Electric Cars – Painfully Slow Progress

As many of you know, I have been an electric vehicle (EV) fan and advocate since 2010. I was the launch customer for the Nissan Leaf in the South-West of the UK and since then I have had a 30kWh Leaf as well as 2 (yes you read it right!) Vauxhall Amperas. Alongside that, I have been an active (some would say over-active!) member of the on-line EV community through speakev.com and other forums. I mention all this to put into context what I have done recently – I no longer own an EV!

My apparent desertion of electric cars is mainly because I cannot find a car I like, within my price range, that fits my lifestyle. However, it is also in no small part to my frustration at the appallingly slow progress manufacturers are making in bringing electric cars that people want to buy to market.

As always with EVs, range is the main sticking point but it has to be said that this is slowing improving. There are several cars available now with ranges approaching 200 miles and some even higher but they are pricey. Moreover, there isn’t a lot of choice out there so if you want an EV you may have to make significant compromises on your choices.

The government has recently announced they would like to see the sale of petrol and diesel cars stopped by 2040 and this sounds like a long way off but I suspect that this target, however laudable, my be unrealistic unless the manufacturers get more cars to market that we want to and can afford to buy with real-world, all-year, ranges of upwards of 200 miles. I have been talking to people about electric cars now for the best part of 8 years and it is clear to me that until EVs can do more that 200 miles all year and in all weathers they will not appeal to the masses. People simply do not want to have to stop multiple times when doing long trips. We all need to stop once or twice when doing long trips in the car – food and other natural activities (aahm!) require it – but more than that and it becomes a chore. Even then we need to ensure that we can charge up when we arrive at a service area or else the same applies – people don’t want to have to wait in line for 30 mins or even an hour to charge up. We need many more charge points at all service areas now to encourage uptake.

Finally, speed of charging is also an issue. The normal charge rate on more charge points maxes out at about 50kW at the moment. That adds about 80 miles tops per hour to the car range. With cars of 200 mile range they will need about an hour to charge. While that might be acceptable if you are eating a meal it becomes unacceptable if all you need is a quick visit to the loo. Add in a 20 minute wait and your loo stop is approaching an hour and a half! We need faster charging. The problem is that this requires replacing existing chargers and new cars that can take the higher charge rate and that takes years to implements.

So, progress is slow but it is happening. The EV landscape is infinitely better now that it was 5 years ago but we still have a huge way to go. Manufactures need to be bolder in their decisions to bring affordable EVs to market, charge network operators need more investment to put in many more charge points and to upgrade existing ones and government needs to put its money where its mouth is and start to fund some of this in a way that shows that they mean what they say… if they don’t then, I believe that in spite of it being a long way off, even 2040 may be optimistic for us to be totally fossil fuel free.

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