The EV market has come a long way in the last three years. In the UK, EV ownership has surged from a humble 3,500 in 2013 to more than 75,000 in August 2016. Yet, while car manufacturers are forging ahead in the development of new and improved cars, they still represent less than 1.5 per cent of the UK market.
The fact is EV represents the biggest revolution in the motoring industry since Henry Ford’s production line. And, just like it was back then, a monumental shift in consumer mindset is required in order to embrace this change. A big part of this is the fear over the reliability of EV cars compared to cars with internal combustion engines, in particular battery life and range.
Manufacturers are realising this and are putting an incredible amount of effort into research for more powerful batteries and in a few years time the battery life problem will be history. Tesla’s high-end performance EV, the Model S, has a range of more than 300 miles (and can reach 0 to 60 mph in a jaw-dropping 2.8 seconds) and the more family friendly Nissan Leaf, can travel up to 155 miles on a single charge. This rise in range is matched by a fall in cost, with battery prices plummeting 40 per cent since 2010.
In the respect of life and range, consumer angst is simply misguided. According to the National Travel Survey England 2014, on average a person drives 5,067 miles per year, equating to just under 14 miles travelled per day. Now take that the average electric car currently on the market can go over 100 miles on one charge and you can see the likelihood of being stranded without power is minimal.
Most people tend to make the odd longer journey and that is where the worry really kicks in. Where am I going to charge? How long is it going to take? However, there are already over 11,500 charging points in the country, 2,000 of which are rapid charging stations. These are mostly found on motorway service stations and are able to offer up to 120kW of power, providing an EV with about 200 miles of range per hour with a full charge only taking between 15 minutes to an hour.
Another big concern is limited battery life and the worry the battery will have to be replaced at great expense. However, many manufacturers offer an average of eight years warranty. The common view is that EV batteries need to be replaced after they lose 20 per cent storage capability. However, Berkeley Lab research has shown that only a small fraction of drivers will no longer be able to meet their daily driving needs after the loss of 20 per cent of battery energy storage capability.
Current lithium-ion batteries have made huge advances but, looking further ahead, the batteries of the tomorrow will go even further with metal-air batteries offering around ten times the range of current devices. Exciting advances in materials technology could also play a part with the new “super material” graphene offering possibilities of longer-range batteries that recharge within seconds rather than minutes. If that wasn’t enough, there is the potential for energy storing body panels – where the vehicle’s body itself acts as a source of power. Although, let’s go one step at a time.
The fact is that battery concerns should not be a reason to shy away from investing in an EV. And these worries will become less and less of an issue once used car sellers are in on the game, which is due to happen very soon. Look at the statistics: according to SMMT, in the first six months of this year, over 4.18 million used vehicles were sold, compared to 1.42 million new cars. At the same time, of the 30 million registered vehicles in the UK, 51 per cent are made up of private cars and 49 per cent are company-owned fleet cars.
Fleet cars are usually leased, under three years old and then sold to the private market. According to Lex Autolease, plug-in cars already made up 7 per cent of all fleet sales in 2015, compared to 1.2 per cent of new car sales in the private market for the same period. Statistic throwing aside, all this gives a good indication that the used car market will soon be inundated with EVs. And once used car sellers get the EV pitch right, the population of happy EV owners will jump considerably and battery worries will be ancient history.
Erik Fairbairn is a serial entrepreneur and engineer by training. He founded POD Point in 2009 in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. He saw the potential of electric vehicles as the next major mode of transportation and set himself the goal of wiring up the UK with charge points to facilitate the switch to EV from internal combustion engines. Under Erik’s stewardship POD Point has become one of Europe’s leading providers of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) with a range of intelligent charging points for use at home, in workplaces and at frequently visited destinations. So far the firm has shipped over 20,000 points and boasts a publicly accessible network of 1,800 charging bays.
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