/ 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?


Some more government data here. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/736152/Ch5.pdf
This shows, for example, a decrease in total electricity consumption of around 9% since 2010, with 7% in domestic and 11% in industry.

It shows, however, virtually no change in the last 3 years (since 2014).

Peak consumption was between 2007-7, around 13% up on 2017, although generating capacity is still as high as in that period. The “fuel” mix has changed with, of course, a significant increase in wind and solar.

Remnant says:
9 February 2019

Electric cars are the future of the industry- but not yet.
A low range is a serious spoiler; until I can undertake a ‘ long ‘ journey I shall stick to my splendid Hybrid.

Range would be the most important consideration to me. I regularly do a round trip of 40 miles but it’s often a bit more because I often combine this journey with a detour out the way home. I would like a hybrid that could cover the majority of journeys on battery power and it would not concern me that I would be making use of the engine a handful of times each year for longer trips.

I am surprised that Which? seems to have little focus on range when referring to hybrid cars. A recent example of this is an article about the best hybrid cars for 2019: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/new-and-used-cars/article/best-cars/best-hybrid-cars

It would be interesting to which hybrid you have, Remnant, and what range you achieve.

For my purposes there would be three reasons, among others, to move to a PHEV when the time comes to change vehicles.
1. Cheap fuel. Electricity is taxed at only 5% (vat) whereas fossil fuels carry a duty of 57.95p/l and vat at 20%. This cannot last as, when more and more people move to electric vehicles, that duty and tax has to be replaced from somewhere. Possibly an electric vehicle tax per km.

2. Pollution. Using the fossil-fuelled engine when in rural and lightly built-up areas but automatically shifting to electric only when in built up areas, towns and cities. This would require enough electric range to work successfully. While many of my journeys are relatively short, I regularly travel in built up areas with a trip exceeding 30 miles so I’d need sufficient range. I would not be prepared to stop every 20-30 miles to find a charging point and wait in a queue, then wait to charge. But some may.

3. Saving energy. This will depend upon the energy mix used for generation but with the present balance of approx 50/50 fossil and renewables/nuclear I estimate an electric vehicle will be about 20% more efficient than a fossil fuelled one in energy use. What must be remembered is that to expand the electric/hybrid fleet of all vehicles will require a substantial increase in generation – probably not possible with wind a solar, and nuclear is beset with costs and problems. In the UK’s case we have ample power in the tides that surround us.
We must also bear in mind that there is competition for energy, particularly likely to be acute if the pledge to abolish gas for domestic heating and cooking is honoured. People then using electricity as a substitute will be faced with huge extra costs – around £1370 a year at present costs for a medium user.

A way will have to be found to replace the lost fuel duty and vat on fossil fuels if electric vehicles become more popular.

Abolishing domestic gas will simply mean people will have to use electricity for heating and cooking instead, with around 4 times the cost per unit at current prices. This won’t happen quickly but I’m sure gas usage will have to reduce so bigger fuel bills will be inevitable, together with more generation. Time to look hard at how we prepare for this.

I’d love to do this but I live in a terraced house. We have a public charge point near by but it is in a different parking zone so makes it all a bit awkward. One day we will hopefully move to somewhere more electric friendly!

The photo does make me miss my wee Smart car though. Oh – to be a Smart driver again! 😉