/ 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?


The biggest drawback with electricity is that it is difficult to store and not very portable. The best we have come up with are heavy Li-Ion batteries. For domestic use, the biggest boilers are around 50amps and even these don’t have the capacity of a good gas boiler. With the average house supply being around 60amps that doesn’t leave much over for other uses in the house. As Malcolm says, if we are all to start using 60amps regularly, generation will have to increase, as will our bills. Electricity is much more expensive to buy than gas is. Relying on one single power source is also narrowing our power safety. While the gas systems rely on electric components to make them work, the main supply of heat is alternative to the mechanics of the system. The counter argument of carbon emission is a strong incentive to try and make electricity do everything and it is difficult to see what other alternatives there might be.
Ian’s crystal ball is interesting and though some of it is conjecture and hopeful scenarios, this does make a lot of sense and I can see it paints a more optimistic picture of the future, leaving the problem of phasing in that future still to be worked out. I am not particularly happy to discover that much of the future raw material supply lies within countries where sanctions could be imposed on its export.

Transition periods are usually messy and old fossil supplies will become short before they are not needed any more, while new electric powered energy will also be in short supply as new infrastructure and generation capability replaces it. The government hasn’t begun to map this out properly and the public will not be passive while it is being mistreated. Transport will be just one of many areas we will have to adjust to in the new world to come.

There is a link between the general UK energy policy and E.V. vehicles and we have to extrapolate a little from the act of buying a running an E.V. and actually being able to use it in future. There is a mixed and comprehensive response in comments above, to buying one now, and the forced transition is likely to be a future problem as fossil fuels recede from garages, unless the UK energy policy is thought through. Power generation is one aspect of that. Battery improvements is another. Household use is a third, though, I agree straying from the immediate topic just a little.

At present, I guess most folk without off street parking would not regard a pure EV as a practical choice.

In my case, I do have off street parking, so I would probably consider buying a pure EV, e.g. if I could get one with a range of around 200 miles and a price of less than about £5000, e.g. as might be sold used but with a decent warranty.

Last week, I saw one of these in use:-https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/new-cars/british-micro-ev-maker-launches-compact-two-seater-london but I got a shock when I saw the price.

If half the cars in use are owned by people who do have their own parking, that gives plenty of opportunity to reduce pollution in cities. If some councils are prepared to help those without these facilities to charge their vehicles on public roads, there is going to be a lot of pressure on other councils to take action. I well remember the mayhem created by cable companies, as Ian has mentioned but if the companies are not paid until the work has been inspected and passed as satisfactory, that should solve the problem.

As Derek points out, price is a major issue and the high replacement cost of batteries means that most buyers of secondhand EV will want a decent warranty, so there will be fewer private sales than with conventional vehicles.

Judging by my brother-in-law’s experience last week (and others I’ve recently read about) I won’t be getting an EV until the charging network is fixed. His journey from Manchester to London took over 12 hours. He expected to have to stop and recharge, but it was a litany of disasters – incompatible connectors, broken charging stations, charging stations not where shown on maps. He had to call the AA at one point as he was flat out of juice.
I haven’t seen anything from our Government apart from pious words – no real strategy or action.
Time for a Which? Campaign I think.

Phil says:
7 January 2021

Yes there should be a common connector at least but as with Smart Meters the government failed to set standards and let the separate companies do their own thing.