min read

To drive or not to drive electric?

by Joe Vaughan , 19.04.2013

Although we saw Electric Vehicle (EV) sales grow by 15% between 2011 and 2012, the numbers of EVs sold in 2012 was little over 1000 in a market of over 2 million sales.

So we have growth but the growth hasn’t lived up to expectations. Why?

Despite most people understanding the environmental benefits of EVs, their purchase decisions are still very much driven by personal issues not global concerns.

We’ve been tracking consumer attitudes to Sustainable Mobility since 2010 and the limited range of the battery is a concern for 71% of people. It raises questions like what-if I need the car for a longer journey? Where and how easy is it to recharge the battery? Is it sensible to buy a car that covers only 90% of your transport needs?

But for the young who have been brought up with plug-in solutions, the range issue and shift from forecourt to grid is less of a concern. We have also found that Londoner commuters are much more likely (18%) than average (8%) to consider an EV.

Here’s why according to a typical case study involving a teacher living in a semi in Watford with her husband and two children, who has just about to start a new job in central London and needs to commute…

I looked at catching the train but the nearest station is two miles from my home. Cycling in all weathers isn’t practical and safety is a concern, which leaves driving to the station and incurring petrol and parking costs as well as the season ticket fare for zones 1-6. I estimate spending nearly two and a half hours commuting a day and paying £4,400 a year to take the train.

The perk of being deputy head is that I’ve been offered a parking space at the school. I’ve Googled the route and worked out I’d spend around two hours and ten minutes in the car and that fuel would cost me £10.44 each day. On top of this I’d also need to find £9 a day for the congestion charge.  So I estimate spending £3,888 annually if I were to drive – as well as racking up an extra 9,000 miles on the clock, which I worry will decrease the value of our old car.

A friend mentions a taxi ride she had in a new EV and the driver’s enthusiasm for the vehicle. I also remember the mayor talking about EVs being exempt from the congestion charge. So an EV becomes an option and I do lots of research on the subject. I can cover my roundtrip of 46 miles on one charge, so the battery life isn’t an issue for me – particularly if we use it as a second car, just for the commute and trips to the shops.

To buy EVs are quite expensive compared with the second-hand run-around we bought a few years ago, but I find it’s possible to lease the car on a three-year deal for £3,000 a year. I should also be able to sell my existing car for £2,000. The fuel is just the price of the electricity and this should cost around £1 a day. So I estimate the journey time to be comparable with a regular car and the annual cost of commuting by EV to be £3,740 per year.

I know these are rough calculations and consider some other factors like the fact I won’t need to MOT the EV, pay road tax or be concerned about the depreciation value.

There are lots of options and choices, but I think the electric car will definitely be on my short list.