Challenges for Electric Vehicle Production - Can we beat the pumps?

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1. Transition Time

The major switch from Petrol and Diesel to Electric is huge and is likely to take several years. The best selling car in the UK is the Tesla Model 3 which is an all-electric saloon car. However, electric car sales only amount to approximately 1.2% of all new cars sold here in the UK. People are also very sceptical about buying used electric vehicles out of fear of getting a vehicle out of warranty. This can incur huge bills as the battery life inevitably degrades over time.

Drivers are also concerned over the distance that electric cars will travel without needing a "Top-up". Charging points are few and far between and the government will need to quickly implement a larger network of fast charge points across the UK. The government also gain a huge amount of money from fuel duty that would be lost with more people using electric cars. No doubt, the cost of running an electric car will rise because the treasury will impose a duty somewhere to cover the loss of tax from petrol & diesel use.

The government are proposing that by 2040 there will be a ban on the new sale of petrol & diesel cars. Friends of the Earth and other like-minded MP's are looking to get this implemented by 2030.

2. Choice of Vehicles

There is a limited choice of all-electric vehicles. Most of which are not always the most aesthetically pleasing. The best looking models can be well over £50,000. There is a range of small E-Vans that can have company tax benefits, but the initial outlay is significantly more than a Diesel Van. You will need to calculate predicted mileage & fuel costs of a period of time to see if this is more cost-effective. Most manufacturers are producing affordable Hybrids which gives us the best of both worlds.

A brand new Tesla Model 3 costs about £37,000 for a very basic model. If you want it to kit it out with extras that you would get as standard with a Kia, you can expect to go well in excess of £50,000.

As demand for electric cars increase, we can predict that the cost of buying an electric vehicle will reduce significantly, but not any time soon.

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3. Technology

Lithium Ion batteries are used today for Electric cars, but they degrade after only a few years, just like your laptop does. Companies are developing a new Magnesium battery that is supposedly more robust, holds more energy and capable of a faster charge, but we have no real-world figures at this time. The claims of the effectiveness of this new battery technology could revolutionise the use of electric cars.

Charging points are also not convenient for some people that live in apartments, or properties without a private parking space. Let's imagine you live on a busy road of terrace houses and you return home from a long day at work to find that next-door neighbour is having friends over to stay and they have taken your usual spot. You can't run a cable 200 meters down the pathway to where you have had to park your car, but if you don't charge it, you have a problem getting to work in the morning. The solution for this kind of everyday issue is inconclusive.

Renault, in collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies and Vedecom has been developing a stretch of road that has an induction pad that runs in the middle of the road looking like King Kong's Scalextric track that constantly charges the vehicle as it drives along. It's unclear on how this could be implemented in British roads but the technology could be invaluable to the success of the electric car.

4. Who will Pay?

There are several charging points ran by private networks, some of which are subsidised by the Government to encourage the use of electric vehicles. If using GeniePoint, Polar Instant & Charge Your Car there is a connection fee which ranges from £0.50 to a whopping £3.50. Some services have a monthly charge fee and you can expect to pay per kWh. It seems that you can only get cheaper motoring as opposed to Petrol or Diesel if you only charge your car at home. However, an intermediate 22kW Solo Charger can cost £1500 as an initial install fee at your home. You can get a Government grant that can reduce this payment to £999 if you meet certain criteria. The criteria is

You have dedicated off-street parking.

Your plug-in vehicle was purchased after 1st October 2016.

You have not already claimed the grant for your vehicle.

By claiming the grant, you are not exceeding the limit of two OLEV funded chargepoints per household.

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5. Electric is not Zero Carbon!

Electric Vehicles are certainly not a zero-carbon solution. Although there is no direct pollution from an Exhaust pipe, we still need to calculate other factors. Although a huge effort is being made to generate Electricity from Solar Fields, Tidal & Wind Farms, the majority of Energy is still generated in a conventional Coal-fired power station. We also use Nuclear stations, but that's another kettle of (three-eyed) fish. If everyone switched to electric vehicles, there would not be enough energy to be distributed across the grid. The demand for electric will far too much for our current infrastructure to cope with.

Another consideration is the production of batteries. At the moment, the battery technology uses Lithium. Lithium is a precious metal and can only be mined in certain parts of the world. The carbon cost of extracting this precious metal is huge, let's not forget we also need to recycle these batteries too.

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