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The Veteran had his first Electric Vehicle experience over Christmas. It didn't go well, which sparked his investigative mind into life.
The hype around Electric Vehicles as The Future™ could soon hit the wall of reality... 👇
Just before the New Year, we were fortunate enough to be able to visit friends of ours who live on the other side of London. Covid restrictions and busy schedules had meant that we hadn’t seen each other for 15 months, and of course, much had changed in that time.
We boys were working out of home offices in garden buildings and both families had new cars. Our host had a very smart all-electric SUV whilst ours is still powered by a petrol engine.
Over the course of pre-dinner drinks, I picked my chums brain about his EV experience, he'd had the car for about a month at that point.
I was fully expecting him to extoll its virtues. After all, a £70,000 motor should be something to feel happy about. I got a completely different (and unexpected) negative reaction from him.
The first bug bear was range. The manufacturer claims it can do 300 miles on a full charge. However, my friend explained in real-world driving conditions you can easily haircut that figure by almost 20%, cutting the range to something like 250 miles....
"...as long as it isn’t cold"
Apparently, if the air temperature is below 6c then you'd be lucky to get 150 miles out of the car even if it was fully charged.
"unless you have heated seats or climate control on"
In fact, any kind of comfort saps away miles from the range. Even turning up the brightness on the inbuilt displays will sap the range by as much as 10 miles per item on any kind of lengthy journey.
By this point, my face looked something like this 👇
I then asked about charging the batteries en route. That was another can of worms altogether. Finding a charger is not easy. Although there are apps that highlight their location and whether they are in service or not, it seems they are not accurate.
Even in just a month of electric motoring James (as we'll call my host), had found that many chargers shown to be in service on the apps were actually out of order.
Then we turned to the matter of what type of chargers are available. They seem to fall into three types:
- Nissan EVs that have a different connection and capacity to other EVs
- Universal Slow Chargers
- Universal Fast Chargers
Presuming the app leads you to an active charging stop, the worst scenario (apart from finding no active chargers at all), is to find ONLY slow chargers available...
And there's a queue....
A slow charger can take an hour to properly recharge batteries. Even if you were second in the queue you could be there for two hours...
James drove his new car on the 320-mile round trip (via Motorways and major A roads) to collect his father and bring him home for Christmas.
I found it very telling that he didn’t take it on the return journey preferring instead to take his wife’s ageing petrol-driven run-around instead.
All the way home I was thinking about how we take our cars for granted. How they start in the coldest conditions, how they rarely break down and with 8000 petrol stations spread across the UK how accessible fuel for ICE Vehicles is.
We have come to rely on our cars and the infrastructure that supports them. If James' experience is anything to go by that just isn’t the case for EVs currently, and certainly not if you are planning a long journey.
If you just drive around town or on local journeys and recharge on your drive at night then you may never have a problem.
Range Anxiety is real
What if you have a two or three-hour drive to the airport early in the morning, or are heading off to Europe via the Le shuttle. Could you feel confident about the trip? I don’t think you could currently.
The UK Government has set a deadline for the end of sales of new ICE-powered vehicles: 2030.
That deadline is just 8 years away and seems far too close given the current state of EV technology and infrastructure.
So, those are my contentions based on purely anecdotal evidence. Lets see if we can substantiate them...
Installation of chargers in the UK.
The Telegraph covered that very subject in early January here. 👇
They report an RAC study showing that 75% of new chargers being installed are classed as non-rapid, meaning it can take an hour or more for cars to get a decent charge from them.
“RAC analysis of government figures on new chargers showed that over the first three-quarters of 2021 4,109 non-rapid chargers were installed compared with 1,043 rapid and ultra-rapid chargers.”
“The Government responded saying the UK now has the largest network of rapid chargers in Europe. Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has previously pledged to make the charging of electric vehicles as easy as filling up at a petrol station.”
I am forced to question whether that statement about fast chargers is true. If it is then the situation is more dire than I first thought.
I will leave the last word on this to Sarah Winward-Kotecha, the RAC's director of electric vehicles:
“The number of public chargers isn’t yet keeping pace with the volume of new electric cars coming onto the road, and most devices being installed are still slower ones.”
Last year saw a big jump in registrations (and presumably sales) of Electric Vehicles 👇
Of course, the elephant in the room that nobody wants to address is that home-charging won't suit everyone.
Not everyone lives in a house with their own drive. Many live in terraced houses, flats or other accommodation unsuited to the installation of charging points.
Here's a breakdown of the UK housing stock as of 2017
- 5.95 million flats
- 7.13 million terraced houses
Potentially 13 million dwellings that might be unsuitable or not have ready access to kerbside or on drive charging.
Now of course that’s a crude calculation and many of these properties may have facilities or space to install them. There will also be households that don’t and won’t own a car...
So let’s trim that figure by 25%. We're still left with 9.75 million households.
Given that car ownership in the UK is 1.2 vehicles per household, there could be as many as 11.7 million EVs looking for a place to charge.
If we further assume that they would aim for a full charge once per week that’s 1.67 million charges per day.
Given that it can take up to 8 hours to fully charge an EV even on a fast charger, that would mean only three EVs could use a charger in a day. To meet that demand the UK would need 556,000 public charging points.
Admittedly this is back of an envelope maths and an extreme example!
So let's strip it right down to the other extreme and say that those 11.7 million vehicles will access a charging point for just 1 hour per day 3 times per week.
That equates to 35.1 million charging sessions of 1 hour, per week.
If we had 10,000 freely available charging stations each one would need to be used 3500 times per week to meet demand.
Unfortunately there are only 138 hours in a week.
So, in fact, we'd need around 255 thousand charging points and a nation of insomniacs to make this work.
And as this recent Reuters article highlighted UK local authority budgets are already hard-pressed, and they have other spending priorities well ahead of the installation of kerbside chargers. 👇
Of course technology will improve.
Batteries will come with a far greater range and storage capacity. The need to charge regularly will greatly diminish but that won’t happen at scale within 8 years.
Which means a huge mismatch between the EV maker marketing blurb, government deadlines, and the reality on the ground.
Something will have to give soon or it will all end up in a horrible mess.
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