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E-cars: unaffordable until 2030 (or later)

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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. ®

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