Back in 2010 I got my first Electric Car – a Nissan Leaf. I was the first to get a Leaf in the South-West of the UK. I was the launch customer for Exeter Nissan (JFE) and I was excited. I thought then that I had finished owning normal petrol/diesel cars (Internal Combustion Engine or ICE) and that it would be EV all the way for me from then on. In fact, there was a lot of discussion (and disagreement!) at that time surrounding how fast EVs would take over the car market with the majority of EV owners I spoke to feeling that EVs would be the majority of cars sold within 10 years.
Well, it certainly hasn’t turned out that way. Yes, the market has grown over the past 10 years but it has been painfully slow.
As you can see… BEV (Battery Electric Vehicles) market share is still just 1.6% in 2019 with PHEVs (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles) not much different. So the combined EV sales for 2019 is just 3.1% of cars sold. When you think that I got my first Nissan Leaf 10 years ago that is slow progress.
Clearly, the idea of owning an EV has not yet hit home with the general public and there are many reasons… these are the main ones in my opinion:
- Low Range – my first Leaf had a realistic max range of about 100 miles on a warm summer day. However, that was not a realistic usable range. You can never run an EV completely flat or you will be stranded and it isn’t so easy as walking to a garage with a can to get you going again! This has led to “range anxiety” with EV owners being concerned over whether they will have enough power to complete their journey. It has also led to EVs being driven at slow speed (sometimes dangerously slow) as range decreases with speed.
Range is picking up though as battery tech improves and costs reduce. A Hyundai Kona can now go a realistic 250 miles.
- High Cost – EVs are not cheap to buy. The batteries are expensive and so right now, and for the foreseeable future, EVs cost more than an equivalent ICE. However, that isn’t the full story. Evs cost considerably less to run. Cost per mile for an EV is at least half that of an ICE (my figures) and so the extra cost is recovered over the lifetime of the car.
Unfortunately this fact seems to be lost with the general public or if it is recognised it is still a barrier to buy because not many people could afford to pay the price of a BEV up front. They are more likely it seems to buy a cheaper ICE and pay more for the running costs.
That Hyundai Kona, with a 250 mile range, still costs £35,000. Prices have to come down to nearer ICE prices.
- Lack of reliable public charging – Most of the time EVs are going to be charged at home as the average journey in the UK by car is under 10 miles and the majority of us driving less than 30 miles a day. However, we all do long trips from time to time and so there has to be a reliable way to charge an EV on those trips and this has been sorely lacking.
Installing charging infrastructure is expensive… it isn’t just a case of making a 3-pin socket available! Installing a single rapid charger will be at least tens of thousands and can run into hundreds of thousands. Some companies have tried to meet the initial demand (POLAR, Ecotricity etc) but with so few EVs on the road there is little financial incentive to either install the network or to maintain it to keep it working. Without the certainty that the charger will be working when you arrive doing long trips becomes a massive inconvenience at best and a huge gamble at worst.
The government has recently committed to reducing our carbon footprint and electric cars are an important part of their plan so I expect to see more initiatives to encourage EV take-up in the near future. There are many things they can still do such as giving EVs access to bus lanes and HOV lanes, parking concessions, removing the Car Tax & Luxury Car Tax, reducing VAT, enforcing the sharing of a single billing platform across the many charging networks and many more. Time will tell if the government puts their money where their mouth is or if this is all just rhetoric.
A few years ago my car use pattern changed significantly and I found myself doing more longer trips and having an EV was a massive inconvenience. The only car at that time that was a sensible fit for me was a Tesla Model S and I didn’t want to spend so much. So I reluctantly sold the EVs and bought one of the best cars out there on MPG and that was a diesel Qashqai. I know diesel is not good from a particulates perspective but I needed an SUV and that was a good fit. Since then I have properly retired and I am now looking to the future and for me the future is electric for everything. I have installed a large (8.9kWp) solar PV system and soo I will install at least 10kWh, possibly 20kWh, of home battery storage and so I am now trying to switch whatever I can in my life to be electric – the car is a big part of that.
So it is now time for me to re-enter the EV arena. I need a car with a real range of at least 200 miles as I still do long trips from time to time but I don’t need it to be as big. There are currently 2 models that have caught my eye… the Hyundai Kona and it’s Korean sibling the Kia e-Niro. Both have a real-world range of well over 200 miles so I am now test driving the Kona this week with the intention to buy if I like it. I will probably buy a low-mileage used vehicle though as the waiting list is still around 15 weeks (down from over a year not long ago!).
Come back to see what I decided (I aim to buy in the next few weeks) and to continue to follow my EV journey.
Exciting times are yet to come!