/ 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

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.

I should be interested to know how electric cars perform in hilly terrain. Do the downhills help with the uphills?

[I have elected to take this discussion back to Ian’s Conversation. He lives opposite to me in a westerly direction – nearly 300 miles west – and will have more experience of inclines than we get in Norfolk.]

I was thinking of doing the same John. Discussion in The Lobby soon gets lost.

We could do with some impressions of a new owner from Vynor and a long-term ownership report from Ian.

The benefit of regenerative braking is that some of the energy used to climb hills is recovered in recharging the battery in an electric car. One of the reasons that my conventional car usually returns a good fuel economy is that I live in an area without steep hills.

On PHEVs, when discussing published economy, Which? say “ However, our own independent tests are more stringent and include tougher test cycles – including our unique motorway test – to better replicate the strain put on cars by real owners. We also calculate mpg for PHEVs by driving each of them over a fixed distance with their batteries in varying states of charge, to determine comparable energy consumption. This is a key difference to the WLTP test, where overall mpg is calculated based on the vehicle’s electric driving range (amongst other factors).”

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/03/plug-in-hybrid-cars-use-more-fuel-than-official-figures-claim/ – Which?

It is quite fair to tailor a test more specifically to the UK than the WLTP [European law means that WLTP – Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure – is the new laboratory test used to measure fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, which replaced the old NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) test procedure in September 2017.] I do not know whose expertise Which? use to devise the tests they use nor how realistic they are. It would be useful if they published their own procedure alongside the WLTP where it differs and explain why theirs is more appropriate.

I would look at real-life data supplied by real motorists and averaged out if I was comparing vehicles, and my choice list would depend upon how much emphasis I placed on economy. It would be one factor of many; my annual mileage is below average so not the priority consideration. If I were to buy a PHEV then battery range would be a more major criterion.

I would like to be properly informed instead of just given “ Popular plug-in hybrid cars are on average 61% less fuel-efficient than manufacturers claim, new Which? tests reveal, and motorists could be paying on average £400 more a year in fuel costs.”

As a manufacturer says “The legally required WLTP test is designed by the international regulators to be a standardised method of comparing vehicle efficiency, thereby enabling direct comparison between different cars and different technologies. ‘These tests show clearly that PHEV technology, when the vehicles are charged regularly as intended, can save significant fuel consumption and emissions over the equivalent petrol or diesel models.”

“Regularly charged” may be the key difference. I wonder what proportion of drivers spend most of their time around town, on short journeys, where the EV will be effective, compared to those haring up and down motorways when the fossil fuel will be in use?

I don’t see much point in Which? just carrying out tests under WLTP conditions when this has already been done, unless there is suspicion that the manufacturers are cheating. If so, perhaps BEUC should investigate. I see the Which? tests as offering a different approach and it will be interesting to find whether Which? members find this useful.

Testing hybrid vehicles is difficult because fuel economy is complicated by power being delivered by both the electric motor and the engine. My priority would be to test BEVs, which are a growing sector of the market thanks to improved batteries. With no engine to fall back on it’s essential that prospective buyers know what range they can expect and the extent to which use of heating etc. can reduce it.

It would be useful to check other test results, some seem at variance with Which? For example https://www.whatcar.com/news/true-mpg-most-efficient-hybrid-cars/n19166

It would seem sensible, if useful information is to be extracted, for Which? and others maybe to agree a standard UK test, properly justified. Although, like the WLTP, these tests have limited value other than for comparability because terrain, driving style, journey length, car loading, as examples vary greatly from individual to individual and many of us will thus not be Mr Average. If I were recommending any data it would be from real – life drivers, not artificial tests; the WLTP does that job. So, perhaps Which? could perform this service by asking those who have PHEVs to supply our actual fuel consumption and our typical driving regime. It will take time to accumulate but will, I suggest, be more useful.

Phil says:
29 March 2021

I’m not aware that Which? does any tests at all; it no longer has the facilities. It might buy-in into tests done at ADAC, the German version of the AA.

I expect that Which? will collect information from users in due course but at present there are unlikely to be enough members with a particular model to produce statistically valid results. At present I’m happy to wait and see how Which? takes forward its EV testing.

Two years ago I was interested in buying a hybrid around 2022. Now, in my late 60s, I am more interested in a BEV thanks to increasing range and the realisation that I now do few longer journeys. Anyone contemplating buying a BEV needs to have a good idea of the minimum range they can expect with no engine to fall back on. To that end, lower figures produced by Which? are more useful than more optimistic WLTP figures, even if these are produced in compliance with internationally agreed standards.

As with any car the range you get / fuel consumption will depend on a number of factors. A test regime like the WLTP produces results to a standardised test regime essentially to enable cars to be compared on exactly the same basis. Describing them as “optimistic” misunderstands their purpose.

As I commented above a better – but by no means perfect – figure that is more specific to the UK could be obtained by aggregating user experience; the sooner we start accumulating such information the better. But the results for someone in Norfolk driving alone will differ significantly, I expect, from those for someone driving a family around in hilly Yorkshire.

I have not seen a recent comparison of WLTP vs Which? results lately, although I am not sure how useful that would be unless it can be shown that the latter’s test regime is properly representative of the majority of UK driving.

Some results from a specialist publication are these. Probably worth surveying such results before making a choice. https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/new-cars/electric-cars-best-real-world-range

Which? make quite a point of complaining that the published consumption figures are not the same as the real world ones and they do calculations on the extra amount of cash one might part with as a result. I see this as somewhat spurious, since it is quite obvious that no hybrid car is going to do 100 plus mpg when used as one might use a petrol or diesel car for long and short journeys.
So far the electric experience with 85 bhp on tap is adequate round town at thirty and forty mph. The take off acceleration is average and quite gentle and it is possible to keep the main engine silent on hills at those speeds and even do a hill start without waking the dragon under the bonnet. The silence gives the impression that one is going slower than one thinks and it is a good idea to keep an eye on the speedometer. Engine braking is poor in “Drive” and marginally better in “B”
The braking system is a little stupid. I have two handbrakes -both electronic -. One comes on when it feels like it when stopped and the foot is on the brake, in other circumstances it won’t activate. It goes off when the accelerator is pushed. It has a red light on the dashboard. The other comes on when one has stopped and it is displayed by a green light on the dashboard. That, too, goes off when the accelerator is pushed, but remembers to activate every time the vehicle is stationary. Without the “green” handbrake engaged the car will creep as soon as the foot brake is released and “Drive” is selected. This can be useful in traffic and also a nuisance, but, conversely, with the “green” brake engaged one can not inch forward without touching the accelerator and, of course there is less control of the car. When in creep mode, one has to keep the brake pedal pressed and thus annoy following motorists, especially at night. I keep wondering where they have hidden the clutch and the handbrake lever. These work so well in tandem.
Twenty mile (36 claimed) electric range seems about right, but I haven’t exhausted the battery completely before charging it. This is interesting. There are several warnings about the sequence of disconnecting the cable from the car and it is possible to damage the system if these are not followed. Thus, someone who assumes that one just puts the plug in or takes it out and doesn’t read the instructions is in for a surprise. It is possible to find the cable locked to the car with no obvious way of removing it. What I find counter intuitive is the fact that one has to remove the cable before turning off the electric plug on the wall. No one told me that the car has to be unlocked before the cable can be removed -that took a few minutes to work out.
Another interesting fact is that the car won’t start if the hybrid battery is flat. It’s taken a while to work that one out, but it has finally dawned that my car doesn’t have a starter motor. If the electric motor can not move the car, then the petrol motor can’t spin. My car, it seems, starts as one might bump start a petrol car with a flat battery. The electrics are quite complicated. There is a traditional lead acid twelve volt 90 amp hour one under the bonnet and the hybrid ones under the car. The petrol engine can charge the hybrid batteries at the expense of miles per gallon as it does, but I’m not sure it uses a traditional belt driven alternator to do this. When charging the car at home the twelve volt battery is included in the charge. On the road the hybrid motor just does the electric engine and I don’t know how the twelve volt battery is kept topped up, especially when the electric motor is working alone and the lights, wipers and air conditioner are all on. Perhaps there is a sensor somewhere that tells the petrol engine to wake up. I shall have to investigate, the manual is of no help here. We owners don’t need to know such complicated things.
For ride, handling and comfort, there are no surprises and one could be in any similar car powered by any type of engine. That’s first impressions for you. I have only tickled the accelerator so far and will report back when I’ve woken the dragon and scared the pants of my behind. I suppose there is no harm in telling you that it’s a Volvo and no harm in reporting that Which? seldom go near them. Page eleven of their reviews is where the first one gets a mention and mine doesn’t get a look in. Their pages are littered with BMW’s however.

As far as I am aware the purpose of the 12V battery in a hybrid is to do everything other than provide propulsion. I expect your boat will have a battery that provides power for everything except the engine.

I think it was Ian who had a problem when the 12V battery on his Prius was flat. One might guess that the main battery would keep it charged at all times but apparently not.

2 years ago, I purchased a 5 year old BMW i3 REx. It had covered 36k miles and was the perfect car for town commuting. As a product and package for that purpose, the i3 is a tremendous vehicle; it’s spacious, intelligent, well equipped, quick, etc. It also boasts impressive green credentials. It won Green Car of the Year in 2015, with zero g/km CO2 emissions and at launch, BMW claimed that it will be the most sustainable car on sale. On the face of it, the i3 makes a fantastic second car or primary short distance commuting car for people who support and care for climate change and environmental impact.

I have had no issues with my i3 in the subsequent 2 years. It has seen all necessary servicing and had the 1 identified recall in 2020, both carried out by Stratstone BMW Derby (all other recalls performed by BMW under its previous owner). In its now 7 years, it has covered 43,211 miles (some 7800 miles below the average for its age). It is not a sports car; it makes no suggestions that it is and it has not been driven that way. It is a lovely car and I looked forward to keeping it for many more years ahead.

Last week (specifically, 12 June 2021), the car suddenly developed a “drivetrain” fault. At the time, I was near home but on a minor, quiet road. The inconvenience of a breakdown is somewhat part of motoring, albeit worrying and problematic when the car is immobile; the gearbox reverted to Park so rolling to a safe position was not possible. The police assisted and recovery was eventually made by the AA. The car headed straight to Stratstone BMW in Derby.

Fault diagnosis strongly pointed to the Electrical Machine Electronics (EME) unit and it needing to be replaced. The cost of said repair (although not guaranteed to be the solution) is approximately £7800. At this level, the decision to proceed with repair or write-off the i3 is very difficult to make. Why has an electronic module (a power inverter) with no moving or wearing parts, catastrophically failed after only 43k miles? The main battery carries a warranty for 8 years/100k miles, so why not the other, similar components? I am disappointed that BMW have designed such a product that does not deliver on its “green” credentials.

The diagnosis itself took several hours; how can a vehicle that knows enough of a fault with itself, not be able to communicate the exact fault conditions under BMW interrogation? I can control the climate with my smartphone and send destinations to the satnav, but BMW technicians need 4 hours of trial and error to form an opinion on what could be wrong. Don’t BMW maintain knowledge management and metrics on failures, breakdowns, safety recalls so that worldwide learning from their products inform product improvement and development? How can the product interface be so badly designed?

With governments across the world believing this age to be the beginning of a “Green Revolution”, and the world awakening to the benefits of electric vehicles, manufacturers are responding by pushing technology barriers in pursuit of better range, less pollution, less CO2 in manufacture, through life and disposal. How can a car be simply written-off by an electrical module? How can the unit cost per module be justified given the large volume in circulation and still currently in manufacture? Why does the system architecture involve the locking of the VIN and EME to each other, thereby monopolising all aftercare to Dealership only? How is it environmentally friendly to manufacture a vehicle, specifically aimed at the conscientious caring environmentalist, that can so easily be put out of use by cost of parts and labour?

Generally, age-related degradation mechanisms are predictable and it is accepted and expected that the probability of failure increases with age. Therefore, it shall be more common for older, second-hand cars to develop and present faults. Since the launch in 2014, the number of i3 produced is more than 200,000. More and more will be filtering into the second-hand car market. And herein lies the problem; an impending wave of untreatable component failures that render the resale value worthless. With the (relatively) high volume of i3 sold, part interchangability and donor parts could be made possibly to allow for upkeep and preservation, rather than reducing a perfectly good vehicle to reclamation.

I am currently waiting for Stratstone BMW to return with a scrap valuation for my i3 as it currently stands. In the meantime, I believe it is necessary to make communities and institutions aware of the economic pitfall of buying such a vehicle. For those people who are thinking about purchasing an electric vehicle, their decision may by influenced by the knowledge of repair costs. They can then make their own decisions on risk appetite, additional warranty or buying elsewhere.

I suggest you contact the BMW head office, Robert. I hope they will make a goodwill payment. If you can find evidence that the failure of this module is common, that would help your case.

If you don’t get anywhere an independent specialist might be able to fit a secondhand module that had been recovered from a vehicle that had been dismantled following an accident.

It’s unthinkable that a seven year old car could be scrapped because it is not economical to repair.

The cost of components needed for repair can be expensive, and do not decrease with a car’s age. At 90k my Espace gear box failed; had that happened later in its life I would have faced the same decision – whether to scrap an otherwise decent car.

With the cost of parts and labour so high, an option is to take out a manufacturer’s warranty annually as an insurance against unlikely but possible failures.

There have been recalls for EME problems, mainly later models in the USA but this note relates – https://static.nhtsa.gov/odi/tsbs/2015/MC-10147811-9999.pdf. You would think it would be possible to determine which bit of the EME has failed and repair it, rather than throw away such an expensive item. The current sustainability drive should address such issues. We can buy other refurbished items to save. Lot of money.

The BMW dealer has not offered to repair the EME, so maybe repair is not possible. I hope that Robert will be offered goodwill, such as a heavily discounted repair. When I had a major engine. problem well outside the guarantee period I was offered a replacement engine but had to pay for fitting.

My car failed its MOT recently because the horns were not working and the garage suspected the fault could be due to failure of an expensive electronic module. I had to take the car to the main dealer, leave it for two days and pay £114, even though no parts were replaced.

I wonder if this would be acceptable? Listed at £75 it will probably be cheaper than an electronic module replacement.

I doubt garages repair anything – well, main dealers – because it is simpler just to replace. My plea was for these expensive items to be repaired by someone to save throwing away a largely functional item. And scrapping a car for that reason really makes environmental nonsense.

If the manufacturers are not repairing electronic modules, what chance does anyone else have, especially if they do not have access to technical information? Modern circuit boards make it very difficult to effect repairs. We have a long way to go with Right to Repair.

As I said, no parts were replaced in fixing my car. They did not charge me for labour on the second day.

I would hope at some point the manufacturer of a very expensive component would be required to reclaim/refurbish.

I would never buy a second hand BMW car due to the way in which it has been driven by its BMW driver.

Garage repair mechanics are instructed these days to carry out basic MOTs and annual services, the aim of the game being they will fob you off with trumped up stories such as, anything else is going to cost you more than the car is worth to repair. They will then persuade you to trade in your beloved old faithful for peanuts for someone else’s old faithful they have restored and renovated and sell it to you at a much inflated price than what they paid them for it.

It’s now seen as normal practice at most garage repair workshops, who will also work hand in glove with insurance companies who have convinced you your vehicle is a write off when it is, in fact, very repairable, and 6 months down the line you will suddenly come across your beloved old faithful being driven by somebody else.

There eventually comes a time when it becomes cheaper to take a taxi, a bus or train, or better still to walk to your local store for a daily newspaper, or anything you forgot to order from the supermarket delivery, than pay for insurance, road tax, MOT and annual service.

Em says:
20 June 2021

That’s a little prejudicial against BMWs and the people who drive them. Now if you had said that you would not buy a second-hand car of any make, because it would not have been driven to your standards, then I would agree with you!

I am a very careful BMW driver, Beryl 🙂 . My boys have always bought secondhand BMWs, carefully selected and they have lasted well. An exceptional event was when one BMW was, 2 1/2 years after purchase, found to have been clocked before resale. Don’t know how it slipped through the supposed checks but the dealer refunded the original price plus 10% and helped track down a suitable replacement. It is assumed the mileage was “reduced” to avoid extra costs in a car leasing contract.

There is, or used to be, a preference for purchasing a second hand car previously driven by one lady driver.

The BMW driver is well known for his or her driving skills – or lack of, which I have personally witnessed many times during the 50 plus years I have been driving. For the record, for many years I drove an automatic Jaguar, and definitely experienced quite a lot of prejudice from other drivers, including BMW drivers hell bent on overtaking and cutting in on motorways.

I would definitely like to know who drove a second hand vehicle before I purchased it. My present Astra Convertible was 3 months old and had been used as a demonstration model at the Vauxhall dealer I bought it from and it has been a delight to drive in the 17 years I have owned it.

If I can also pipe up from the Jaguar stand at this motoring convention, having previously been an Audi disciple, I don’t see much evidence of boy-racer syndrome amongst the Beemer community in these parts. Our sedate progress is possibly less intense than in times past now that I am no longer in the driving seat and we glide along quite comfortably behind the muck-spreaders and sugar beet harvesters with barely an opportunity for overtaking on our almost entirely single-carriageway roads. I find it best to take no notice of what other people are driving.

This was responding to Roger’s comment https://conversation.which.co.uk/community/which-conversation-test-and-learn/#comment-1631055
At least with a diesel/petrol car, if you are the type who plays brinkmanship, you can save embarrassment by keeping a gallon can in the boot. I don’t think there is a battery equivalent, is there? Maybe, as on my old Lambretta, there is a reserve tap (switch) to protect you if you inadvertently run out.

I presume that most cars provide a warning when refuelling or recharging is needed. In rural areas, more care must be taken. None of my cars have ever run out of petrol or diesel, though I remember being concerned to discover that many filling stations in rural Scotland were closed on Sundays.

The battery equivalent is to get a plug-in hybrid (like the one Ian just got rid of..). I am one step further removed – a non plug-in hybrid. I can only go a couple of miles on electric only – but that’s enough to deal with most urban streets and the odd 20-minute traffic jam crawling and stop/start. And it does save roughly a ton of batteries (the battery in mine has high throughput but low overall capacity designed to supplement the modest (!) engine for peak power in an overtake, to store regenerative braking, to get me electrically through a few roads – and to provide a friction-free CVT.

My current option would be a plug-in hybrid with a 30-50 miles electric range to prevent pollution in built-up areas, and fossil fuelled for the open road. Saves range anxiety, certainly unless and until we gave a proper network of recharging stations. Even then, the time recharging takes will be a real issue. No point in having Porsche acceleration if, when you have to recharge on your journey, it takes half an hour or more to queue and then fill up.,

I wonder how many EV drivers do have to queue for chargers. Maybe those who drive them could give their experience but round here they seem little used, except the free ones. Obviously the situation could change as EVs become more popular.

Em says:
7 July 2021

I wonder how pure EVs will work for holidays in Europe. Do I need a 2-pin adaptor? Will a two day trip to the South of France – 1000 miles – still be possible allowing for recharging time (and with co-drivers of course)? How do I pre-register to use charging stations? Will Eurotunnel have charging points?

My current inclination would be to buy a PHEV with 30-60 mile electric range for normal use and Diesel power for longer trips.

Em says:
7 July 2021

I have a neat little Honda generator I use for extended black-outs to keep my UPS running. Maybe I could keep that in the boot to recharge my EV – if there is enough room with all those batteries. Otherwise some massive jump leads to use on unsuspecting motorists 🙂

Em says:
7 July 2021

I’m also guessing the AA/RAC will provide an enhanced vehicle recovery service for EVs (no towing) or have on-board generators to give flat EVs a quick top-up. A 4kVA Diesel generator set only weighs about 80kg. Or maybe their newer vehicles will have adapted engines with an integrated high-output generator.

Will we all have to contribute to the cost of providing this service or will those who need it be charged?

You’re on form…

We are trying. Some say very.

I’ve seen the “do not tow EVs” argument several times. However, I can’t help feeling that we’re missing a trick, possibly in the design or possibly in modus operandi.

Obviously it’s best that Evs do not deplete fully. However, if they do, I still cannot see why – with an appropriate setting on the EV, that the EV cannot be towed toward where it is going by the recovery vehicle (on a rigid bar of course) with the driven wheels of the EV regenerating charge for the battery so that, when it has been towed by something in excess of half of the distance to the nearest charge point (assuming a flat road), it can be unhitched and make its way on the recharged-by-tow power to the charger. The towed vehicle and towing vehicle could negotiate the power available for this purpose – and the EV receiving the charge could back off the load uphill and apply a bot more downhill…

What’s wrong with this argument? After all, regenerative braking is there – all that is needed to charge things up are present… energy of towingf vehicle transmitted to the tarmac – which gives it back to the depleted EV – and at the same time progress is made on the highway. Win win win.

Em says:
8 July 2021

Nice theory, but isn’t there a flaw in the half of the distance scenario?

A family-sized EV weighs the best part of 2 tonnes or more – all those batteries. Towing a 2 tonne car would be fine – about the same as a large SUV – but towing it and generating enough energy to allow it to travel under its own steam (Coulombs?) for the remaining 50% of the distance would require the same average energy input as towing vehicle twice the weight, even if the EV is being considerate on the uphill stretches.

I note RAC have an EV boost mobile generator system that is already deployed on 200 vehicles.

Yes I hesitated with “half” – it is flawed, but not due to vehicle weight.

Weight is almost immaterial actually from this perspective. Energy is required to accelerate it to a cruising speed for sure, but once it’s going (on the flat) energy overcomes friction – and then all goes into the battery. Also the extra energy required to lift the extra weight up the hill is offset by the extra energy gained as it freewheels down the hill. For all these reasons it’s important that the towing vehicle and towed vehicle communicate (this will at a minimum need throttle position of driving car to be known by the system regulating charge throughput. The coarse map would be as follows:
* When starting off or accelerating at low speed, no charge transfer
* When cruising at light or closed throttle max power transfer (either on the flat slowing slightly or going downhill at constant speed)
* When cruising at mid throttle – some transfer (either on the flat accelerating slightly or constant speed going uphill)
* When towing vehicle at full throttle – no transfer – or even supplementary push (the tower is in trouble in such condition and charge needs to go out of the window to provide the pair with maximum grunt…)

Em says:
8 July 2021

Regardless of the physics/engineering, I don’t think we can get it past marketing 🙂

Blue suit: “So why does our new offering cost more and need all these fancy regenerative towing control systems? You know we’ve already had to cut our production by 50% due to a world-wide shortage of silicon.”

Engineer: “We can explain to the customer the benefits of having a flat battery.”

Also, these fancy extra features would not eliminate the need to tow a fully discharged BEV, so why not then just tow one to the nearest charge point? It ought not to be far very away…

ICE vehicles have the advantage that a small amount of fuel can be brought out to them. Trying to devise an equivalent function for BEV’s may risk letting the perfect become the enemy of the good.

Em says:
8 July 2021

True enough. Some EV motors need electrically-powered liquid cooling systems to be functioning. This is one of the reasons Tesla do not recommend flat towing.

BSI have organised a webinar on zero emission transport – “ To get you up to speed on the UK’s progress towards decarbonizing transport, we’re running a webinar on 14 July at 14:00 – 16:00 UK time.
This will focus on the challenges and barriers to the creation of a zero-emission vehicle infrastructure.
”.
@jon-stricklin-coutinho, Jon, I wonder if Which? will attend and report back?

Lockdown and working from home made homes with gardens and larger homes more appealing. I wonder if homes with existing facilities to charge EVs or the possibility of fitting them will become a selling point.

I think off-road parking has always attracted a premium price but the need for a secure electrical connection for overnight charging will add to that. Even if there is no charging point available now, it would normally be possible to install one near the electricity mains intake on a lower-rated tariff for use on the night rate. Space and provision for two cars would be even better.

People will surely wish to have optimum control over their own recharging and not be dependent on commercial charging stations which will continue to get busier, or on the hit-&-miss availability of an on-street charging pillar in the road where they live. As we pondered previously, mini territorial battles between neighbours could break out over who gets to use the facilities.

I just can’t see the local authorities and installation companies getting their acts together and rolling out the infrastructure fast enough to keep pace not just with the natural demand but with the superimposed enforced demand created by the conversion timetable, the withdrawal of internal combustion engine models, and the closure of petrol filling stations. The used car market might provide breathing space but the time will come sooner rather than later when a home charging facility will be more or less essential.

Recharging from a public pillar in the street could also become prohibitively expensive although the technology might allow faster charging to enable turnover of occupation of the parking positions assuming perhaps up to four vehicles can be simultaneously charged from one pillar. That won’t organise itself, of course, and people could be flapping about in their dressing gowns and slippers at three in the morning swapping places with the people next door to get their juice intake.

For a daily return journey to work or into town from a residential suburb one full charge might last a week but adding on school, shopping and leisure trips might require a boost.

A lot of what will happen has to be guesswork at present and I shall be interested to see how it pans out.

I read recently that the city of Shenzhen in China had replaced it’s entire bus fleet with 16,000 electric vehicles. Perhaps that’s the way we might have to be going in a few year’s time with a much denser public transport network so that everyone lives within 200 metres of a public bus route service.

Em says:
7 July 2021

… in a few year’s time with a much denser public transport network … and which no one will be prepared to use because of the risk of Covid-19 infection. Maybe the future is in face mask manufacturing, rather than vehicle charging points.

With streamed entertainment, buying online and having everything delivered, working from home, education through the net, virtual visits to the doc, why would we ever need to leave the house/flat/mansion/palace/bedsit? The future looks rosy.

I like my daily exercise.

Peloton. 🙂

On your bike, as they say. 🙂

John – As you say, it’s guesswork, but for those who have the option of home charging replacing their current car with a PHEV or BEV is a realistic option even though prices have not fallen as predicted and grants towards the purchase of PHEVs have gone. During the pandemic the number of local public chargers has increased from one to six and on my perambulations I have seen an increasing number of cars that are on charge.

Thinking of UK experience with TV’s, home entertainment, and other consumer developments, I would expect electric motoring will follow a similar pattern: those who can afford it will be keen to be early adopters – cars have, after all, always been status symbols.

The next wave will be those who will be able to catch up because mass production and marketing has made it more affordable – they will see that existing technology is clearly on its last legs and alternative fuels start to diminish in availability – and I reckon that will really gather pace around about 2024 and cause supply problems, but by then early used models will be coming onto the secondary market in significant numbers.

Unfortunately, as with all consumer goods, there will be a long tail of people who will not be able to afford the upfront cost of an electric vehicle, even on the ‘easy plan’, and there could be an outbreak of social stigma as they trundle around in their noisy, dirty machines coughing and spluttering from the tailpipe. There is hope, however: it didn’t take long for the Trabant to be almost eradicated from eastern Europe once the eyes of the world were on them. Perhaps there is some merit in consumerism; it can drive beneficial progress.

But what about the growing cohort of big SUV drivers? Are they all going to upscale to a two-tonne battery platform just to maintain their image? That might not be perceived as environmentally responsible, for in tackling the emissions problem they would be exacerbating the scarce minerals problem. Lots of thinking still to do. More social dilemmas remain on the horizon to keep the columnists commentating.

“Electric cars in traffic jams – will your battery cope?
We tested how air-con, lights and heated seats affect an electric car’s battery” https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/08/electric-cars-in-traffic-jams-will-your-battery-cope/

“Coming to a halt in a traffic jam in an electric car can be nerve wracking, and you’ll likely question whether you can still listen to the radio or keep the air-con going.

From this article: “We simulated a traffic jam in a VW ID.4 electric SUV and had:

> Music streaming through Android Auto
> Both front heated seats turned up to max
> Air-con going
> Dipped headlights on (not on automatic, but manually on)
> Tablet plugged into a USB socket playing a film.”

I wonder how often occupants of EVs would use heated seats at full power as well as the air conditioning. Maybe temporarily on a cold day if the windows were misting-up.

If you are stuck in a queue of traffic, for goodness sake turn off the dipped headlights to avoid annoying the driver in front.

If you are in an EV and suffering from range anxiety, perhaps it might be worth switching off unnecessary electrical items. Perhaps most motorists would work this out for themselves. If the article had pointed out which of these items contributed most to battery drain (presumably the electric seats and air conditioning) it might have been more helpful.

Well, I wondered about the terms of this “research”. However I guess they were simply simulating a worst case scenario just to see what happened. It appears to be very little, so you can sit in a chilled entertainment centre with lights ablaze and just get frustrated with the inaction. And they do say they’ll do it again in the Winter to be more realistic.

I have heated seats but never leave them on; in fact rarely use them except initially on a very cold day. But in Winter I would expect the heater to consume more energy than the AC in the summer. And these days lights are usually automatic; I turn mine off when in a non-moving jam and, for example, at traffic lights with controlling a narrow road or roadworks but most people don’t.