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Has The UK Government Wasted Money On Electric Cars That No One Wants?

Hundreds of millions of pounds is available to promote and subside their use and they have been declared as the future of motor transport so why are so few electric cars being sold? Thanks to information discovered under freedom of information, we can see that the electric car revolution has yet to take off in any form whatsoever.

It was hoped that electric cars would be widely visible across London; five years ago, the government set a target of having 10,000 Londoners driving EVs but as of late 2014, only 1,800 people are members of the Boris Johnson vehicle charging scheme. Even worse is the fact that few members even use their privileges. Less than 400 of London’s 1,400 charging points were used at all during July and August 2014. Half of these charging points were used less than 10 times apiece. Thanks to squabbles between local councils and private operators of chargers, a large number of these vital stations are falling into disrepair.

A Wasted Opportunity

You can go to the Source London website to find out just how many charging points are not in use. Of the charging stations that do work, a large percentage of them are in paid car parking locations which means electric car owners have to pay parking fees to charge their vehicles.

According to Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Stephen Knight, Mayor Johnson has made many boastful claims about the volume of charging stations in London but has failed to keep watch to see how many are actually working.

The picture looks even bleaker outside the capital where the charging network is practically non-existent in certain regions. The DVLA says there are less than 10,000 electric cars operating in the UK which is around 0.03% of vehicles in the nation. Despite this, it appears as if the UK Government continues to set aside huge sums of money to promote an unpopular technology in the erroneous belief that electric car ownership will drastically increase.

No Takers

If you are interested in purchasing an electric car, you can benefit from a $7,700 (£5,000) grant along with the cost of installing a charging point at home while local councils also have large amounts of cash set aside for EV users. Despite all this, the British public still sees electric cars are being an unreliable and undesirable mode of transport.

Despite the advances in EV development, the technology is still relatively primitive; it can take up to 8 hours to charge your car and in some models, a recharge is necessary every 40-50 miles. In essence, the only viable consumers are those who live in cities and have off-street parking; as you can imagine, this is a fairly small market.

Nonetheless, the coalition government is keen to continue pushing electric car technology. Cynics believe this is because it allows politicians to appear ‘green’ while avoiding tough decisions on the issue. In reality, politicians do not want to do anything which would make motorists use their vehicles less often.

If the Government really wants the UK’s citizens to be ‘green’, it needs to make tough decisions such as limiting our car usage. Instead, it is essentially saying that using big cars is fine as long as the engines are a bit more environmentally friendly. Ultimately, the Government is wasting money on a poorly performing technology which will not lure many new proponents until it experiences significant advances.

Ford’s Electric Car Price Cut Could Shake Up The Market

Sales of electric cars are falling behind expectations in the United States and a number of major manufacturers are upping the ante by cutting the price of EVs. Ford is the latest company to do so by announcing a huge $6,000 price cut on its Focus Electric model. This comes hot on the heels of a previous $4,000 discount made in 2013. The Focus Electric was $39,995 when released in 2011 but can now be purchased for just $29,995.

Almost all car manufacturers have followed suit but with gas prices in and around the $3 a gallon mark, it will be tough to persuade a nation of gas vehicle lovers to make the switch. The Focus Electric is almost identical to the gas model but it has an electric drive-train and a number of gauges and displays that enable you to watch your vehicle’s energy consumption. EV motorists need to keep an eye on these gauges to ensure they have enough juice to get to and from their destinations.

Ford Focus Electric Exterior

Ford Focus Electric. Image: Google UK

The EV Price War

The Focus Electric has a range of less than 100 miles and has sold just 1,500 units in the first 9 months of 2014. In contrast, over 176,000 Ford Focus models were sold during the same period in the United States. Yet virtually every other EV manufacturer is struggling at the moment with just over 87,000 electric vehicles sold in America from January-September 2014. This comprises less than 1% of the total market.

On the plus side, this is an increase on 2013 figures when just 97,000 EVs were sold during that 12 month period. One reason for this may be the increase in the number of models; there were 16 models on sale in 2013 and 22 models on sale this year. Some manufacturers are enjoying positive momentum. The Nissan Leaf for example is probably going to surpass the 23,000 models it sold in 2013 and is the #1 selling EV on the market. Yet even the popular Leaf has only enjoyed increased success due to price cuts.

Manufacturers that have slashed the price of their EVs include Chevrolet and its Volt model, Honda with its Accord model, Fiat with its 500e, Smart with its ElectricDrive BEV and Mitsubishi with its i-MiEV. Sergio Marchionne is the CEO of Fiat Chrysler and has basically asked consumers not to buy its EV since the company loses over $10,000 on every sale!

What Does The Future Hold?

So why should manufacturers continue developing and selling electric cars? California regulators have a pretty good reason for them: the state has a strict Zero-Emissions Vehicle regulation that forces car manufacturers to bring ‘green’ vehicles into the market. As a result, companies are looking for alternatives; Hyundai has launched its Tucson Fuel Cell Vehicle while Toyota and Honda are likely to release hydrogen powered vehicles next year.

Toyota is set to pull its RAV4-EV off the market which means it will only have the Prius Plug-In Hybrid as its ‘green’ representative. Toyota is known to be a sceptic of lithium-ion based technology and focuses on conventional hybrids. Yet other manufacturers are committed to electric car development with BMW releasing the i3 and i8 models. Even Volkswagen, known for being slow off the mark with EV technology, is coming into the market with its e-Golf and Bentley SUV plug-in hybrid.

Tesla is also about to release its Model X SUV in 2015 with a Model III likely to follow in 2016. Tesla is not offering any discounts however and its Model S can cost as much as $110,000!

Electric Car Infrastructure In London Falling Short Of The Mark

Although London has by far the largest number of electric car charging points in the UK, it was assembled so poorly and is being managed so haphazardly that it is in danger of falling apart. The network has more than 1,400 charging points but a number of them are out of service and will not be repaired in the near future. This is in spite of the fact that the network was sold off recently and is supposedly going to undergo expansion.

In some localities, there are more charging stations out of operation than in working order. At any one time there is likely to be at least one area in London where every charger is out of order. In Camden, they are finding it impossible to have more than 70% of points operating at once. Source London is responsible for repairing the points but is failing miserably at its job.

Toyota Electric Car Charging in London

Toyota Electric Car Charging in London. Source: Google UK

Fractured Network

Transport for London (TfL) set up Source London to manage the network of charging points and was sold for £1 million to a French company called IER. Source London blames the fact it has 66 scheme partners and half a dozen charger designs for the problems. According to a spokesman for the organisation, it may be necessary to replace some of the ‘obsolete’ charging points.

One of the big problems is that site ownership is split between a number of bodies including commercial property landlords, equipment manufacturers and London boroughs. As a result raising funds and deciding on who is responsible for fixing points are dual issues. According to Source London, it doesn’t have jurisdiction to fix points because the manufacturers of the chargers are responsible for their repair. Yet this is disputed by Pod Point and Chargemaster, two of these manufacturers.

Passing The Buck

Erik Fairbairn of Pod said that by acquiring Source London, IER made a commitment to pay for maintenance of the points yet there is no evidence of this happening at present. TfL may have sold the network but it is not coming to the fore to clear up this mess. Indeed, it has passed the buck by claiming members of the consortium are responsible for fixing the charging points.

While Pod Point claims funds are not used in the appropriate manner, Source London is blaming the boroughs for restricting access to the broken points. It says an agreement must be made to allow it to work on the infrastructure or replace obsolete points. IER is part of the Bollore Group in France which is a manufacturer of charging points; this makes it a direct rival of Chargemaster and Pod Point.

Unsurprisingly, it would appear as if money is the real issue. At present electric car owners only need to pay a £5 annual membership fee and can then charge their vehicles for free. Yet this small fee doesn’t cover the running cost, replacement cost and maintenance cost of the network. Each point costs from £2,500 to £10,000 to install and has a service life of 5-7 years.

Yet money should not be a problem in the long-term as Bollore is planning to increase the number of charging points. In 2018, there could be 5,000 points in London; this plan is supposed to support an electric car-share scheme which is already in operation in four French cities. Yet Bollore needs to sort out the short-term mess and ensure the existing charging points are running smoothly for EV drivers in the city. London needs a better charging point system to help it clean up the air.

Fast Charging Leads to Electric Car Boom

Electric cars appear to be making headway in the UK and around the world and the growth of these zero emissions vehicles has been described as a ‘revolution’ by Ecotricity. Electric car sales have passed the 10,000 mark in the UK and this figure is likely to rapidly increase due to the influx of new charging stations appearing on the nation’s motorways. Add in Government incentives to cut the cost of owning an electric car and you have a recipe for success.

Ecotricity says it has installed 170 superfast chargers along UK motorways which covers 90% of the network. These chargers will give up to 80% charge in just 20-30 minutes and while only 4,000 cars used the system in late 2013, almost 15,000 have used it by the end of June which is a clear indicator that motorists are switching to electric cars.

The found and chief executive of Ecotricity, Dale Vince, pointed out that it’s now possible to charge a car in 20 minutes when it took 8 hours not so long ago. According to Vince, now that electric cars are quickly charged, fun to drive, cheap to maintain and clean in terms of emissions, it is obvious they are the future of transport. It helps that those who use the Ecotricity stations are getting their electricity for free!

The Growth Of Electric Transport

Elon Musk’s Tesla is one of the biggest creators of electric cars in the world and its ultimate aim is to mass produce electric cars even though it currently targets the top end of the market. The company is looking to create car batteries in a factory powered by solar and wind power by 2020 and it will be increasing its number of superchargers available in the UK. At present, there are only four available.

According to Tesla’s Laura Hardy, you get 170 miles of charge in just half an hour which is enough time for motorists to have a relaxing coffee before going again. She stated that Tesla will have UK and Ireland route coverage by the end of 2015 along with a number of stations in London. The company is also planning to expand on its existing network of chargers in countries such as China. The Chinese plan to invest $16 billion in electric car chargers to help motorists overcome anxiety about range.

Is The Market Growing Too Quickly?

This seems like a preposterous notion but it appears to be the case in Norway where electric cars have been embraced like nowhere else. Norway has more electric cars on the road per capita than anywhere else in the world; only 5 million people live in Norway but there are three times more electric cars on their roads than in the UK!

The Nissan Leaf became the highest selling car in Norway for a month and electric cars account for approximately 13% of the car market. It is a nation with a great environmental awareness but one of the main reasons for the popularity of electric cars is the low price; electric cars are exempt from VAT and sales tax which means you can buy one for 50% the price of a traditional petrol vehicle.

The trouble is, electric cars are now clogging up Norway’s bus lanes as drivers of these vehicles are allowed use these lanes. It is a policy that has cost Norway €500 million and not every nation is willing to make the same investment.

In Germany, there are relatively few electric cars on the road because German manufacturers are slow to create these vehicles and there is a lack of incentive from the Government. Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer from Duisburg-Essen University famously joked that Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has as much chance of putting 100,000 cars on the moon when asked about the chances of her meeting the target of 1 million electric cars on German roads by 2020.

Electric Police Cars From Around The World

We’ve already reported that both Sussex and West Midlands Police Forces are adopting electric cars in the UK, but a quick search on Google Images and Google News and you’ll quickly find Police Forces from around the World have taken to electric police cars. Here’s a few we’ve chosen…

Germany

Mini electric police car

Mini electric police car. Image: Google UK

United Kingdom

Vehicle: Mitsubishi i-Miev

Mitsubishi i-Miev Electric Police Car

Mitsubishi i-Miev Electric Police Car. Image: Google UK

Portugal

Vehicle: Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf Electric Police Car

Nissan Leaf Electric Police Car. Image: Google UK

United States

Vehicle: Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S Electric Police Car

Tesla Model S Electric Police Car. Image: Google UK

Annual Global Electric Car Sales To Hit 1.8 Million By 2023

To date, the electric car revolution seems to be focused mainly on Europe and North America but new research shows that Asia is likely to become the leading market for EVs in the future. The study was conducted by Navigant Research and the company believes the annual sales of EVs will increase to 1.8 million around the world by 2023. This is massive increase compared to the estimated 350,000 electric cars that will be sold around the world in 2014.

electric car exhibition

Electric car exhibition. Image: Dreamstime.com

Vehicles suited to urban environments are becoming increasingly popular so plug-in and charge cars make perfect sense as they fit the demand. According to the report, almost 50,000 units will be sold annually in Tokyo alone with Los Angeles selling almost 40,000 and Paris selling around 25,000.

One of the company’s research analysts, Scott Shepard, said that electric vehicles are becoming more price-competitive and their level of availability was also increasing both in terms of vehicle segments outside of small and luxury car classes and geographically. He believes this is expanding the number of potential EV buyers beyond the narrow demographics associated with early adaptors to a wider market; a market that is similar to the hybrid vehicle market.

The report looked at fuel price comparisons and sales of electric vehicles in Asia, North America and Europe. Fuel costs of EVs and conventional vehicles are incorporated into the report with variations taken into account.

The largest electric car market is still North America with almost 100,000 units sold in 2013. In Europe, almost 50,000 units were sold and this represented a great year for the industry as it was essentially a 100% increase on 2012 figures. These sales figures are an indication that electric cars are indeed the future of transportation and once Asian consumers get on board, the market will really take off as prices of vehicles continue to fall.

Germany is not yet embracing the electric car

While Germany is a nation of car lovers, it has not yet embraced the electric car revolution. Perhaps this is because it is already the most fuel-efficient country in the world but the EV industry would benefit greatly if Germany got on board. According to experts, attempts to increase public interest are likely to fall on deaf ears.

German Autobahn road

The speed of the Autobahn is not a place for slower electric cars. Image: Google UK

Target

Back in 2009, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, set a target of 1 million electric cars on the road by 2020 which may prove difficult in a nation where there are motorways with no speed limit. Yet Alexander Dobrindt, Transport Minister, said he was confident the nation would reach that goal as he launched the German Government’s latest electromobility initiatives.

Yet Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, an expert at Duisburg-Essen University’s CAR Center for Automotive Research, believes this target is complete fantasy. He scoffed at the notion by saying it’s as likely as having 100,000 cars on the moon by 2020. At present, there are less than 17,000 EVs on German roads with 4 EVs for every 10,000 standard ones. This pales in comparison to France’s 10 in 10,000 ratio.

In Germany, owners of electric cars don’t have to pay road tax for 10 years but this incentive has cut little ice with the nation’s motorists. As a result, the Government revealed new draft legislation with the goal of giving the EV sector a much needed boost. The new initiative includes allowing electric car drivers to use inner-city bus lanes, free parking and the addition of new parking spaces close to recharging stations which can only be used by EVs.

Scepticism

Experts don’t believe the initiatives are enough because they are governed by municipal authorities. According to Stephan Articus of the Association of German Cities, ideas such as free parking and use of bus lanes are being met with scepticism by local towns and cities; not least the bus lane idea which would slow down public transport.

Matthias Wissmann, head of the VDA auto industry association, says the measures are not enough and must be followed up with more tax breaks for electric cars. The National Platform for Electromobility is a government advisory panel made up of representatives from research, industry, unions and politics and it is calling for tax cuts for companies with EVs in their fleet.

Yet the coalition government has ruled out financial aid such as bonuses for private car drivers. Valerie Wilms is the transport spokeswoman for Greens, the ecologist opposition party, and she says German carmakers are not advanced in this technology and this is why the Government is not acting. She believes it doesn’t want to favour foreign carmakers like Renault or Tesla. She continued by saying the Government must introduce incentives like they do in France and the United States or else the EV market will never grow.

A Slow Process

Germany is deemed to be the most energy efficient country in the world so one would imagine things will eventually change. German carmakers are beginning to get in on the EV act; Deimler has created an electric version of its Smart car, BMW has released the i3 and Volkswagen has created electric versions of its Golf and Mini models.

Yet BMW says the market is growing too slowly and lack of charging stations is a problem. For example, there are only 4,400 charging stations in Germany while France is due to have almost 16,000 by the end of 2014. Germany’s power companies want to get a share of the market but as they offer their own recharging system, it means drivers must find a compatible system when their car is running low on battery.

Dudenhoeffer said that Germans are not buying electric cars because of the long recharging time, low level of autonomy and high cost. He concluded by saying the latest Government initiatives do nothing to solve any of these problems.

Electric car leasing or buying?

Motorists have been put off by the relatively high prices of electric cars and this is one of the main reasons why this exciting form of transport has yet to take off. You may think that purchasing a used electric car is one way around the issue but in reality, a used car is not that much cheaper than a new one all told.

The Benefits Of Leasing

In the United States, the Government offers tax credits with the federal credit equivalent to around £4,500. This is known as ‘bottom line’ credit so if you’re not paying at least this much in federal taxes, you will not get the full benefit. In the UK, there is a Plug-In Grant worth up to £5,000 against the purchase of new electric cars which means you don’t get this for buying a second-hand model.

electric car charger

Electric car charger. Image: Dreamstime.com

The result is that people try to lease an electric car instead. A Nissan Leaf model will set you back over £16,000 and few people can afford that even with the aforementioned grant. The financing company that purchases the new car from the manufacturer may receive grants and can then pass down any savings to the lessee. Using the example of the Nissan Leaf above, you could pay around £200 a month along with a deposit of approximately £2,300 over a 4 year period. If you want to own the car at the end of the four year term, an optional payment of just over £6,300 must be made.

Used electric cars simply can’t compete with low lease rates and you will probably be paying a substantial sum of money for a car with tens of thousands of miles on the clock. When you add in the fact you don’t know how electric car batteries degrade over time, leasing makes far more sense than purchasing a second-hand car.

A Young Market

The electric car market is still in its infancy and there aren’t a huge array of brands to choose from as of yet. The main electric cars come from companies like Nissan, Volvo and Renault and they have only been on the market a few years. In 3-4 years time, we will have a much better idea of how the market works but for now, it would appear as if leasing an electric car is the best option if you can’t afford a brand new one straight away.

Six reasons why electric cars will rule the roads

Electric cars have been the subject of scepticism ever since they were first mooted. As electricity needs to be generated from another source of energy, it seemed to be an inefficient step in the process of energy conversion. According to experts, the result would be vehicles that are less efficient than the existing generation of vehicles powered by gasoline.

A Changing Trend

The Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are a pair of first-generation electric cars that were relatively unsuccessful in the first two years of release and it seemed as if motorists did not believe electric vehicles were capable of changing the transport landscape. Yet companies such as Volvo, Ford, Mitsubishi and BMW began to develop electric vehicles regularly so it suddenly became apparent than these legendary companies saw something in electric cars.

BMW Concept Electric Car

BMW Concept Electric Car. Image: Dreamstime.com

Electric Cars Are The Future

Manufacturers have very good reasons for developing electric cars that the general public are wholly unaware of. Below, we look at 6 reasons why electric cars are ultimately going to be the vehicle of choice for drivers of the future.

Efficiency

Electric vehicles are much better than traditional vehicles when it comes to turning energy into the amount of miles driven. Electric drivetrains are far more efficient than internal combustion engines (ICE) drivetrains. ICEs are limited by the heat cycle they operate under and there is no way past these basic limits. In contrast, even the first generation of electric cars can travel around 40 miles on 11 Kilowatt-hours (KWH) of electricity. When the average cost per KWH is taken into account, you could be looking at the equivalent of around 120 miles to the gallon. How does your car compare?

Greener

Electric cars consume around 33% of the energy of a gasoline-powered car in operation and are greener no matter what fuel is used to generate the electricity. The majority of a regular vehicle’s carbon production comes during operation rather than production. When electric cars are powered by solar, hydro, nuclear or wind energy, they produce zero carbon when operating.

Multiple Energy Sources: Electric cars can be powered by hydro, nuclear, wind, solar, biofuel and fossil fuel sources like natural gas, oil and coal. For nations that produce these energy sources, this is great news as electric cars can support their respective economies.

Easy Distribution

There is an effective and efficient distribution network for electricity in most developed nations and this compares favourably to next-gen vehicle fuels such as hydrogen and natural gas.

Range: Those who rally against electric cars say they don’t travel far enough on a single charge. The majority of motorists seldom go on journeys beyond 40 miles and electric cars of the future will be able to travel hundreds of miles before needing a charge. Electric cars with advanced designs allow you to carry fuel as per a normal vehicle which can be used to power the vehicle should you run out of electric charge. According to Chevy, drivers of the Volt travel 80% of their distance using the energy stored in the car’s battery and only use up a gallon of gas for every 177 miles they drive. For now, it is possible to use less fuel and have the unlimited range of a traditional car.

Versatile

Other next-gen vehicles will still use electric drivetrains to propel the cars. Even fuel cell cars will need an electric drivetrain so there is no getting away from the soon to be all-encompassing nature of electric cars.

Simply put, electric cars are set to dominate the landscape so you better get your head around it and embrace an era of greener transport!

electric cars, cars, auto, vehicles, hybrid