In the next few years we will see the biggest change to the motor industry in over a century, although that change is already happening. The UK Government is committed to ceasing production of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 and the market is already seeing a huge increase in take-up of electric vehicles (EVs). In September 2021, global sales of diesel vehicles were overtaken by EV sales for the very first time. That was a significant landmark which highlighted the increasing market share EVs are taking up.
But that doesn’t change the fact that switching to EVs is a big decision, even if the change is ultimately unavoidable. With the 2021 fuel shortages and the current cost of living crisis, quite apart from the fundamental climate crisis, more and more people are thinking of making the switch.
So realistically, what are the challenges to this? There are a number of misconceptions about driving EVs, so this article aims to clear some of those up.
Quality of drive
There is still an idea that EVs are a flimsy futuristic concept from a sci-fi film and therefore, aren’t taken seriously by motoring buffs. But companies like Tesla have changed the landscape and have pioneered some of the most innovative tech advances the industry has seen in decades, such as autonomous driving and central touchscreens. Apart from that, EVs are quiet, smooth and comfortable and have great handling, mainly because the central battery provides a lower centre of gravity for cornering. All the major manufacturers now have a range of EVs, so the quality of EVs has improved hugely in the last decade.
Undoubtedly this is the biggest red flag for drivers of traditionally-fuelled vehicles, because you will still get more miles out of a petrol or diesel vehicle before you need to stop for five minutes to re-fuel, compared to the varying range offered by EVs and the prospect of spending a few hours charging the battery. But ask yourself the fundamental question, how often do you drive 200 miles-plus in a day? What are your regular driving habits? Like any vehicle, different EVs are designed for different types of driver. A faster, sportier model will need a bigger battery because it uses charge quicker, while a small, run-around vehicle will only have a small battery and so will charge up quicker. Pick an EV that suits your driving habits, and you probably won’t experience much difference. The horror scenario of running out of charge ten miles from home shouldn’t ever occur if you are well prepared and have the right vehicle.
Most people will charge their EV at home, which you can do through a conventional wall socket, but this is slow. You can invest around £500 on a 7kW home charging unit – there are Government grants available to help with this cost – and this will speed up your charging to about three times faster. But fundamentally, you can charge your EV overnight and leave each morning with a full charge, or at least enough charge for what you plan to do that day. Alternatively, you can use a public charger, which are usually faster again and are increasing in number as the UK charging infrastructure improves. You may be fortunate to have a charger at work also, or have on-street charging available at your home.
Of course this will vary depending on the EV you have and the energy tariff you are using, but the general rule of thumb is that EVs are roughly one third the cost of petrol and diesel vehicles to charge, if you are comparing, say, 200 miles of range and 200 miles of traditional fuel. If you can charge overnight you can often utilise cheaper energy tariffs. Another saving with EVs is in service and maintenance, because, quite simply, there are fewer moving parts and therefore less to go wrong. It is often said that tyres and brakes wear quicker on EVs, and because they use regenerative braking this is probably true, but many people believe this is cost-neutral when you look at other savings such as road taxand home charging.
In summary, range and charging should not be a barrier to switching to an EV, you really need to look at how you use your vehicle and adapt your habits accordingly. Given that we do the same for phone and smart watch batteries and the like, and we rarely run out of battery, anyone should be able to apply the same disciplines. The Green benefits of no CO2 emissions are undoubtedly a great advantage to driving an EV, and while people claim the lithium battery provides a much bigger carbon footprint than an internal combustion engine would, the carbon impact of an EV is pretty much done once it’s been manufactured, after that a driver’s usage and their other green habits in life can more than offset that.
So drivers should think about the positives of EVs rather than the outdated negative arguments. EVs are fun, modern and fantastically connected ways to drive, and the most important thing to remember is, the technology to improve efficiency and quality and make them even more fun, is only going to get better.