Electric Cars: Five Questions that Need to Be Answered

And Automologist MAC answers them for you. 

In about eight years’ time, you will not be able to buy a petrol- or diesel-powered car in Europe as the continent shifts to low- and no-emission alternatives, all so that the region can hit its 2050 net-zero carbon target. So, all those lucky Europeans (and Britons as well) will have to opt for Electric Vehicles or alternatively, no vehicle.

Statistics for the UK show that currently the road population consists of but 1.3% EVs and Hybrids, although this figure is climbing rapidly, but the amount of public charging points is still woefully inadequate. These figures would indicate that despite the decision having been made for us already, many of us are still not fully convinced that we should go all-electric. Here are some of the more common questions on why this is.

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Why are electric cars so expensive?
Unless you live in a place where EVs are subsidised, they usually cost a lot more than a petrol counterpart. This is because the batteries, and of course the rare-earth elements and minerals to make them are actually in short supply and the cost to build a battery factory is actually very high.

Costs are expected to fall and experts are encouraging us to look a the cost of the vehicle over the lifespan of the vehicle, factoring in cost-per-kilometre, which is about 20% of the cost for a fossil-fuelled car. Then there is also cheaper maintenance, but EVs currently have just about no residual value and after 8 years are mostly fit only for the scrap heap.

Long line of Teslas waiting to recharge during Thanksgiving 2019. Source: Youtube

 

Are there enough public chargers?
In a word, NO. Even countries like the UK that have been pushing for public charging points have less than 10% of the total that the authorities think they will need. There are plans to rapidly increase this number and just about anyone in the industry thinks that ultimately the number of chargers will have to greatly exceed government estimates to adequately cater for peak seasonal travel.

Even the rapid chargers will not be much comfort as these still take thirty minutes or more to get up to a 70% charge, which will take you no more than 320 kilometres, even in a Tesla Model S. This could mean very long delays if you just happen to pull into an EV charging station and all of the bays are already occupied, and there is a limit to the amount of coffee you can drink…

 

Just how far can a fully charged EV go?
What has stopped many buyers is the range anxiety, the distance a car can go on a single charge. This varies between different models and manufacturers, and has been steadily improving. But this is still limited to about 320 kilometres of realistic range in a hatchback. I know that the manufacturers claim much higher but I am talking about the family trip with a fully loaded car, struggling through the traffic jams of the festive season.

A lot of manufacturers are planning to introduce new solid-state batteries to replace the current Li-ion. This is anticipated to have far greater power density and lifespan but as of yet, we don’t have them, so carry on dreaming.

What if I cannot charge at home?

In many towns, you simply cannot park in front of your house and run a cable out to your car. In the UK, this figure is about 50% of all vehicles which would not have access to home charging. There is an app called Zap Map that can guide you to the nearest charger and many supermarkets and restaurants are offering low-cost or free charging, but once again, these bays are limited and you got to be early to get one.

A lot of the low cost of EV ownership claims are made with home-charging being available and as of now, few countries have legislated a fixed cost for using public chargers, the price of which varies greatly and this is before the spike in electrical costs that is expected due to the current inflationary spiral for oil and gas prices.

Will we be allowed to own cars in the future?
Probably not. Many industry insiders believe that there will a quantum shift in how we are allowed to get around in the future and experts predict that there will be a proliferation in the use of fractional ownership or subscription services and of course ride-sharing like Uber and Grab.

This is why many car companies have already changed their mission statement to being mobility providers and not car manufacturers and have quietly taken up large stock holdings in autonomous transportation companies and ride-share companies, with the obvious desire of linking their vehicles and the service up in the future.

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