/ 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

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.

Member

With a combination of the rather cold weather and our need to make the same trip once a week it’s given us an opportunity to see how a PHEV behaves in long periods of cold

Unsurprisingly, in periods when the air temp rarely crawls above 4C, the car’s traction battery suffers. Firstly, the batteries hold less of a charge, so the range is not as great (30 MPC instead of 34MPC). Secondly, and perhaps even more obviously, when the car heating has to be derived from the traction battery, the range decreases further.

Apart from creating batteries that operate at close to full efficiency in sub-zero temps it’s hard to know what can be done. But current calculations suggest when average temps over a 24 hour period don’t exceed 4C then our normal drive uses roughly twice the power – and thus gives half the range. It also seem most pronounced when driving up hills.

Member

An honest assessment Ian and a considered judgement too. Your hybrid does seem to make sense locally but the locality shrinks in winter. Diesel has, mysteriously, found itself ten pence a litre more than petrol in an attempt to punish those who thought it was a good idea to have extra MPG in the past. The latest chastisement is coming in the form of charges for diesel in every city centre. At the same time, those of us who bought in good faith, now wish to beat the increased depreciation by keeping the current vehicle for longer. Where is the incentive to change? The government believes that by piling on the expense and running costs it can force people into new vehicles, which will improve air quality. All stick and no carrot! The case has been made for cleaner vehicles, though petrol powered ones are not that saintly in that respect. The problem is that the government don’t recognise the status quo and move on from there. They are already ten years in the future both in infrastructure and in what people drive now. All well and good if one could wave a magic wand, but all we get is propaganda which makes our current cars worth less and extra taxes because they believe arm twisting is the best way of getting change. I feel rightly hard done by and at the same time recognise that change is necessary to improve air quality. It is a difficult circle to square especially when it is required to be squared all at once, and now, when it is still possible to order a new diesel car.

Member

I think I agree, Vynor. One phrase you used leapt out:

All stick and no carrot

If extremes of weather, such as the heatwave we encountered last year, are going to become commonplace, which is what the climate change statistics seem to suggest, then air pollution in cities is only going to rise and lead to far more deaths. Personal transport forms a part of the equation and if we’re to move towards all-electric vehicles then the incentives have to be greater than they are.

As an aside, of course, what we eat, how we produce and transport that food and the entire airline business are all major contributors to atmospheric pollution and will also need to change.