trust me.

Road workers painting "Thank you NHS" on a road
Should NHS workers be exempt?

The rest is easy to restore, but contentious. You don’t want to disadvantage those who have to use their cars but are on a lower income (teachers/NHS/social care staff etc). So if we say that tolls in cities are to become a thing, then don’t charge residents who have to have to use these roads everyday (a la Dart Charge local resident zone). It would be difficult, if not impossible to set up ANPR on every single little rural road, so my suggestion would be not to charge for them which would keep things more affordable for those in rural areas who are again reliant on motor vehicles to get around. Motorways are already camera covered, and major trunk roads like the A12 near where I live. These roads would be easy to charge for use of, and to stop people trying to avoid them and making the local roads congested, you could reduce or remove the charges in off-peak periods. It’s amazing the behavioural change you can see when people think they’ll save a few bob by being savvy.

Road charges are inevitable, and when you think about it, it is quite a fair system. As always, the devil is in the detail and not only that, huge changes like this will inevitably cause backlash from the public. It was tried in 2007 and 1.8 million people signed a petition to prevent it. The thing is, rather than a blanket charge of £1.30 a mile (which would be £2 odd now), which for many people would have cost the same as their VED for a year in a single 100 mile trip, we can be more intelligent about it now. Our ANPR system is more developed and its easy to track vehicles accurately now too as many have factory tracking systems fitted. Also, let’s not forget you’re not paying £500+ per year in fuel duty if you have an EV and charge it at home. It’s also high time that the UK removed VAT on public charging – VAT is a tax for non-essential luxury goods – fuel is not that. Even the 5% rate for energy goes against the spirit of things. Even more in the light of the energy crisis.

So yes, it might not look fair to many, but what is the better solution that isn’t over complex, or would cost billions to set up? I can’t think of one, but we need to make sure that we don’t end with something that disadvantages those who cannot pay or are unable to use public transport. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe wide-scale private car ownership (when we don’t use them 90% of the time) is the right option either, but that’s for a longer blog post!

Farewell BMW i3 – so good, I bought two!

BMW i3 in Production

News is breaking over social media and automotive websites that after nine years in production, the revolutionary BMW i3 electric car is finishing production in July this year.

The i3 wasn’t BMW’s first EV, or even first widespread EV (that accolade goes to the 1 series EV known as the ActiveE), but is the one that people will recognise as that ‘weird electric BMW’. After production of 250,000 cars from its factory in Leipzig, Germany, I for one will be said to see it go.

The i3 was a brave move from a manufacturer that is known for excellent, if traditional saloons and SUVs. If it wasn’t for BMW, I doubt anyone in Western Europe would still drive saloon cars over hatchbacks, and yet here is a small (shorter than any other BMW on sale at 3999 mm), hatchback, electric city car with hot hatch performance, built out of carbon fibre(!) with bolt on plastic panels. It truly was a step from the norm for BMW, and launched to great fanfare in conjunction with a car that it shared and lot, and nothing with – the BMW i8 Hybrid Supercar.

BMW i8 – I nearly bought one once…

I owned two BMW i3s – actually I rented one from subscription service On To (referral code b4552 for £50 off your first month!). The first was a ReX or Range eXtender version with a small 2 cylinder petrol engine in addition to the battery. The ReX is a clever idea, but if I’m honest, I rarely used it as the car had 50Kw DC fast charging which charged the battery in less than one hour, and could provide 100 miles range in 30 mins. I sold it in 2018 and amazingly lost virtually nothing on it as EVs were starting to gain popularity and the ReX versions were zero road tax in the UK. However, I missed it terribly, and with a baby due, the idea of those rear hinging doors to put a little’n in without twisting your back seemed a good idea. The second one was a 120aH full electric with a range of over 150 miles, and this was by far the better car. I loved it, took it everywhere, and even drove to Belgium in it with one charging stop, and was really sorry to see it go. However, the Tesla Model 3 that replaced it is by far the best electric car on the roads (still!)

I’m thinking (as I only have one car right now) to maybe get an i3 again while I can? If I do, it will undoubtably have an AC Schnitzer conversion on it and would be the perfect city car. Fun fact: AC Schnitzer sell more kits for the i3 than any other BMW in the UK – how can that be true?!

I loved the turning circle of the i3, the weird back doors, the exposed carbon fibre weave when you opened the doors, even the odd noise the solenoid made when it popped the charge flap open (which seemed comically oversized on a tiny car). I didn’t like the way it handled on anything but warm, dry tarmac (winter tyres sorted most of that but wore so fast – I got 8k miles from a set over two winters), and the safety rating wasn’t great (again, a worry with a new born). The tech would seem outdated I’m sure now, but the looks would still be ultra-contemporary in 2022.

My first i3

I persuaded a very good friend of mine, Matt to buy one who liked it so much, his dad bought one too. I said to him (and he knows how many cars I’ve owned) that it was in my top three ever owned. Perhaps its number 1? I’ve only ever bought the same car again on two occasions (BMW i3 and Porsche 987 Boxster). I adored the Boxster too.

In my Boxster…

Would I have one over a Tesla Model 3? No, I don’t think so – the Model 3 is the EV you can own without worrying its an EV. Would I have both in a two car garage? Undoubtedly. I’m off to browse the classifieds. Farewell i3, but maybe hello again?