E-cars: unaffordable until 2030 (or later)
Big subsidies needed, even with double-price petrol
It'll take at least 20 years for electric cars to become an economic alternative to the gas-guzzling variety, according to a new study.
The total cost of ownership (TCO) for hybrids and pure electrics will stay high for the next two decades – despite soaring fuel prices – because of their hefty price tag, consultancy Element Energy said.
At 2010 prices, the TCO of environment-loving EVs came in at a whopping £20,000 more than fiendishly fuel-thirsty rides, when you remove government incentives and manufacturer discounts.
And even in 2030, you're likely to fork out more over the first four years of the car's life, with the premium for pure electric cars dropping to £3000 and the premium for hybrids reduced from £6800 to £2400. The study was commissioned by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership.
The UK government is trying to halve UK carbon emissions by 2025 and, according to WWF UK, it'll need 6.4 million EVs on the road by 2030 to do it. It has dole out grants of £5000 for EVs, to promote electric and hybrid cars to the masses, most of whom are struggling under recessionary pressures such as not-very-good-wages and rising household budgets. The study does not expect wide adoption of EVs without monetary incentives.
The only thing that could help carbon-curbing cars along - even if fuel rises to £3 a litre, double its price today - is for battery prices to fall drastically.
"Battery costs are required to drop below £68/kWh for EVs with a 240km range to be comparable to the internal combustion engine vehicle on a TCO basis in 2025. This is considerably lower than what most experts believe is likely or possible with current technology," the study said.
On the flip side, conventional engines are predicted to improve, reducing the contribution of fuel costs to the TCO. ®
They seriously think they can predict technology twenty years from now?
How do you plug in your car if you haven't got a garage?
Some questions from a noob...
How do you charge one of these without a garage conversion. Are they easy enough to remove so you can charge it up from a plug socket in your house? If not, they should be, otherwise where's the plan to put plug sockets in every car parking space (or at 10m intervals on every road without double yellow lines)?
And how long do these things need to charge? I wouldn't fancy trying to make a trip up the M1 in an electric vehicle. A 240km range is all well and good (no, actually it's shit compared to a 300mi range), but you're not going to get people to use them if they can't pull in, fill up and keep going without having to wait hours at Leicester Forest East.
How about standardising the batteries (if they aren't), making them easy to remove (if they aren't) and having service stations sell fully charged ones over the counter? You could have trade-in schemes, where you take out your spent batteries for a significant discount on another pre-charged one. The service station would then charge up your old one and sell it on to someone else.
Although, where is all the electricity coming from, if it isn't from burning large amounts of fossil fuels in a power station? Is there much of a net difference in emissions when factoring the 6.5m less fuel-burning cars against the increase in generated electricity to charge the batteries?
The law of unintended consequences
I bet most electric cars like the Nissan Leaf are purchased as second (or, more likely, third) vehicles by affluent Londoners looking to avoid congestion charging. The TCO doesn't look so bad when you're saving ten quid a day, maybe £2,500 per working year. Keep a Leaf for five years and it probably works out cheaper than a Micra, while having zero impact on congestion.