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24 June 2019

Electric Cars - The Basics

by James James

What Did You Say?  Did I Hear You Correctly?  Did You Just Say You Bought An Electric Car?

It is late morning one spring weekend in 2016.  I can see my mobile flashing hysterically on silent mode.  The caller is no other than my lovely sister, Mel.  As always I pick up the phone, impatient to end the conversation, even before she has uttered her first word.  
 
Don’t get me wrong.  I love my sister.  It is just that I am not big on long sibling conversations.  A few minutes pass, I hear her talking excitedly and fast.  I pretend to hear all she has said, with a regular injection of ‘sounds good’ between the monologue.  I am about to put the phone down, when something she says grabs my immediate attention.  I heard the words ‘I bought an electric car’!  
 

 

My Sister And Her EV

It is remarkable, in that, my sister is no petrol-head or fanatical environmentalist.  Up until then, I had assumed (incorrectly), that electric cars were being driven by the enthusiastic tree-hugger or PhD types, mostly male!
 
Three years have passed since that conversation and one thing is for certain, she loves her BMWi3 Range Extender (E-REV). I asked her the other day if she would go back to driving a conventional petrol or diesel car.  Her response was a firm and unequivocal NO! 
 
I am not surprised.  She has enjoyed the smoother drive of an EV.  She has certainly cherished the zero pollution and lower noise levels.  Despite all the scaremongering regarding range, she has never been stranded as a result of an empty battery.  
 
My sister is an example of the change in consumers attitudes to electric vehicles.  Electric cars have transitioned from a niche ‘emission free transportation solution’ to everyday mainstream mobility.  More consumers like my sister are now firmly behind the steering wheel on an electric vehicle. 
 

So, if you are considering buying an EV but need guidance, you have come to the right place. Read on. 

 

Range Anxiety 

Range anxiety is certainly the most discussed concern among aspiring and current electric car owners.  It is a valid concern, but it has been exaggerated.  
 
Most drivers in the UK do not travel several hundred miles a day. In fact, the average commute in the UK is a mere 12 miles.    
 
Let me put this in perspective.  The most common daily trips are usually a short school run, a work commute and an evening visit to the local grocery store or restaurant.   Now, unless your local grocery store, pub, gym or school is 300 miles away, rest assured you will get to your local destination and back without a worry!  So bottom-line, most EVs will easily meet the demands of everyday commutes, to include leisure and work.  
 

Most EVs have a range of between 100 to 200 miles on a single charge.  In some case, even more.  Yes, there is a difference between manufacturer quoted range and ‘real world range’, but even then, commuting for work and leisure is easy in an EV.    

 

Charging

Closely related to range anxiety, is the concern over charging, in particular, public charging points.  It is true that there is much room to increase available public charging infrastructure in the UK, but let me put this in context.  

 As of June 2019, there are 23,649 connectors and 13,908 devices across 8,712 locations in the UK. Last month, EV charging points in the UK surpassed the number of petrol stations. 

 

Home Charging 

According to the UK government, Go Ultra Low campaign, up to 90% of electric cars are charged at home.
 
If you live away from a big city and have access to private parking, then in all probability, charging your EV at home will be relatively straightforward.  Moreover, you can take advantage of the government subsidy for home charging i.e. the OLEV grant scheme.  
 

However, if you do live in a city, ‘charging at home’ is not quite as easy.  Let me assume you live in an urban area with no ability to charge at home.  Your best bet would be to identify the closest public charging points to you and to use it.  To be honest, it is not the most convenient, but it is an option worth considering. 

 

EV Basics

If you are like me and most people I have met, then you are as utterly confused with the jargon related to EVs. Below are some basic explanations on EVs.  For a more detailed list of jargons, please follow this link to the e-zoomed jargon busting article.  
 
• Ultra-low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs): 
 
Any vehicle that is capable of reducing pollution to below 75g of CO2/km and capable of a zero emission range of at least 10 miles, is a ULEV.  Yes, all EVs are ULEVs!  
 
• Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs): 
 
Any EV that runs only on a rechargeable battery is a BEV i.e. a BEV will not have any other type of power source, like an internal combustion engine.  Still confused, then walk to the back of the vehicle.  If you do not see a tailpipe, then rest assured it is a BEV! 
 
• Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (PHEVs): 
 
It is another type of an EV, except it has dual fuel sources i.e. a rechargeable battery and an internal combustion engine (ICE).  Yes, you do both, recharge the battery from an external source and go to a traditional fuel station to fill the tank.  What fun! 
 
• E-REVs (Extended-Range Electric Vehicles): 
 
Extended range electric vehicles fit in-between a 100% pure electric car (BEV) and a plug-in hybrid (PHEV).  Just when you thought they could not further confuse the consumer, the industry introduce this acronym.  An E-REV is closer to a BEV, in the manner in which the wheels are powered.  An E-REV wheels are always powered by a onboard battery pack and electric motor. However, like a plug-in hybrid, an E-REV has a small internal combustion engine, which is used only to recharge the onboard battery when depleted.  So bottom-line, an EREV helps reduce range anxiety.  E-REVs are capable of up to 125 miles on pure electric driving and usually emit emissions of less than 20g/km. 
 
• PiCG (Plug-In Car Grant)
 
The PiCG a grant given by the UK government to encourage the uptake of low-emission vehicles in the UK, in particular, pure electric cars.  A buyer of an eligible EV does not need to do anything, as the grant is adjusted against the purchase price of the new electric car.   Not all low emission vehicles are eligible for a grant, and only those approved by the UK government are eligible.  EVs that emit less than 50g/km and can travel at least 70 miles emission free are eligible. The maximum grant for an electric car is £3,500.  Other types of vehicles that are also eligible for a grant include, motorcycles, mopeds, vans and taxis.  
 
 

Do I need a car?

It is a question worth deliberating.  Not over a nice glass of wine, but under a cold shower.  It is an astounding statistic that most cars are parked more than 90% of the time.  Incredible but hardly surprising.  So, only buy a car if you are really going to use it!   
 

 

Public transportation, car sharing schemes and walking are great alternatives! 

If you live in a city with good public transportation, then use it.  If public transportation is not your thing, then use a car sharing scheme like e-carclub.  Car clubs are both easy to use and cost effective.  Last but not least, walk.  Great for the mind, body and soul!  
 

However, if you live away from good public transportation, have limited access to car mobility schemes and the nearest grocery store is a few miles away.  Then maybe, buying an electric car is worth considering.  Of course, there are numerous excellent reasons to buy an EV.  Below are just a few!

 

Top Reasons To Buy An Electric Car!  

• Cheaper to run
• Cheaper to maintain and service (fewer moving parts)
• Low to zero tailpipe C02 emissions (yes, the planet matters)
• Low to zero road tax 
• Government PiCG incentive (take advantage before it is removed)
• New models with longer ranges (lower range anxiety and more confidence)
• Recharging an EV battery is far cheaper than filling a full tank of fuel 
 

 

Do not be in a hurry to buy an electric car.  I would suggest renting one for a few days or weeks.  Assess how it fits in your everyday life.  Is it easy for you to charge?  Are you comfortable with the range?  Do you like the driving experience?  You cannot answer these questions reading websites!  So, please go rent an electric car.  
    

I suspect, if you are like my sister i.e. you want a fun, easy, cost effective and clean driving experience, then no doubt, you will become an electric car owner!   

 

Guest Blogger

Ashvin Suri

Ashvin is the founder of e-zoomed, a Brightside partner.  He has been involved with the renewables, energy efficiency and infrastructure sectors since 2006. He is passionate about the transition to a low-carbon economy and electric transportation. Prior to that he was an investment banker with JPMorgan. He was awarded an MBA from the London Business School in 1998.

 
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