/ Motoring

Are we together in electric dreams? Not when it comes to cars…

Electric cars charging

Electric cars are silent, smooth, better for the environment and many owners love them – and yet sales figures continue to stay low. So what’s stopping us from charging up and hopping in an e-car?

If you were offered the keys to an electric car tomorrow, what would stop you from taking them?

As a nation, we went out and bought nearly 2.7m brand new cars last year, according to figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). But only 10,264 of these vehicles were electric – that’s less than half a percent.

Yet in last year’s annual car survey, it was Tesla and its super-snazzy Model S electric saloon car that nearly broke our scoring system for owner satisfaction.

It showed that owners didn’t just like their cars – they loved them. Here’s what one Tesla owner said:

‘Staggering performance, quiet, has an enormous amount of Tardis-like room… via updates, the car has got BETTER since I bought it. It’s the future.’ (Which? Car survey, 2016)

At their best, electric cars are silent, smooth and clearly satisfying… so why aren’t we buying more of them?

Have you got range anxiety?

Range anxiety is the term given to the worrying feeling that you won’t be able to make it to the next convenient charging point before your car runs out of juice and regresses into what is essentially a lavish metal box on wheels.

But in our tests, most electric cars can get 90-115 miles on a single charge. The Tesla we had in the lab was able to travel over 200 miles between plug sockets.

OK, many petrol cars can go further than this, but with new charging points popping up all the time – and with many cars overstating their miles per gallon (mpg) figure – this isn’t necessarily a big turn-off for electric.

Feeling under-charged…

On the other hand, you might want an electric car but not have the ability to plug it in somewhere at home.

Let’s face it, unless you have a driveway it’s going to be faff to run out a cable to where your car is parked. (And that’s assuming you are able to get a space anywhere near home.)

You may have also investigated the charging points around areas you normally drive – say your local shops – and found a considerable dearth of accessible or convenient charging points.

But if you get a fast-charging wallbox installed at home you should be able to fill your batteries to the brim in three to eight hours, depending on the car. Just be aware that if you rely on a domestic plug, charging times could increase dramatically, stretching to beyond 12 or even 24 hours for a full charge.

…or over-charged?

Electric cars are generally more expensive than their fuel combusting cousins. For instance, a 5-door Volkswagen Golf has a glossy-brochure price of at least £18,280.

Compare that to the all electric Golf (e-Golf). Prices start at £31,680, although the plug-in grant from the UK government will reduce that cost to £27,180.

Still, that’s nearly £9,000 extra to go electric (or to put it another way, the cost of a brand-new VW Up! city car) just to ditch the fuel tank.

What’s stopping us from buying electric cars?

So why aren’t we buying more electric cars? Is it range putting you off – or the price? Perhaps it’s everything above or something completely different. Whatever your hesitation is about buying an electric car, tell us about it in the comments below.

The main thing putting me off buying an electric car is:
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Comments
Profile photo of Ian
Member

We will be going all-electric at the next change. We’re already running hybrids but living in the mountains you have a lot of uphill driving and comparatively few charging points. I suspect the new Car Tax bands will push many towards electric, as might the threat to ban diesels from city centres. But driving electric is wonderful compared with any other fuel.

Member
Pip says:
21 March 2017

The more electric cars the more electricity has to be produced. Green electricity will no way meet that demand the only way forward to meet the demand would be nuclear power. I’d be happy with that but the “Greens” won’t be.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a green alternative to oil, gas and coal but getting rid of those 3 at present would not supply homes and industry with enough power let alone cars as an added extra.

For electric cars to become a viable alternative there is no option but go the nuclear generation route at present. That may change in the future but face reality for now.

Member
Graham says:
25 March 2017

It’s probably not as simple as that. Most charging will take place overnight when demand on power stations is at it’s lowest, so unlikley to have a medium term effect unless there is a sudden uptake of these vehicles. Electric also has some advantages. The battery can supply the grid at times of peak demand and help reduce the burden on fossil fuel stations. One scenario would be wind farms continuing to generate at night (they are sometimes turned off to maintain fossil fuel stations operating at their most efficient – we still pay for the electricity no longer generated!) which are able to charge up car batteries. The car will be used for a standard commute the following day, say 60 miles, but the battery is good for 120 miles. The power not required will contribute to the running of the household or wider grid by feeding power in the opposite direction – similar to how solar panels work. Effectively reduces peak operating demand on existing power stations. If supply/demand pricing is also brought down to domestic level, this cold also help reduce the cost of the power – charge during periods of low demand when electric is cheaper, release some of it during peak times when it’s more expensive.

Profile photo of John Ward
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I haven’t quite caught up with this technology. How will electric cars feed energy into the grid during peak demand times if they are sitting in the station car park or at the workplace? I can understand if they are charging up overnight, and use less than their full capacity the next day, they will draw less than a full charge to top the battery up which will take pressure off the generating system but that will be during the off-peak, surely. I must have missed something so please explain, Graham.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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The charging time and shortish range would put me off if I were changing cars. I need a car, so if I might have to wait hours to be charged it would be a no-no. I would favour petrol or diesel / battery, hybrid providing the battery was of sufficient capacity to deal with all urban driving, and petrol for both longer distance and emergencies when the batteries were out.

I’d really be more in favour of decent electric public transport, though, for town and city transport, and not try to force a compromise of electric personal transport that will still clog the streets and require car parks (other than for essential users or off-peak).

As for VED, in the overall scheme of car finances I really don’t see it as a significant issue.

Profile photo of VynorHill
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It’s very simple. The technology isn’t there yet to produce a car that does what most motorists want a car to do: get in and go at any time, know that you will be able to complete the journey and return without a massive wait while the power is restored and buy something that doesn’t cost much more than any alternative power source available. Live in a town and major on short journeys on alternate days and electric will be fine, slip up the M6 for a weekend break in the Lake District and you won’t even get half way from London. Are we convinced that battery power is the way forward? Only if life changes dramatically to accommodate its shortcomings or someone makes a real breakthrough in battery technology or they perfect portable electric generation without the use of fossil fuels. You should be holding this conversation ten years hence to judge how far we’ve got.

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Alan Noble says:
25 March 2017

Sorry Vynor but you are incorrect. Such a car does exist. I have one. It’s the BMW i3 with Range Extender. The REX, as it is called, is a BMW motorcycle engine that sits beneath the boot. It kicks-in when the battery is low. It does not drive the wheels; it generates electricity. The small petrol tank is good for around 70 miles.

So I have a choice: recharge the battery if there is a suitable point (30 minutes to 80% charge) or “fill-up” with a very few litres of petrol. Long journey? No problem.

And the i3 is such fun to drive.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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I don’t know why Alan has been given a thumbs down with no explanation. At present, as I mentioned earlier, the i3 type of vehicle is a good compromise if you use electric only in built-up areas and the normal engine/generator out of town. This is the way black cabs have developed – except their range-extending petrol generator will be used in town when the batteries run out (after around 60 miles perhaps) and rather defeats the objective.

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Well. Yes. I see your point. But…

BMW i3 with Range Extender = £36,000 (approx).
Ford Fiesta, petrol = £14,000 (approx).

Profile photo of John Ward
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I agree with Vynor that the technology is not yet ready, and would go further to say that for many people the practicalities are not suitable either. I certainly agree with Malcolm’s comment about electric public transport but that does not always go where people need to travel or at the times they have to go somewhere.

The residential streets of our towns and cities are clogged up with petrol-fuelled, and increasingly diesel-fuelled, cars, and the inner cities are suffering from excessive pollution. Many essential journeys cut across radial bus routes and other public transport lines. This should be fertile territory for electric cars – daily journeys of relatively short distance with the opportunity to recharge the batteries overnight at a lower tariff. The major problem in most such areas is the difficulty, or actual impossibility, of putting the vehicle on charge at a convenient location. Traditional streets lined with terraced houses, sometimes divided into flats, rarely enable each householder to park their car in front of their own property. Houses on corners or at junctions often have yellow lines that prohibit parking anyway. Even where it is possible to park outside one’s own house I believe it is illegal to run a cable across the footway; there might be some tolerance if the cable is protected by a thick rubber cover strip, but even that is not a satisfactory solution. Perhaps an overhead gantry will be permitted like the old-fashioned petrol pumps that used to swing out from the wall in order to clear the footway; probably not acceptable in conservation areas and a vandal’s or power thief’s heaven in any situation. And then there is the problem for flat-dwellers where the car might be a considerable distance away in an open parking lot or a battery-garage compound.

The ideal locations for electric vehicles would seem to be the suburbs where houses predominantly have frontages or driveways where cars can be stationed overnight and can conveniently plug into the mains without affecting any other property or the public highway. The journey to work or the station would usually be comfortably within the range of the car and since electric cars are usually much more compact than many petrol or diesel types they would improve the streetscape.

Our next door neighbour’s employer allowed her to bring a trial electric vehicle home sometimes and she plugged it to an electricity point in her garage. For work purposes the car was mainly used for home visits. She was reasonably satisfied with the suitability of the electric car but did not enjoy the 30-mile journey to work as much as in her Audi TT. She used to charge it both at work in the daytime and at home overnight to ensure it had enough charge in case there was a diversion on the A11 – a not unusual occurrence sometimes involving a 20-mile detour. But rural areas are not good places for electric cars and the firm ended the experiment after about a year.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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As it happens my neighbour is very eco friendly and active in its promotion and bought an all electric car . After the initial “delights ” in using it reality slipped in the calculated distance without recharge was optimistic the nearest charge point was 10 miles away –and worse the nearest garage that could test it was 20 miles away along a winding country road (we live in a small fishing village ) . Isn’t reality a “bummer ” ? , yes I know old 60,s US slang word . Ahhhh ! the old -internal server error -still to be fixed.

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Martin says:
20 March 2017

Range poor with 4 people in it, the heating on, and the headlights on.
How do you charge it if you live in a block of flats and it’s parked outside.
Batteries don’t last for ever and cost of replacement is high, therefore trade in value is low.
Dangerous because pedestrians can’t hear them coming. (Are insurance companies loading them for this reason?)

Member
Paul says:
27 March 2017

My insurance went down when I changed to electric, not up. Electric cars aren’t silent, they make less noise but you still get the sound of rubber on road, of wind noise, and the whir of the motor. That said you can specify an external speaker on some models to increase the noise further – something I did and have not had any pedestrian incidents. If you live in a block of flats and it’s outside you need on-street charging for which your local council can claim grant payments to fund. Range is increasing all the time, check out the new Chevy Bolt (Vauxhall Ampera-e) for example, which will do about 250 miles between charges.

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David says:
20 March 2017

We have an efficient diesel at the moment but plan to replace it with an all-electric car in 2-3 years time. There are only a few family sized electric cars on the market now which have a decent range (150 miles) and are reasonably priced (£20-£25K) but that is set to expand by 2020 along with the number of charging points. I’m confident there will be plenty to choose from. Drivers who expect the ability to travel 500+ miles in one go are missing the point. All cars spend 90% of their time immobile on a drive or a car park and 95% of cars average 30 mile journeys. Charging for 150 miles cost about £3. Filling up my diesel car for a 600 mile range costs about £60. That’s a saving of nearly £50. Fossil fuels are running out and will never be environmentally friendly whereas electricity as a fuel can be as green as you want it to be. Petrol and diesel engines will ultimately die out and eventually, we will all be driving electric cars – it is just a question of when rather than if.

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There is the little matter of the UK’s generating capacity to be resolved, David. Output is forecast to be tight against demand over the next few years. However, further developments in, and incentives for, energy efficiency and economy will help to contain demand despite more railway electrification, new railways and tramway extensions, and continuous increases in refrigeration and air-conditioning. In a few years time nearly all street-lighting and traffic signals will be using LED lamps and more direction signs will be either LED-illuminated or reflective.

I can see the logic of those who can run an electric car taking the plunge and doing so; apart from anything else electric cars should be able to last much longer than internal combustion-engined cars. Batteries will expire but can easily be swapped out whereas electric motors are very reliable and long-lasting. It should be possible to make mechanical parts like steering, braking, suspension, axles, and wheels last even longer than current models which already have good lifecycles. With slightly different driving characteristics tyres might last longer too. The absence of radiators, heavy engines, conventional gearboxes, and transmission shafts will reduce overall weight and thus the wear on other components. I can foresee electric cars having a normal life of twenty years which would make the financing of the higher purchase [and hire purchase or leasing] price less onerous.

I think the ‘problem’ of the silence of electric cars has been over-stressed. On dry roads in town driving conditions at 20-30mph most modern cars are very quiet and electric cars are not entirely silent so the difference would be small. Other road users would soon get used to keeping an eye out for approaching vehicles and drivers might occasionally have to make more use of the horn.

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On the energy front in general, John, I suspect we’re moving towards micro-generation.

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David Steel says:
21 March 2017

The problem is that the electricity is provided by burning fossil fuels at power stations so running an electric car isn’t going to preserve fossil fuels. If anything, it will make it worse because when converting between energy types, there are losses. So, electric cars alone won’t save the planet. It needs to be accompanied by a significant increase in the use of wind, wave and solar energy generation. I have excluded nuclear from this – although it preserves fossil fuel, it is an inherent ‘dirty’ source of energy and even supplies of Uranium are finite.

Profile photo of John Ward
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That is certainly the case at the moment and I think it will gather pace wherever it is practical. That will take the pressure off the generating capacity margin as will the continuing de-industrialisation of the UK.

Do you have any thoughts on the contribution to possible reduced energy demand attributable to the internet? On one level it must have saved an enormous amount of energy previously used in printing and dispatching documents but on another level the energy consumption of servers must be colossal, especially their ventilation requirements, and localised printing is unlikely to be as economical as batch production. Thankfully, a high proportion of internet-transmitted material does not get printed, but that could be because material is transmitted now that would never have been accessible twenty years ago. Transferring the hard copy function to the client has probably had a significant restraining effect on the reproduction requirement thus saving copious energy.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I’m not planning to buy an electric car, simply because of the restricted range. An electric car would be ideal for most of my driving but about once a month I make longer journeys. I will certainly consider a hybrid vehicle when I replace my car, though I would want to know about how long the batteries would last before requiring replacement and how much this would cost.

I’m lucky and live in an area with fairly quiet roads. My present car is averaging 55 mpg and will do about 60 mpg on a long run.

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gman says:
25 March 2017

I to would not buy an electric car at the present time. The costs are definitely too high as the manufacturers try to recoup the investment costs, many would say over too short a time.
The major reason though, is the very limited range between recharging.
I am not UK based and journeys to the UK are >600 miles thus requiring at least 3 recharges. I could not make the journey in <12hrs which my current petrol only (and all previous) cars do easily, because of the recharging time required.

I have bought a hybrid in the last few months. A Toyota and am extremely pleased with its performance and fuel efficiency. Long motorway journeys are about 50mpg at an average 70mph. The previous (same non hybrid) car was about 40mpg. Newer technology (regenerative braking) and the style of driving (ie boy racer or fuel efficient) have the most effect in these figures.

I have a 15min drive to work and see perhaps 38mpg in the winter (temperatures 0 to -10deg C) and have yet to discover the summer values. The temperature is the most important factor here as the engine is efficient when warm.
I have made very short journeys <10 miles with a warm engine in our local town with 0mpg, being always under electric power.

For me the hybrid is the now, the pure electric is the still the distant future when suitable batteries have been developed.

(Before anybody quotes the manufacturers values being different, they should be aware that the Urban test cycle is totally irrelevant to real driving and ONLY useable for a comparison basis between cars as they are tested in the same way.)

Profile photo of malcolm r
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I wonder just how much longer we can justify the use of personal transport in towns and cities? One person in a vehicle that takes up road and parking seems a poor use of space. I’d predict we will see much more extensive public transport but it will need to be user friendly – go where we want at a sensible price.

Were fossil-fuelled cars to decline greatly the fuel vat and duty lost would have to be recouped from somewhere else – any ideas where that would be?

As for micro generation it is a fairly inefficient way of producing energy. Much more cost-effective to have large arrays of solar panels on, say, roofs in industrial estates linked together than on individual dwellings; solar farms on the ground – but not if they take up space useful to agriculture or housing. Tidal power – the big untapped resource that we should, as an island nation, be using; big investment (but so is HS2 and defence), with non-polluting and predictable energy.

I think there are fundamental changes required.

Profile photo of John Ward
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If the lost revenue had to be re-captured from vehicle use then the obvious source would be vehicle excise duty but that would not reflect the mileage driven or consumption profile which, in a crude way, are represented by road fuel duty. An alternative for electric vehicles would be to require separate battery-charging supplies metered and paid for on a distinct tariff [which could incentivise off-peak charging] and subject to a higher VAT rate [say, 10% instead of the standard domestic energy rate of 5%].

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A mileage charge might be one way, but tax is never popular. It is a crude estimate but I reckon we’d have to recover around £1100 a year per vehicle on average to make up for lost fuel duty and vat – say 10p a mile.

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From what I see of solar farms in East Anglia, sheep may safely graze among the arrays of solar panels and take shelter under them when it rains. I don’t like the look of solar farms, however, but on marginal land they are a good use of the space – they look no worse than the fields currently covered in sheets of polythene to bring on root crops. It is disappointing to see extensive solar farms in the Fens where prime fertile soil is no longer used for crop production because solar power is more profitable. This could change when we leave the EU and need to produce more fruits and vegetables in the UK. This could lead to solar farms being dismantled to allow conversion of the land back to agriculture.

I certainly agree with Malcolm’s point about the location of solar panels on industrial estates. Looking at satellite images of towns and cities there is a vast amount of unused commercial roofspace in non-amenity areas where solar power could make a contribution to the energy demand of the area; it would need an operating company to develop and install a scheme covering a number of buildings and manage the take-out and feed-in arrangements at a nett cost to the roof owners and consumers that would make it attractive and viable.

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Malcolm – If David’s figure of £3 to charge the batteries for 150 miles driving [2p a mile] is right then the government’s need to take 10p a mile to cover the lost road fuel duty and VAT would look top heavy; I haven’t worked out how it would compare with the present make-up of petrol prices which are also heavily loaded with taxes. The advantages of a mileage/consumption-based method of charging for electric vehicles are that it (a) more directly incentivises economy in driving style, use of accessories, etc, (b) is fairer for those who have low mileage, and (c) encourages manufacturers to produce more efficient batteries and electric motors. I can’t foresee a time when the internal combustion engine will be entirely replaced, especially in rural areas and for people with larger families to transport, so I would not advocate any taxation penalty on such vehicles.

I strongly feel that there should be additional curbs on the use of diesel vehicles for private use. Taking advantage of the performance characteristics of modern diesel engines and the relatively lower cost of diesel road fuel the higher capacity cars have become grossly bloated – monster vehicles belching out particulates and completely unsuitable for use in towns and cities. They won’t fit in garages, require larger parking spaces, and have an intimidating presence in confined areas. All owners have their own precious justifications for them but I think it is high time such use was deemed anti-social.

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I presume 2p a mile is based on largely untaxed (5%) off peak electricity. My point was simply that the lost tax from fuel duty and vat (around 60% of the fuel price) must be found elsewhere. For a car the tax is probably 7 to 10p a mile. As for diesels, car size seems separate from fuel type – many have petrol engines as well as diesels, and hybrids can also be pretty big.

If we are to control emissions then we could simply ban future large-engined vehicles; however this will not address the existing stock of polluting engines, whether private or commercial, with NOX being just as big an issue as particulates.

Air pollution is not just about individual engine emissions, but also about density of traffic, exacerbated by congestion. I believe that we must reduce traffic use in built-up areas if we are to make a real impact on pollution. This will mean restricting access by fossil-fuelled vehicles and providing convenient and affordable alternatives – clean public transport. I had to go into London last week; easy from where I live and the underground got us where we needed to be quickly. Yet the roads were still thronged with private cars, and someone we were meeting drove all the way. I really see this as something that could be properly controlled if there was a will.

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Yes, you’re right – I disapprove of all big cars in town centres whatever powers them. They cannot be priced off the roads – it wouldn’t work and would just exacerbate salary inflation. Prohibition is the only way of curbing them.

There is a problem with transferring most town and city personal traffic to public transport; unless there is a massive increase in routes, service frequency and capacity it will not be adequate or attractive. The suburban rail networks in all conurbations are already overloaded in the peaks despite more flexible working patterns. Enabling people to work much closer to home has to be part of the solution and a degree of compulsion for relocation might have to introduced. It saddens me that the Mayor of London accepts, and virtually promotes, continued expansion of the capital with hundreds of thousands more homes; the policy is also used as a justification for the provision of more new Overground and Underground lines and a new south-west to north-east link [Crossrail 2] – much of it paid for by the rest of the UK [OK, some of it will be funded by developers and businesses – but where does their money come from?].

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I agree about relocation. We must move businesses and public bodies away from over-populated and over-priced areas to reduce commuting and give better access to more affordable housing. It is public bodies who could and should lead this. If we are to rebuild effectively the houses of government we could use the opportunity to move it out of London, along with ministries. What……………………………………?

When I was young and living in a city, car ownership was very much less than now and people travelled on trams and buses. It worked very well. If it did then, it could now. It is just ensuring that routes give full coverage of the city – and a walk to the bus stop did no one any harm.

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Patrick Taylor says:
24 March 2017

The current expansion of the Which? office on a busy junction of Marylebone Rd in Central London must be a tribute to the schizophrenic nature of our consumer mag moaning on about pollution and poor trains whilst adding to the problems itself.

Endangering the health of staff is an interesting side effect of employers increasing office space and employee numbers.

” On 23 January [2017], a “very high” London-wide air pollution warning was issued for the first time through a new system brought in by Khan, after a maximum reading for particulates was registered along Marylebone Road and elsewhere. The episode illuminated more variables in London’s air pollution equation: low temperatures and a lack of wind, which meant that pollutants, augmented by the contribution of newly fashionable wood-burning fires, weren’t being dispersed.

According to the mayor, this “shameful” state of affairs meant “everyone, from the most vulnerable to the physically fit, may need to take precautions to protect themselves”.

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We are actually reaching a point where we could give up using a car altogether. It has certain carrying advantages but on-line ordering and next-day deliveries are changing the need for that. It is quicker than using public transport but that is not so important in retirement and with a less hectic way of life. There is no doubt that a car expands one’s horizons and allows access to places and people that is otherwise difficult, but adaptation is possible in most cases. Not running a car frees up money for taxis or other travel opportunities. We could be on our last car already.

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John, I agree for town and city use – except for certain people such as the disabled. However, for those who live out of town a car is essential. It is not just about shopping, but visiting people, going out for entertainment and sport, touring holidays……….. There will be a compromise. Nothing whatever wrong with having a vehicle, but where it causes pollution and congestion it should be restricted, providing other transport methods are available at affordable prices. I quite enjoy travelling onto our local town by bus.

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There certainly are compromises to be made, Malcolm, but they can be acceptable. A recent coach tour of the Peak District showed how enjoyable a week can be with someone else doing all the driving and taking us to places we might never have seen otherwise. Like you, I enjoy taking the bus into the local town and between us we can actually manage to bring back a full trolley-load from the Sainsbury’s on the outer edge of our universe. The half-hourly circular bus service is quite convenient once you get used to it and it’s a laugh a minute some days. Sometimes we take the weekly bus to Norwich in preference to the train or driving. Sitting in the upper saloon with a fine view across the countryside is rather enjoyable and exceptionally good value on our concessionary bus passes! Not being able to visit people more frequently is a more serious compromise but most of those we would like to see more often are 300-400 miles away anyway so no good for a day trip; might as well take the train and stay at a hotel or guest house overnight.

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We live 17 miles from what passes for civilisation (a Tesco Extra, B & Q, etc) and we believe we need a car. But some in the area don’t have one, and use the highly predictable bus service to the station, then the equally predictable train to civilisation.

It does mean waiting around a bit, often on the train platform and you aren’t as free as you might wish to start back when you’re finished (only three trains a day) but we could manage without. And we could certainly manage on all-electric, because our larger shops are within a 90-mile round trip. The problems do only appear if we want to travel across the country.

Surprisingly, given its amount in comparison with the overall running costs pf a car, road tax seems to play a disproportionate part in decisions of which car to go for. It seems that ‘tax’ of any sort is resented.

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Graham Forecast says:
21 March 2017

Unless there are major advances in battery technology all-electric cars will never become popular. A more likely long term solution would be fuel cells, which also produce no pollution and can be refuelled much like petrol/diesel vehicles.

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Electric cars could be a more viable option if it was more affordable to hire a conventional car for longer journeys.

When I was working, we were strongly encouraged to hire cars rather than claim mileage allowance because it cost less. Employees were welcome to hire cars and vans at the same rates for personal use.

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For many people who live out of town, a car is required on demand; it is not practical to arrange the hire of a car. Schools are now so far apart, without much transport, that a school-run by car is required, as is commuting to work. Let alone a visit to the docs. I see nothing wrong with car ownership, but use should be controlled in areas that could suffer pollution. Living in a town with good public transport, or a personal electric vehicle, would make sense for many.

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If the costs of owning and running an electric car decrease in real terms, as they likely will, occasionally hiring a conventional car would become more affordable. This allows the user to choose the most suitable vehicle for the journey and its purpose. In rural areas, car hire services are not very widespread and a journey to a town or city might be necessary to pick up the car and return it, but if demand increased this situation might improve with more local outlets.

The economics of car hire and chauffeur services become far more acceptable if car ownership is abandoned altogether.

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Perhaps park and ride facilities for out-of-towners with electric hire cars could help those wanting mobility in towns and cities. I think personal vehicles are a good option for longer out of town journeys. I do agree travelling with someone else driving – whether train or bus – is very pleasant but trains are expensive, particularly if there is more than one in your party and you still have to reach a final destination that may be a long way from a rail or bus station. There is a good compromise but it will require public bodies, probably, to take the initiative.

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Charging points for electric vehicles would be a useful addition for park & ride facilities.

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They do exist in some places and seem to be increasing, albeit rather slowly.

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I don’t have a current interest in an electric car but I presume for those that do, this map of charging points might be useful? Has anyone used it? https://www.zap-map.com/

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Volting over your lack of a current interest in an electric car, Malcolm, thanks for the link. It does not surprise me that one of the vicissitudes thrown up by this development is the incompatibility of charging-cable connectors according to the different types of charging station.

Presumably we are witnessing the emergence of a classic chicken-&-egg situation whereby people will not invest in an electric vehicle until there are enough charging points that will accommodate their car, and manufacturers will not develop the technology and increase sales until enough drivers come forward to buy one.

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That seems to be it. The makers are helping by offering free rapid charging at any garage of their own make and I think one change will be in our habits. On a long journey, for example, we’ve become used to stopping every couple of hours, popping into a service station for a cuppa, use of the facilities and a browse, before emerging and filling up. The main difference electric cars have is that the ‘fill up’ will take around 30 minutes, so you’d need to plug the car in upon arrival, then do all the other things you’d normally do, before emerging and collecting the now happily filled car.

If micro generation does take off, as seems possible, then we might continue to see free topping up for a while longer.

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Public transport can be great for bus to town journeys and for visits to other places when there is no need to leave the immediate environment covered by bus and train. Standing for hours in crowded trains, and having people coughing on the local bus sometimes make the experience unpleasant, as does dragging luggage round from station to station to bus to hotel. Nevertheless these are thing we have to put up with to save the planet. Where it becomes more difficult is when one is using a car for more than one destination and it is impossible to leave it somewhere while using a city hotel. I had my car broken into in a remote park and ride facility some years back and these places are not always properly supervised. I don’t particularly like city driving, but can understand why cars come into their centres and use the car parks available for them.

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Dorothy says:
25 March 2017

I voted something else because I believe that another factor is replacing the battery or something similar which costs a bomb just as the car is finally paying for itself!

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v kimber says:
25 March 2017

I have just seen the What Car email about cars which depreciate most heavily. They are almost all electric cars. enough said.

Profile photo of Ian
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At the moment that’s mainly because of the government subsidy when first bought. Even so, i the top 20 fastest depreciating cars they don’t appear.

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Aitch says:
25 March 2017

Depreciation, the cost of replacement batteries and the space taken by them are all turn-offs.

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Peter Thomas says:
25 March 2017

I would love a Tesla, but that is more than I have spent in capital on cars since 1980, as I have only ever bought 3-5 year old secondhand cars and then run them until they dropped.
I wonder about the green credibility of electric cars, we are going to need expanded generating capacity to cope, as well as significant upgrades to the infrastructure in cities, as this would be a very significant increase in electricity consumption.
My other questions are, How recyclable are the batteries at the end of their life? What impact on the world’s resources would a massively ramped up production of these batteries have? I know we are currently depleting our fossile fuel reserves at an increasing rate, but is changing the reserves we deplete to make the batteries really a greener solution? The debate about electric cars has been too tightly focussed on air pollution issues, a more holistic, whole of vehicle life view is really the only way to view the benefits and costs of these vehicles

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Martin says:
25 March 2017

The range quoted by electric car manufacturers bears no resemblance to reality, just like the MPG figures quoted by manufacturers are wildly inaccurate.
The re-charge time for quoted for domestic power supply plug-in is just far too long.
Battery charge capacity is great when new, but declines over the life of the batteries, which are expensive to replace.

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Michael Payne says:
25 March 2017

I find it annoying that Which still continues to use MPG when fuel has been sold in litres for something like 45 years. For gods sake everyone else uses L/100km, why not put both, pollution in g/km works fine. I’ve been using L/100km since the late 70’s.

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Another unexplained thumbs down!
Familiarity with measures explains their continued use; a Convo on imperial vs. metric raised a lot of interesting comments. My view was that you use the measure you like for personal purposes – if you measure wood in feet and inches, or travel in miles that’s OK with me – but for “official” measures we should, and are, metric (as in industry, commerce and so on).

However, dual measures are the answer. Firstly, they help those who are familiar with understanding the particular parameter. So my car does around 40 mpg; I relate better to that than 7.1 l/100km. But secondly, by seeing both figures we may train ourselves to use the less familiar one.

Wll Brexit take us back to lbs and ozs, rods perch and chains? We still use miles, pints, p.s.i., Long live diversity (the Welsh are desperately trying to hang on to their own language).

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Steve GS says:
25 March 2017

I voted ‘Something Else’ that put me off an electric car. That is the cost of replacement battery(ies), which can be up to 1/3 the cost of the car. Given that lithium batteries lose capacity – due simply to wearing out (cf. smart-phones), range will initially reduce – and the reduction will become significant over a few years such that the car will become a very expensive paperweight. So I wouldn’t trust one for more than a runabout – and I use a bicycle for that.

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I really do think that electric cars are the future. Battery technology will improve dramatically in the years ahead. I can also see the charging infrastructure improving to keep pace, just like the rapid appearance of petrol stations followed the first cars. I can see induction charging on many roads. I can also see battery packs becoming standardised for rapid economical exchanges should it be necessary.
The electric vehicle is comming. Most trips could be achieved by the ev.
Why are only 2% buying them? BECAUSE THEY ARE TOO EXPENSIVE.

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Alan says:
25 March 2017

Electric cars aren’t necessarily good for the environment unless you charge the batteries with electricity that comes only from a renewable, non C02 source, which is difficult to ensure. Additionally the building of an electric car generates much more CO2 in the manufacturing process than conventional car.

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Petetr Steadman says:
25 March 2017

Housebuilders must be told to design for the recharging of electric cars in their estate layouts.

I share a driveway with three neighbours, my garage sits between two of theirs – not adjacent to my house. I would have to sacrifice my front garden, contravening a condition attached to the properties here. So combining the high cost of the vehicle, the cost of earthmoving and installing the charging point… regrettably I cannot choose an electric car.

Member
Paul says:
25 March 2017

I purchased a BMW i3 after the launch of the 94Ah model giving a range in excess of 100 miles. My daily usage is less than this typically a return journey of 56 miles to and from work. This means I can charge overnight on the lower tariff and have a full ‘tank’ with reserve to spare for the unexpected diversion the next day. On occasions I have used the ecoPro mode to achieve 2 return trips to work on one full charge with almost a quarter charge to spare which exceeds the manufacturers range claim. I have now travelled 3,500 miles in 3 months and have loved every mile. It is the best car I have ever owned and that numbers in excess of 60. Amongst those was the original Honda Insight hybrid coupe which was over 11 years old when I reluctantly sold it and still performing well on the original battery pack so I have confidence in battery technology. I would only recommend all electric vehicles if you have access to off road parking and a dedicated 7kW charge point preferably on a cheap tariff (my current cost is less than 2p/mile) and your return journey range is back to base unless your destination has easy access charge points. I have used the Polar charge points at our ‘local’ supermarket whilst shopping and found the 20 mile return trip to be a useful free top-up giving me 10 mile+ surplus over and above that used. I am planning trips this summer which will utilise the Polar charge network with breaks every 1.5-2 hours. My main concern is not so much range anxiety but rather will I be able to access the planned charge point. Prior to buying I researched public charge points I may need to use and in a few cases found the parking spaces already occupied either by non-electric vehicles or legitimate charging in process. This to me is the biggest factor deterring the uptake of electric vehicles. As has already been said it is a chicken and egg situation. The charge network has to be as convenient if not more so than petrol station access before there is a substantial increase in electric vehicles on the road. However if your usage and facility is similar to mine and you can plan your next journey (the pre-condition program on the i3 is superb – toasty warm inside and fully defrosted at 5.00am) then I can highly recommend it is worth considering your next car is electric.

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Peter Luckin says:
25 March 2017

I am unsure about the effect of low winter temperatures on battery performance together with long term use of heater (assuming electric cars have one?), headlights and windscreen wipers. These factors concern many potential users; so what are the answers? Thanks folks.

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k.roddisk' says:
25 March 2017

electric cars are not suitable for long runs as i travel 300 miles for my holidays etc which is good for my car.with a electric car i would not do this ,reasons are battery,charging points between a and b and charging points at my destenation.k

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I think we shall have to go back to the days of stagecoaches where they changed the horses at every wayside inn. A vehicle with a passenger compartment sitting on top of the universal running unit and a multi-functional coupling for control could be one approach [with digital commands for steering and braking instead of mechanical linkages]. Ultimately the autonomous electric car will be the solution and will double the capacity of our roads.

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OMG ! John I think we have a physic connection , in one room I have two old large coloured prints ,rescued from an -Ye Old World Pub , you know the type old dark wood beams and brass plaques , tankards on wall etc .One is -Old -World -changing horses and the other is – Glasgow to Edinburgh Express ( four horse stagecoach) all top hats and dressed in Georgian era clothes

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John Cross says:
25 March 2017

In the cold winter the relative capacity of the battery system will drop due to the low temperature, how do you keep warm on a long run? Maybe heated seats and steering wheel but not the interior of the car. Heated wind-screen to defrost the car but it will not be cosy even for medium runs. With additional heating for winter the range will be greatly diminished. Then you have to plug it in somewhere!

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John – You ask “How do you keep warm on a long run?“. I think the answer is provided by Duncan above – winter clothing, hats and gloves [as was normal up to the 1960’s]. Anyway, what long runs? With the extra weight of the winter clothing and blankets, and the cold affecting the battery output, long runs might be out of the question in the winter.

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That is the major weakness of the all-electric vehicle; maintaining a warm cabin. I have to say our hybrid, however, doesn’t seem to be affected by intense cold.

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Keith Starkey says:
26 March 2017

Reasons for not buying an electric car are as follows:-
The cost is prohibitive and the batteries will require replacing at some point .
The range is awfull and I would want to tow a caravan and trailers on a regular basis
We visit remote places where there is no electricity or gas so recharging would be a problem
and also the Which tests show that these vehicles are not as economical as stated – this technology is in it’s infancy and requires much more development .

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Yes, Keith, but an electric car might make sense for a goodly proportion of households, sometimes as a second vehicle perhaps. I doubt it will ever be the answer for all requirements, but even then, requirements can be altered. Look on the bright side.

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M.mcquade says:
27 March 2017

one of the main reasons I am considering buying electric (apart from environmental benefits) was running costs but the initial cost is still too high and battery rental is more than I am currently paying for fuel

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I was wondering what might happen if a driver ran out of battery power in an electric vehicle. It seems that the RAC can cope: http://www.rac.co.uk/press-centre#/pressreleases/rac-launches-first-mobile-electric-vehicle-charging-unit-1473551?feed=Press-Releases Just send out a diesel-powered van and within four hours the car battery will be fully charged. Hopefully this service won’t be needed very often.

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Simon Yapp says:
27 March 2017

We have two cars, 90% of a our driving is local with work, nursey, social and shopping trips. We do all of that in our electric Nissan Leaf which we bought 2nd hand, at 3 years old with 20,000k on the clock, perfect working order, £99 a year fix servicing. The batteries I checked before I bought it with a £10 phone app called LeafSpy so no worries there (96% heath). We do 900 miles a month in the Leaf and a few hundred in the fossil car on long trips. Its cut our motoring costs by £75 a month + £12pm tax saved not to mention less wear and tear going forward. Yes the Leaf cost £3k more to buy than a low millage fossil car so we had to save for longer, but we value moving to electric. Nissan are bringing out a 200 +mile range Leaf this September, so are Tesla and there is a Renault Zoe out already that does 160+. Also until you have tried driving an electric car don’t judge them, they are such a pleasure to use and so nippy, and they defrost themselves on a cold morning. now that is a joy! I tell you, EV’s are coming, it’s just going to take 10 + years to up the range as the battery manufacturing costs come down, educate people (and some useless dealers), and cover the country in sockets. (and no you don’t need 10 more power stations, you need Zero if you charge the majority at night)