Electric vehicles — the torque of the town, or not worth the energy?
With technology advancing rapidly and the world becoming more eco-conscious by the day, it's no surprise electric cars are considered the future of motoring.
According to 'Next Green Car,' as of the end of May 2021, there were nearly 260,000 pure-electric cars on UK roads; and, despite coronavirus, this year has seen the largest increase in electric car sales to date.
But, what is all the fuss about? And, are they worth the hype?
Here, Abigail Brown takes a closer look at electric cars, covering everything from how they function to their potential impact on the future.
How do they work?
In simple terms, electric cars are powered by an electrically charged battery pack, rather than a traditional internal combustion engine (or ICE) like petrol and diesel cars. These batteries are rechargeable, meaning, at some point, fully electric cars have to be plugged into a public charge point or a private one installed at home. How far an electric car can travel before the battery runs out depends on the model and manufacturer - some have a longer run time than others.
Another option besides the pure-electric car is the hybrid, which runs on two different energy sources.
The different types of electric cars in detail
There are three different types of cars that are considered 'electric' - they all differ slightly, but share in the fact that they utilise electricity in some way to better the environment.
Fully electric vehicles are the cleanest on the road as they don't emit any harmful CO2 or other greenhouses gasses into the atmosphere while driving. They are generally powered entirely by a rechargeable electric battery. They tend to be the most cost-effective as well, as they are easy to run and maintain.
2) Conventional hybrids
These are a combination of a battery and electric motor and a petrol or diesel engine, such as those in 'ordinary' vehicles. The idea is that you get the best of both worlds; short trips can be covered by the electric motor, and you can fall back on the petrol or diesel engine on long journeys - the car can even run using a combination of the two at the same time. A computer within the car determines when and how different elements take over. The battery in conventional hybrids is fairly small, meaning they can be charged up on the move, either by the engine or electricity generated when the vehicle is coasting or braking. These hybrids don't need to be plugged in to recharge.
3) Plug-in hybrids
Plug-in hybrids are very similar to the conventional version, except the battery is bigger, allowing the vehicle to drive much further on electric power only. As the name suggests, another key difference is that the battery cannot be recharged by the car - like a fully electric car, they have to be plugged in to recharge the battery. However, as this is a hybrid, you can still rely on its petrol or diesel engine to get you to your destination if your battery empties along the way.
Are they worth it?
Whether an electric vehicle is right for you depends on your wants and needs. Considering the advantages and disadvantages of electric vehicles will help you decide:
- They are better for the environment
- There are multiple buying incentives, for example, the UK Government's Plug-In Car Grant is providing up to £2,500 off the price of an electric car (eligible models must have CO2 emissions of less than 50kg/km and a zero-emissions range of 70 miles or more), and electric car owners can benefit from government grants towards the cost of installing a charge point at home or work
The Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) is a grant that provides a 75% contribution to the cost of one chargepoint and its installation. A grant cap is set at £350 (including VAT) per installation. The main requirement is that a person owns, leases, or has ordered a qualifying vehicle and has dedicated off-street parking at their property. A person may apply for 2 chargepoints at the same property if they have 2 qualifying vehicles.
- Low running costs
- Low maintenance needs
- Quieter drive
- Discount on congestion charges
- Free, priority, or dedicated parking bays with easy access
- Increasing resale value
- Few charging stations
- Some models have a long charge time
- Limited driving range
- High upfront costs
- Not as many options to choose from (in terms of style)
Interesting facts about electric cars
They are not a new concept
The very first electric car was built in 1884 by English inventor, Thomas Parker. He also introduced both the electrification of the London Underground and worked on electric tramways for multiple cities. Electrically powered vehicles were even being used as taxis in London by 1897. Following this, there were major improvements in petrol and diesel technology, which marked the end of the buzz around electric vehicles, until recently.
They are not completely silent
As of July 2019, a new EU rule was introduced that instructed all new electric and hybrid cars to make an artificial noise for the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. The noise can be heard when driving at 13mph and below.
Tesla 'Dog Mode'
Tesla cars now offer a feature called 'Dog Mode' which ensures your furry friends are kept at a comfortable temperature inside the vehicle. The car even displays a message on the centre touchscreen panel letting passers-by know that the pet inside is being kept at a cool temperature.
There are more charging points now than petrol stations
According to 'Zap-Map', as of May 2019, the amount of public electric vehicle charging points surpassed petrol stations in the UK. It appears the number of petrol stations is actually decreasing, while more charging points are popping up all over the country.
They could be charged whilst driving
Similar to how mobile phones can be charged wirelessly, electric vehicles may be charged simply whilst positioned over a similar device. These charge panels may be built into sections of the road, drive-through lanes, and parking spots.
They may get their own priority lanes
As part of the government's efforts to motivate more people to drive an electric vehicle, the environment department has suggested introducing priority lanes and priority exits at traffic lights, like what currently exists for buses.
They are used on the moon!
NASA's Lunar Rover was designed to operate the low-gravity vacuum of the moon and runs purely on electricity. There are talks of developing the next generation of electric vehicles for future lunar missions to allow astronauts to cover further distances.
The future of electric vehicles
The UK plans to ban all sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040 in a bid to fight climate change, which means the future is looking pretty bright for electric cars. With all the incentives available and the obvious benefit of doing your bit for the planet, many will view the idea of driving an electric car in the future as exciting. And, they are looking more appealing by the day, with charging speed, run times, the infrastructure to support them, and the cost to build them set to improve tenfold in the coming years.
They're not quite the flying cars many predicted we'd be driving, but it's clear that we're entering a new and exciting technological age.
Where can I find my nearest charging point?
North and West Norfolk offers multiple electric vehicle charging points.
To discover the exact location of the charging points nearest to you, go to www.zap-map.com/live/, type in your postcode, and see the charging points on the live map.
You can download the ZapMap app to you mobile from the App Store or get it on Google Play. This app has live updates every five minutes and covers 95% of public charge points.