Electric Vehicles: Price, confidence and availability are key to success
We are on the cusp of an electric vehicle (EV) revolution. Recent reports by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders estimate that, by 2030, around 10 million cars on UK roads will be electric, representing more than a third. Many manufacturers have committed to phasing out the internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle altogether and expanding their zero and low-emission ranges. Meanwhile, battery technology – one of the most expensive elements of any electric vehicle – is advancing apace and edging ever closer to the tipping point that will make EVs as affordable as their fossil-fuelled counterparts. That said, there is still a long way to go in terms of infrastructure and educating the public before we will start to see more widespread adoption – two areas where Ground Control is making a difference.
One of the biggest barriers to wider EV adoption is a lack of knowledge and understanding – among individual consumers and businesses. There is a lot of confusion and anxiety around EVs, particularly when it comes to range and charging. But in reality, most daily car commutes are less than 30 miles and most trips to the supermarket are under 10 miles. With EV ranges pushing the 200-mile mark, that means in many cases, most people will only ever need to fully charge their vehicles two to three times a week at the most. It’s the same when it comes to longer-distance journeys too. People believe they will be stranded at a charging station waiting hours for their car to charge when really, they will probably only need no more than half an hour’s worth of charge to get to their destination. When you factor in confusion about the availability of charging stations, socket compatibility and pricing, this leads to people not feeling confident they will be able to travel in the same way they can using conventional vehicles.
Another significant barrier to adoption is the upfront outlay. Although prices are falling as demand rises and technology becomes cheaper, the initial cost of electric vehicles – both to buy and lease – is currently more than their ICE equivalents. But again, education has a part to play in dispelling the myths here. You may be paying more upfront, but the running costs – including fuel, servicing, excise duty and other charges – are either considerably lower or non-existent with electric vehicles. Over a period of time, it will be cheaper to buy EVs than ICEs, so there is a lot of work to be done in changing people’s mindset and educating them about the benefits.
In many ways, we have a similar educating job to do with our customers and potential customers. Lots of companies are showing interest in transitioning their fleets to EVs, particularly those who have committed to reducing their carbon footprints. But to get them to take the plunge, it’s about showing them the indirect benefits too. As well as being cheaper to run in the long term and better for the environment, EVs are not taxed as a benefit in kind. And because the emphasis is on driving EVs efficiently, it leads to safer driving, fewer accidents, lower stress levels and healthier and happier employees. Another indirect benefit is that companies that have switched to EVs or provide charging facilities for their employees tend to attract and retain the best talent – it’s one of the reasons why Google, Amazon and Facebook in the US have chargers at their offices.
I think in the next few years, the biggest growth areas for charger installation will be workplaces. We are going to get back to working in offices and buildings again soon, though perhaps not at pre-pandemic levels. And the demand for goods deliveries has rocketed, so we’re likely to see growth in demand for depot charging facilities too. But many businesses are only thinking about their current requirements – which may be one or two chargers – and not about what they’re going to need in a few years, so my role has recently become much more focused on encouraging them to consider their options more carefully and understand the implications of their decisions. If most of their employees will be charging their vehicles at home overnight, do they really need a charging station for each at work? It is this last point that has been a big area of focus for me and Ground Control lately and we believe our FleetFix solution is something that will help businesses that might need to charge their EVs at home overnight.
Finally, availability is a significant factor affecting EV adoption and this applies to both the vehicles themselves and the charging infrastructure. Manufacturers of cars and commercial vehicles are developing new models all the time with better ranges and more choice and these will become cheaper as technology develops and demand grows. But for this to happen at the scale needed to hit our future emissions reduction targets, people need to be confident the charging infrastructure is there, that they can find it and that it works when they arrive to charge.
One of the challenges we face is providing enough facilities for people who do not have off-street parking and therefore cannot charge their vehicles at home. Some 80% of EV charging is done at home, but that is not an option for those living in rented accommodation, flats or terraced housing, so local authorities are now looking at innovative solutions to provide charging facilities for these communities. The recent budget announcements Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak made regarding this should also help because, without these changes, a big percentage of people who do not have off-street parking are still going to be reliant on both the public charging network and facilities at work or destination such as shops, supermarkets, hotels and restaurants. These need to be widespread, affordable and compatible if we are to inspire EV uptake among this cohort of people.
The good news is this is beginning to happen. According to Zap Map’s latest figures for March 2021, we have 22,530 charging stations, which equates to 38,933 connectors at 14,408 locations dotted around the UK – with a further 792 chargers added in the last 30 days – and we are starting to see motor fuel groups such as Shell and BP install rapid EV chargers in their forecourts too. But these stations must offer charging for all types of EV and that it’s easy for people to both use and pay for the facilities. It has to be as easy as filling up with fuel. It all comes down to price, confidence and availability – with each feeding into the other. When we reach the tipping point for all three, that’s when we’ll see the real EV revolution.
Find out more about Ground Control’s FleetFix home charging solutions here.