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Thinking of making the switch to an electric vehicle? Here's what you should know

Sustainable Merton’s Community Champions Energy Team recently had the pleasure to interview fellow Community Champion Rachel. In her role at Energy Saving Trust, Rachel focuses on the expansion of electric vehicle (EV) usage and she has kindly agreed to share some useful practical tips and advice with our community about owning an electric vehicle.

All views expressed in this article are Rachel’s own personal views.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role with Energy Saving Trust...

R: I have been working for Energy Saving Trust for over a year now and I can say I really enjoy my role. I am an Assistant Programme Manager in the Transport team and I work on a variety of projects related to electric vehicles. For example, some of the work we do includes administering the government grant to fund local authorities installing electric vehicle chargepoints for residents who don’t have off-street parking.

What is the most important piece of advice you would offer to someone

considering buying an electric vehicle? 

R: Look at how you would be charging the vehicle. Charging an EV can require a change in mindset from ‘gorging’ on fuel to ‘grazing’ on electricity (i.e. topping up at convenient moments).

If you have off-street parking, installing a home chargepoint is the most convenient and cost-effective way to charge. There is a government grant available to support you, the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme, which can fund up to 75% the cost of installing electric vehicle chargepoints at domestic properties across the UK. If you don’t have off-street parking, look at convenient chargepoints near you - this could be near your home, at work, at a supermarket etc. I would highly recommend using Zap-Map. It’s an excellent online resource, very well-known in the EV community which gives you up-to-date information about chargepoints available near you.

Although charging an EV can require slightly more planning, as the network develops, people will be able to charge their cars as and when they need it.

What are some of the most common misconceptions about owning or driving an electric vehicle and how would you challenge them?

R: One of the most common misconceptions about EVs is range anxiety, meaning that people are worried they won’t be able to travel as far as they need to. I would say you should consider how much you actually drive on a day-to-day basis. If you mainly use your car to go shopping or to go to work and don’t have a very long commute, you won’t need to top up during your journey as most model ranges are 150-200+ miles on a single charge. For longer journeys, this may require some additional planning, but it’s worth noting that a rapid-charging network (top-up in 15 mins) is currently being developed via the Rapid Charging Fund.

Another common misconception about owning or driving an EV is the lack of infrastructure. However, the EV charging infrastructure is quickly being developed (see Zap-Map) and people are generally surprised at the large number of chargepoints available.

The lack of models is also often seen to be a barrier to owning an EV. There are however more and more models coming to market and I would say people are usually quite surprised at the variety of EV models (see Go Ultra Low).

What are the perceived advantages of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles over the current generation of EVs and how soon do you think the situation will be reversed?

R: The lower upfront costs of ICE vehicles when compared to the current generation of EVs is probably the biggest barrier to EVs being adopted more widely. However, we do expect cost parity to be reached in the early 2020s. A key element has been the dramatic fall in cost of a lithium-ion battery (almost 90% and still falling) in the last 10 years.

What can you tell us about the costs of ownership for an EV vs. an ICE vehicle? 

R: Whilst EVs involve higher upfront costs, they do have lower driving costs. EVs require reduced maintenance and servicing costs when compared to ICE vehicles, plus electricity is cheaper than fuel. In addition, there are government grants to help new EV buyers (e.g. Plug-in vehicle grant, homecharge scheme).

What are some key developments in the electric vehicle industry that we should look out for?

R: One of the most exciting developments is the ‘Vehicle to Grid’ technology, which would allow EVs to store energy in their batteries and discharge it back to the grid when additional capacity is most needed (e.g. at peak times of the day). The technology works and current trials are focusing on the behavioural aspects to establish what incentives drivers would require to adopt this technology (see Powerloop project).

Integration with solar power is another key development to look out for.

The government have also been consulting on bringing forward the ban on ICE vehicles to 2035 or earlier and, for the first time, they have included plug-in hybrids under the ban. The response to the consultation has not yet been released but we hope to hear soon (The UK government has since confirmed that the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars would be banned in the UK from 2030).

Is there anything else you would like to highlight to our Sustainable Merton community about EVs?

R: If you don't have off-street parking but are interested in getting an EV chargepoint near you, get in touch with the council to register your interest. They can use this to inform their chargepoint strategy and as evidence of demand to secure funding (such as the On-street Residential Changepoint Scheme). Merton have a dedicated webpage where you can register your interest for an on-street chargepoint.


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