People trust what they are familiar with and are familiar with what they trust, or so the saying goes. It is certainly true when it comes to electric vehicles, with increasing familiarity and visibility on the roads and forecourts of Britain evidence of a consistent growth in the sale of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV). That is, until now.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) have recently reported that sales of plug-in hybrid cars during June 2019 were half that of the same month last year. The cause, they say, is confusing government polices and the ‘premature’ removal of subsidies. Whilst this may be true, we should remember that these factors primarily affect hybrids, and the withdrawal of subsidies is directly linked to the government’s strategy of concentrating on zero, rather than simply low, emission vehicles.
It’s a policy which might not go down too well with manufacturers, especially given the millions they have invested in research, development and go to market costs for hybrid vehicles. On the other hand, hybrids were only ever a stop gap, a link in the chain as it were, to zero emission transportation.
The future undoubtedly belongs to Pure Electric Vehicles (PEV) and it’s here that we have seen the biggest improvements in choice, driving ranges, infrastructure and progressive taxation.
Driving range has, for many drivers and business, been the biggest barrier to choosing a PEV. In fairness, when the average range was stuck at under 100 miles it was a reasonable objection. Even if you rarely travelled more than 50 or 60 miles in a single journey, many drivers were understandably worried about not being able to go much further if the need arose.
These days, the landscape is quite different and 100-mile ranges are now very much a starting point in the model line-up, with newer models such as the Jaguar iPace, Kia e-Niro and Hyundai Kona Electric all approaching the 300-mile mark. And let’s face it, if you risk running out of power with those figures then it might be time to reconsider how long it is safe to drive without a short break. After all, a rest from driving is the perfect time to recharge your own batteries as well your vehicle’s.
On the subject of charging, it’s worth remembering that charge times to 80% power levels can now be as low as 30 minutes with a rapid charger, of which there are over 5,000 connectors in 1,559 locations across the UK.
The overall number of charging locations is also continually growing, with July 2019 seeing a peak of 24,133 connectors in 8,888 locations. So, with the ability to charge your car in service stations, car parks, retail centres and, of course, your own home, range anxiety is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.
Whilst we might like to think that going fully electric is all about protecting the environment, for most of us this does need to be balanced with economic viability. In the main, this comes down to:
Fuel/Power: It’s here that PEVs win hands down, with average charging costs at around 4p per mile driven. To put this into context, a reasonably economical petrol or diesel car would be 3 times that amount.
Servicing: In general, servicing costs for PEVs are cheaper than their petrol or diesel counterparts, primarily because they are far fewer moving parts to wear or break. However, not every small garage has the facilities to service and repair all models of PEV.
Purchase Costs: Although costs are coming down all the time, PEVs are typically more expensive to buy. However, they are generally well supported by leasing companies, who have been fairly bullish about their residual values (which is the major driver behind calculating lease costs) whilst also accepting their role in driving further adoption.
Insurance: All the major insurers have good policies for electric vehicles; however, they do tend to be slightly more expensive due to the specialist parts involved.
Clean Air Zones: There are more and more CAZ (Clean Air Zones) and ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zones) popping up around the country and these are likely to get bigger and more expensive to access as time goes by. Thankfully, PEVs are generally exempt which, if you live or work within one of these zones, could mean significant savings over the course of a year.
Taxation: From April 2020 there will be five new Benefit in Kind bands for ULEVs and, whilst it’s always difficult to predict future taxation rules to any real degree of certainty, the core principle won’t change any time soon. The lowest polluting vehicles will continue to attract the least amount of tax.
Perhaps a better question would be: when is it right for me? It is now increasingly difficult to argue that the foreseeable future is anything but all-electric. There simply isn’t the infrastructure for any alternative, such hydrogen fuel cells or solar power. If you remain sceptical about this, just look at how long it has taken to get to this point with electric vehicles. Any other technology is unlikely to be a viable alternative for much of the nation within the next 10 - 15 years.
Additionally, the government has already signed up to emissions targets which can only be met by a significant and long-term commitment to electric cars (we’ve still got a fair way to go for vans). With this in mind, there will continue to be pressure on manufacturers, urban planners and the HMRC to ensure that pure electric vehicles are a viable option for the majority of people. The question of when it’s right for you is a personal one. It depends on what you want to drive, where you live and your driving patterns but, for most of us, a PEV is now a serious option to be considered.
* All vehicle images and car descriptions on this site are for illustration and reference purposes only and are not necessarily an accurate representation of the vehicle on offer.
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