Electric or plug-in vehicles have come along way in recent years. Those old enough to remember might recall the image of Sir Clive Sinclair launching the Sinclair C5 in the 1980s and its subsequent rapid slide into failure.
A look at modern electric car or plug-in vehicles (PIVs) as they are now called is a far cry from this and shows why more and more people are considering taking the plunge and moving away from conventionally powered engines.
The demand for plug-in vehicles (PIVs) has increased in the UK over the last number of years. According to figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the number of electric car registrations has increased substantially over the past 12 months. An average of 2,400 electrical vehicles were registered per month in 2015 compared with just 500 at the beginning of 2014.
There are three types of PIVs:
EV (BEV) – These are solely powered by electric battery and have a range limited to around 80-100 miles.
PHEV – Plug-in Hybrid electrical vehicles are run by a petrol/diesel engine with a battery charged via a plug. They offer flexibility by combining the benefits of an electric battery powered vehicle with the range of a petrol or diesel engine. These vehicles have a range of 400 miles.
RE EV – Range extended vehicles powered by a battery engine with an on-board generator run on petrol, again with a range of around 400 miles.
It is estimated that the total number of electrical vehicles on the UK roads totals 40,000.
There are numerous advantages associated with the use of plug-in vehicles. Running a PIV could see a £1,000 per year saved on a 40 mile commute in comparison with a conventional 2014 Ford Focus, breaking down at 4p per mile compared to the Focus’ 15p per mile.
The financial benefits also include paying no fuel tax; being exempt from VED and the congestion charge, plus qualifying for lower company car tax.
In terms of environmental advantages, a fully electric vehicle will produce 30% less CO2 driving a single mile than that of traditional petrol engine vehicle. This will help play a part in the government’s target of reducing carbon emissions.
So what’s stopping people from making the switch to a plug-in vehicle? Well, there are a number of common misconceptions about PIVs that may prevent people from exploring the possibility of purchasing one of these vehicles.
There is a belief that plug-in vehicles are slow but their instant torque gives them a quick rate of acceleration.
Another concern is that a plug-in vehicle wouldn’t be able to travel as far as needed but the average UK daily mileage is only 25 miles. In fact, PIVs are not restricted to a perception of smaller cars but also include larger vehicles such as vans and mini buses.
As far as the aesthetics of the vehicles are concerned, PIVs have some incredibly attractive designs such as Tesla’s S model that can rival any of the traditionally powered car designs on the road.
Charging the vehicle is not the traumatic or complicated exercise that some people might imagine it to be with the process being simple and quick one.
Last month, the Department of Transport announced the extension the plug-in car grant to run until March 2018 and a change to the current banding levels. Initially introduced in 2011 and due to end early this year, the scheme gives buyers up to £4,500 towards the cost of the greenest models of cars and the extension will see the total funding rise to £400M and will boost the growing PIV market.
A solely battery powered car with a zero emission range of more than 70 miles will be eligible for the full £4,500 grant.
Vehicles with a shorter zero emission range, such as plug in hybrids will be given £2,500 under the new banding levels, a reduction from £5,000 under the current scheme.
According to the government, this change in the banding levels is to concentrate the highest level of funding on the greenest vehicles.
The announcement also confirmed the government’s commitment to support people who have a dedicated charge point installed at their homes. From March 2016, a grant of £500 will be available to go towards the cost of installation.
Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) commented: “The recently agreed global climate change targets underscore the important contribution ultra-low emission vehicles make and will continue to make to reducing carbon emissions.
“Manufacturers are offering increasing numbers of these vehicles – but a consistently applied incentive regime is still needed over the coming years to help consumers adopt these ground-breaking technologies.
“The changes to the regime will need effective management and SMMT looks forward to working with government to ensure the planning needs of manufacturers and consumers, both fleet and private, are met.”
It is hoped that the extension of plug-in car grant will see the number of PIVs on the road treble.
The Transport Minister, Andrew Jones, said: “The UK is a world leader in the uptake of low emission vehicles and the plug-in car grant has been key to that success. Extending the grant in a sustainable way ensures more than 100,000 people will benefit from financial support when purchasing these cheap-to-run and green cars.
“We are determined to keep Britain at the forefront of the technology, increasing our support for plug-in vehicles to £600 million over the next five years to cut emissions, create jobs and support our cutting-edge industries.”
It is estimated that a total of round half a million plug-in cars were sold around the world throughout 2015, with Tesla Model S surpassing Nissan’s Leaf as the most popular model sold.
So are there ant potential obstacles? Any substantial increase in plug-in vehicles in the UK would have an impact on the National Grid.
In the short term (up to 2020), there is sufficient power generation in the UK to support additional demand. However, it is important that looking further ahead to the long term, that utility companies ensure that there is enough power generated to meet the growing numbers of PIVs and that the demand is managed to make sure plug-in vehicles can reach their full cost and carbon potential.