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Debunking common myths about electric vehicles

Chris Jackson, Centrica's Head of Fleet Partnerships, separates fact from fiction to challenge eight EV myths.

You can get a shock from driving your electric car through a car wash!  That's one of the most ridiculous myths about EVs, which can be easily dismissed. Electric vehicles can, in fact, withstand any downpour due to careful protection and robust stress testing of both electrical components and batteries.

There are also many other false beliefs surrounding the transition to electric vehicles. In this blog, Chris Jackson, Centrica's Head of Fleet Partnerships, separates fact from fiction to challenge 8 popular myths.

1. EVs are slower than ICE vehicles

The only similarity between an EV and a milk float is that both are powered by electricity. In fact, electric vehicles feel faster than their internal combustion engine (ICE) equivalents due to quicker acceleration. That's because the electric motor immediately maximises torque, without any need to 'rev-up' first and build speed.

For proof, you only have to look through the many online drag race videos to see hundreds of examples of electric cars leaving their petrol counterparts, even hyper-cars, in their wake.

2. Electric vehicles are more expensive than petrol and diesel vehicles

Although, the purchase price of a new electric vehicle is currently higher than its petrol or diesel equivalent, this is offset by lower running costs and other factors, such as tax benefits and grants.

The UK government provides a plug-in vehicle purchase grant of £2,500 for vehicles under £35,000. In addition, workplace charging grants of up to £14,000 are available plus £350 towards installing home charge points.

When you factor in the total cost of ownership and account for all the fixed and variable costs of motoring, lifetime EV costs can compare very favourably to ICE vehicles.  

You also have to consider potential future price pressures on fossil fuelled motoring, such as higher fuel duties and taxes, lower resale values, and penalties for driving ICE cars and vans in increasing numbers of clean air zones.

In our experience of switching to an electric fleet, when you factor in lower maintenance requirements and fuel savings, it's cheaper overall. We’ve been really impressed with the reliability of our vans and cars. Afterall, EVs have fewer mechanical parts than ICE vehicles so there’s less that can go wrong. 

Falling prices

The list price of EVs is already falling and is expected to reduce further as the market scales and competition increases in the run-up to the UK's 2030 ban on sales of new ICE vehicles.

For company car drivers, EV is a financial no-brainer as there's just 1% tax to pay for the 2021-22 financial year, which is maintained at 2% from 2022 through to 2025. That generally equates to £300 to £500 less tax per month than for ICE drivers, who’ll pay up to 37% tax, dependent on the vehicle's emissions rating. 

The second hand EV market is key to increasing affordability for all motorists and this will be driven by fleets, who are the earliest adopters of EV and tend to replace cars and vans on a 3-5 year cycle. We expect this market to develop in the next few years when large volumes of used fleet EVs will become available.

3. There's not enough charge points

Around 75% of UK homes have access to off-street parking and can use affordable long-dwell home charging for most of their mileage needs. This also gives drivers an opportunity to recharge off peak when power prices are lowest and start the day with a full battery.

Thanks to funding,  both home and workplace charge point installation, is scaling fast. It's on-street and rapid public charging infrastructure that is currently patchier. With a total of 20,775 public charge points currently installed across the UK, most urban areas are reasonably well served, but provision is lacking in certain places, particularly rural communities.

The recent  Energy White Paper has set out a plan to invest £1.3 billion to accelerate the rollout of EV charging points, including £500 million for  rapid charging hubs along the UK's strategic road network.  However, it's essential for Local Authorities to carefully plan and coordinate public EV infrastructure for residents without driveways. Research by Field Dynamics demonstrates that on-street EV infrastructure needs can be met without significant infrastructure costs by strategic placing of chargers. The report cites Brighton and Hove, where 139 chargers provide good access to 67% of its on-street households.

As a leading charge point installer, we understand the importance of rolling out national EV infrastructure at pace.  We've already installed more than 17,000 electric vehicle charge points – ranging from 3.5kW to ultra fast 350kW. During the next year we plan to install an additional 23,000 more.  We're also focusing on increasing the sophistication of our charging technologies to increase speed and cost efficiency, as well as providing innovative software solutions and apps to make things easier for drivers.

 

4. EVs are no good for long distance journeys

Admittedly, public charging facilities are not currently as prolific and visible as petrol stations, but there's already enough coverage to get around the UK. There's no need to suffer from 'range anxiety' if you plan your journey ahead and adjust your mindset to accept the need to have a pit stop on long journeys. This is an opportunity to have a comfort break, get something to drink or eat and catch up on calls and emails. 

While the rapid charging network is increasing, auto manufacturers are also increasing battery range. Newer high-performance vehicles come with 80 kWh - 100 kWh (or even higher) batteries, which cover over 300 miles and can recover around 80% of that range in under 30 minutes when using the latest high-power chargers. 

Centrica is contributing to the long-term fast charging solution. We've partnered with Ionity to install 350kW charging points at Extra Motorway Services, where next-generation vehicles will be able to charge in less than 20 minutes using 100% renewable energy. We're also working with numerous other partners, including Councils, motor companies such as FordLotus and Volkswagen.

5. Electric cars take too long to charge

There's actually nothing quicker than EV charging because it takes seconds to plug it in and then you walk away!  If you're charging at work or at home, there's no 'downtime' at all. You simply get on with your evening at home or morning in the office, then unplug and drive off when you're done.

Using public charging takes up more of your time, but the solution is to use that time productively.  For the 20? minutes it takes to complete an ultra-rapid charge, you can run a few errands. If you're using slower speed public charging, it's a case of planning ahead so that you plug-in while you're out shopping, at the gym, or having lunch, etc. More and more shopping and leisure centres are installing charge points to help attract customers, so there will be plenty of other things to do while you're waiting.

According to the Department of Transport, in 2019 the average car trip in England was 8.4 miles, so many drivers only need to charge once a week or less.

6. The power grid won't cope with the extra energy demand from electric transport

The National Grid has said that even in the unlikely event of a mass switch to EV overnight, overall electricity demand would increase by around 10%, which is well within the range of manageable load fluctuation.

Our electricity network is transforming to allow much higher volumes of variable renewables (such as wind and solar power) onto the grid and to manage increasing electricity demand - both from EVs and the electrification of heat.

Balancing the grid is being driven by flexibility and there are exciting opportunities to use vehicle batteries as part of this solution. Smart chargers already make it possible to optimise the time of charging, so that it takes place when network demand and prices are lowest.  In this way, drivers can save money while helping to de-constrain the grid and maximise the use of renewables in the energy mix

In future, Vehicle 2 Grid (V2G) will enable drivers to get paid for 'filling-up' by selling surplus energy back to the grid.

In partnership with Vauxhall, we're leading the way by integrating time-of-use renewable energy tariffs into charger installations, including 'free green miles' credit. We've also launched a fleet smart charging management app that makes reimbursement easy and  features tariff optimisation. This enables drivers to charge when  power prices are lowest from any standard charge point.

7. Electric vehicles aren't much greener than ICE vehicles

Analysis from not-for-profit Transport & Environment (T&E) reveals that average lifetime CO2 emissions from electric cars sold in Europe in 2020 are almost 3 times less than equivalent petrol/diesel cars.

T&E calculated that an average medium-sized EU car emits around 90gCO₂e/km over its lifetime, compared to 234gCO₂e/km for an equivalent diesel vehicle and 253gCO₂e/km for petrol.

Furthermore, the green performance of EVs will continue to improve in line with electricity decarbonisation.  T&E's modelling shows that by 2030 an average medium electric car will be 4.5 times cleaner than its petrol equivalent.  Researchers also state that greater battery recycling and smart charging, including V2G, could further improve emissions performance.

Reducing air pollution

Sustainable transportation isn't just about carbon reduction.  Unlike EVs, which emit zero NOx emissions, ICE vehicles are a major cause of air pollution from NOx. Public Health England estimates that air pollution causes between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths each year.

8. Car batteries quickly lose performance and end up in landfill waste

A major difference between the lithium ion batteries used in electric vehicles and mobile phones is that active thermal management is used to protect the long-term performance of EV batteries. This ensures that they are slow to degrade. Most manufacturers provide battery warranties of 7-8 years (or around 100k miles), but batteries should last longer than this and even outlive the lifespan of the vehicle.

Continual advances in battery technologies means that degradation is reducing all the time and battery life should stretch well beyond warranty deadlines. Drivers can play their part in improving efficiency by avoiding draining the battery completely and then fully recharging. It’s typically recommend to charge to 80% at public rapid chargers for the purposes of optimising the journey time spent charging, and never reduce the range to zero miles.

Furthermore, EV batteries can have a second life for use in energy storage systems for buildings, and then ultimately recycled (98% of components can be extracted and re-used).

Complete support for your EV transition

Centrica Business Solutions has launched the most comprehensive single-supplier customer electric vehicle (EV) offer to date. Our solution for Fleets leverages our own transition experience and in-house technology and capabilities to help organisations save time and maximise efficiencies.

With our EV Enablement solution your organisation will be able to address the operational implications relating to evolving national infrastructure, range restrictions along preferred routes and accurate reimbursement of driver energy costs; simplifying the transition with an integrated system for vehicles, infrastructure, energy and optimisation.

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