OPINION: Is it really worth doing your bit and going electric?

Electrical car charging. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Teka77

Peter Franzen says he is still undecided on the electric car debate - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Motoring journalist and former EDP editor Peter Franzen gives his view on the electric car dilemma

As a motoring correspondent, you might think I would be in a strong position to be decisive about replacing my current carbon fuel model with a full EV (electric vehicle).

But like thousands of others who feel it is the right way to go to play a part in “saving the planet”, it is a real dilemma at present and one which I am struggling to resolve.

Beyond doubt the choice of vehicles is blossoming, and the cars are getting better especially when it comes to battery range.

I drove a new Kia EV6 last week and it will travel just over 300 miles on a full charge. It is a delight to drive, and is comfortable and eerily quiet. It is also very well kitted out with state-of-the-art safety features.

But despite its ability to travel a good distance on a full battery, I still suffer from “range anxiety” because the charging point infrastructure nationwide is currently woefully inadequate.

Then there is the question of long-term battery life. Some experts are saying that an EV battery should not be allowed to fall to less than 20%, and that regularly charging the battery to 100% also speeds up its demise. If the 20% rule is proven then the official range is cut further.

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I often travel from Norwich to Oxford to visit family. The return journey still would not be possible on a full charge, even in the Kia. Most new EVs come with apps so that you can locate the nearest charging point and direct you there via the sat-nav. However, that does not guarantee the charger points will be free and more importantly operating properly with regard to payment, or indeed, working at all.

Some of the phone apps are supposed to indicate the non-functioning charging points, but I would not want to drive 10 or 15 miles off my route with a low battery to discover the charger was faulty and had not been picked up by the app.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the Government estimates that the requirement will prompt the installation of up to 145,000 extra charging points each year through to 2030 – the point at which the national ban on new petrol and diesel car sales will come into effect. But just how ready is the UK?

A new Economist report sponsored by British Petroleum reveals a number of challenges that will need to be overcome as countries continue to move towards their EV goals.

Norway comes the closest to being ready. The UK has also made good progress, by setting targets and providing some incentives for the electric shift. But compared to leading EV markets, it ranks seventh out of nine in terms of its overall readiness.

The research highlights key findings that can help accelerate the next stages of the UK’s EV transition:

  • The UK is expanding charging infrastructure, but the available speed of charging does not fully meet needs.
  • Some parts of the UK (particularly London) have made strong headway. But there is significant disparity across the UK. The report says a coordinated effort will be needed to accelerate EV uptake across all parts of the country over the next decade.
  • Another barrier to uptake in the UK is making the switch from fossil fuel power to electric more affordable. This country has one of the largest cost differentials between EVs and conventional vehicles.
  • Governments globally steer buyers towards EVs through financial incentives at the time of purchase or to reduce the lifetime cost by providing subsidies, minimising taxes, and reducing other charges such as parking fees and tolls. These “carrots” do not appear on the UK menu, except for the plug-in car grant of £2,500 towards vehicles costing (RRP) less than £35,000.

It is no wonder then that based on a 2021 Ofgem survey, only a quarter of UK consumers (24%) intend to buy an EV in the next five years, while another 24% can never see themselves owning one.

It seems to me that being an “early adopter” of an EV will work if you can charge the car at home, are prepared to pay a premium over petrol and diesel models, and don’t do long journeys.

But if you want a family-size, “do it all”, go anywhere vehicle, then be prepared to plan your journeys around charging points to avoid “range anxiety”, add at least 30 minutes for charging at some point on the journey, and console yourself that you are helping the planet.

I’m still undecided….

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