/ Motoring

What’s stopping you from driving an electric car?

It’s just been announced that a fleet of super-fast charging points for electric vehicles will be installed along the UK’s main motorways. Which? Conversation community member Ian asks if this will be enough to encourage you to make the electric shift…

The new network of charging points will be set up by the National Grid. It has been busy mapping the country’s motorways and transmissions networks to identify 50 sites to ensure that 90% of drivers can drive in any direction from any location, and be within 50 miles of a charging point.

The super-fast charging points for electric vehicles will provide up to 350kW of power, meaning that drivers can charge their cars in 5 to 12 minutes – a comparable time to filling a car up with petrol or diesel.

National Grid says that ‘range anxiety’ is the top reason for drivers not buying an electric car, and it hopes this new network will offer drivers reassurance – but will it be enough for you?

Is cost a concern?

While charging points become more readily available, I think cost may still be stopping many from getting behind the wheel of an electric car. But Stanford University lecturer Tony Seba, who has extensively researched this subject, believes this will soon be a thing of the past:

‘Energy storage costs – for lithium-ion batteries for example – continue to drop at about 16% a year, driving a replacement of power plants on the grid by energy storage and plunging prices for electric vehicles.’

This sounds like good news for drivers – and Seba thinks it will drive a fundamental shift in driving trends in the coming decade:

‘Within just 10 years conventional energy production and transport will have been rendered obsolete by the revolution taking place in batteries, solar power and electric cars.’

More reasons to make the electric switch

And, when dropping battery costs meet the increasing trend towards autonomous vehicles, Seba takes his prediction one step further. He believes that not only will all new cars shortly become electric only, but that people will stop wanting to own their own car, instead preferring to use autonomous vehicle-sharing schemes.

He points out that sheer economics will force the switch: EVs (Electric vehicles) need 100 times fewer moving parts than conventional vehicles, so maintenance costs could be lower.

Additionally, I’ve read that the best EVs can out-accelerate some petrol cars. And with the average car spending 96% of its time parked, a big disruption to the market seems more than likely.

This is a guest contribution by community member Ian. All views expressed here are Ian’s own and not necessarily also shared by Which?.

Will you be joining the electric revolution?

What do you think? Is it far-fetched to expect all drivers to be wooed over to electric in the next 10 years, or is this a future you’d like to be part of? Will the new charging network and lower costs encourage you to buy – or hire – an electric car?

Comments
Member

Sooner or later we will have to tackle the problem of pollution exceeding EU limits in London and some other cities. Like Malcolm I am opposed in principle to charges that effectively allow motorists to ‘pay to pollute’ if they don’t have a vehicle that is low emission.

Perhaps in the most affected areas, only electric vehicles could be allowed. That could be policed using automated number plate recognition. Can it be assumed that hybrid vehicle drivers would only use the engine if battery power had been exhausted?

Member

Zermatt has enforced a ban on all non-EVs for some years. Exceptions, such as major haulage delivery vehicles, have to request a Police escort.

Member

I trust the police use EVs 🙂 .
Commercial vehicles remain a problem as they are mostly diesel (although the new London taxi design is also being used for a small van). That will not change for a long time. Hopefully pollution reduction through technology will help, as with all diesels. We could ban them except at night when other traffic that might add to pollution is low.

Member

Vans that are used for deliveries in city centres are probably a priority for electric power compared with HGVs that operate mainly away from built-up areas.

Zermatt today: https://www.zermatt.ch/en/sustainability London tomorrow?

Member

I know things will get better, but a quick look at the zap map showed charging points in many places I could do little but wait for the charge to finish, since there was nowhere to walk to. Quite a few had problems which had been reported and most places had just two points, and that included motorway service stations. About a third said they were occupied. The maximum I counted was eight points in one service station. The other thing that seems to be creeping in is a variety of different charge outlets. Tesla has one and two other distinctly different sockets appear on many chargers. If one has the wrong lead, this would be awkward. It also limits access to the charge point even more. I don’t see why each post could not have a dozen or so points on each side of it, making 48 points to charge from.
What happens if someone runs over your cable if parked a couple of spaces from the charge point? Or someone trips over it? Has anyone been locked into a point and unable to extract the cable?

Member

I presume that the Tesla connectors are different because the cars have larger batteries, but that will mean more chance of getting home without needing a charge.

When I last studied a charge point at a motorway service area I noticed that this offered AC and DC supplies with different connectors. Hopefully in future there could be more standardisation. This page lists a depressingly large variety: https://www.zap-map.com/charge-points/connectors-speeds/ I presume the ones at the motorway service areas are the most popular types.

Member

We’re only at the starting gate of the EV revolution, and we know from previous innovations things can be a little bumpy at the outset. Look at the internet and social media, for example. But many of the concerns you identify, Vynor, would have been the same issues that early petrol stations had to contend with. The EV charge suppliers have a lot of experience, therefore, and will be able to anticipate many of the issues you raise.

I, too, wondered about trailing leads but according to a solicitor pal this isn’t a problem since people have a duty to exercise due care when in a car park. On the lock-in problem all I can say is that it hasn’t happened to me yet 🙂 I’m guessing the charge point designers took an inordinate amount of care to make sure that it doesn’t happen, or happens only very, very rarely.

Member

As the number of electric vehicles on the roads increases then we will see more charge points. Knowing where charge points is vital if you are dependent on battery power but with a hybrid then there is the option to run it on petrol-power. Hybrids might be viable for the many people with no drive or allocated parking place with a charge point, if they are able to charge their car at work.

Edit: This was not intended to be a response to Ian’s post. 🙁