Electric cars are greener than petrol or diesel cars by a number of key measures, with the exception of the carbon intensity of the manufacturing process (although this will change as economies of scale are achieved through mass production).
•Electric cars perform better
Contrary to the cliche, electric cars are fundamentally superior to combustion vehicles in terms of power, torque and acceleration. On the whole they handle better too, due to their low centre of gravity with their heavy batteries mounted in the chassis.
Yes, for long distances on the track, combustion engines are still winning for the time being, their hugely energy dense petrol giving them better range, but this will likely change as energy density in batteries continues to nudge upwards.
And anyway, vanishingly few of us ever take their car on the track. We want our performance to nip away from the lights, safely overtake and enjoy a (responsible) brisk drive in the countryside. In all of these roles the electric car is winning.
•Electric cars are cheaper to run
Depending on your electricity deal at home and how efficient your electric car is, the cost of charging an electric car is between 1-10p a mile. This equates on average to ~£1,200 a year in fuel savings by driving electric.
There are other great cost benefits as well; find out what you could be saving on the maintenance cost of an EV.
•Electric cars will soon be cheaper to buy
Probably the biggest barrier to people getting in an electric car is their cost, which is primarily because of the cost to make the electric car’s battery.
Thankfully it is also the area where arguably the most progress is being made. With battery costs falling at circa 20% per year, we will soon reach a point where a full battery electric car is the same price to buy as an equivalent petrol car.
Shortly afterwards it will become even cheaper. It’s around this point that we expect mass adoption to hit, as discussed by Pod Point CEO Erik Fairbairn and Robert Llewellyn from Fully Charged.
Until then, drivers are able to make use of the financial benefits of electric cars in the UK through government grants and tax benefits.
•Electric cars are more convenient to own
If you own a petrol or diesel car, your car is definitely not fuelling itself while you read this. If you own an electric car, it may well be.
Our cars are parked 95% of their life. One benefit of electric vehicles is that you can make use of that time to put energy into them at their destination, rather than detouring to a petrol pump to wait to fuel and pay a fortune.
Now electric cars are available with ranges of 200-300 miles, if you are able to charge at home or work, each time you get back to your car in the morning or evening you will likely find it full. It is hard to explain what a quantum leap in convenience this offers until you try it.
•Their batteries need rare metals
The batteries for electric cars use a lot of lithium, the lightest metal and the lightest solid element under normal conditions. Chile produces the largest amount of lithium (8,800 tonnes per year), with other big producers including Argentina and China, while Bolivia has the world’s largest known reserves. Other metals used in electric cars include copper, cobalt, aluminium, nickel and sometimes manganese, along with conductive non-metal graphite.
•There aren’t enough charging points
At the end of August 2022, there were 33996 electric vehicle charging stations across 20534 locations. By 2025, the number of sockets is set to increase to 80,000. This compares reasonably well with the 8,378 petrol stations currently open across the UK. But as noted above, filling a car with diesel or petrol takes a couple of minutes, not 30 minutes or more and many petrol stations have 4 to 6 pumps or more.
Many people get round this by having their own charging point installed at home. But that’s not really an option for people living in streets of terraced housing where on-street parking means they often have to park their cars some distance from their house.
So as we shift to using more and more electric vehicles, we’ll have to think about how we keep them charged up. The electric vehicle may become the new smartphone, the next device that’s essential for getting us through our day that we have to keep charged up and ready for action.