Electric vehicles – FAQs2021-06-04T13:08:27+01:00

Common questions about EVs

The switch to electric vehicles represents a real revolution in car technology, after more than 100 years dominated by the internal combustion engine.

While it’s a really exciting opportunity to significantly reduce our environmental impacts and improve air quality, understandably there are some common questions, misconceptions and concerns raised about transport going electric.

Here are our answers to some of the concerns we hear.

Electric Car charging in Dalston
How much will it cost me to switch to an EV?2021-04-08T10:19:50+01:00

Just as with petrol and diesel vehicles, the cost of buying and driving an EV varies widely depending on the vehicle’s make and model. The great news is there’s a rapidly expanding range of new models to choose from, plus a maturing secondhand market, so increasingly there are realistic switching options for all.

While the headline cost of EVs can certainly appear high, prices are reducing as the market develops. When taking decisions it’s also vital to remember that:

  • increasingly many people choose not purchase a car outright, but rather opt for a monthly lease agreement
  • the true lifetime cost of the vehicle needs to be worked out based on how it will be used, including the fuel cost for recharging, insurance, tax and maintenance

UK car tax – officially termed Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) – is based on a car’s official tail-pipe CO2 emissions. Since April 2020 zero emission EVs (BEVs) are zero-rated standard tax for both the first year and all subsequent years, meaning that you won’t pay any road tax on a pure electric vehicle.

Finding EV insurance has become far easier and more competitive than when the plug-in car market was first emerging, no longer relying on cover from only a handful of specialist firms.

Electricity costs are much less than petrol or diesel, so there are significant ‘fuel’ savings while driving the vehicle. Where and when you charge determines how much you’ll pay. While home charging is undoubtedly the cheapest for drivers able to benefit from off-street parking, costs for public chargepoints can vary considerably based on speed and location, so it certainly pays to plan ahead to get the best deal. EV drivers can also benefit from reduced or zero fees for entering congestion zones or ultra-low emission zones in urban areas, offering yet another saving.

When it comes to maintenance, there are also considerable savings to be gained. While powering a car using a motor and battery might seem like new technology, it’s actually a relatively simple set up. Unlike an internal combustion engine, EVs have very few moving parts, so there’s no oil to change, no gaskets or spark plugs to replace, no valves to clog up and so on. So that’s all less to go wrong!

What is the real world driving range for an EV?2021-04-08T10:20:37+01:00

How far an EV can travel on a single charge differs from make and model. With improving battery technology and an expanding range of models available, most EVs now have a significant range to comfortably suit most people’s daily journeys.

The best new models will offer up to 300 miles of range per charge, which is not far off what you’d expect from a tank of petrol. Even 2nd hand cars may typically offer a range of 80-150 miles, which is still ample for most people’s weekly commuting needs, bearing in mind cars can be charged overnight ready for the next day’s use.

For occasional longer trips, most drivers are likely to stop en route at least every couple of hours, so it’s then just a case of planning ahead to incorporate EV charging into your journey stops for relaxation, refreshments, exercise, etc.

Vehicle manufacturers publish their rated range data, however actual driving performance in the real world does vary based on a wide range of factors.

For instance batteries perform best in the heat, so during colder winter months you’ll get less energy from the battery, and the EV’s effective range can reduce by up to 20%.

Driving behaviour also plays an important part. There are a number of ways you can maximise the range of your EV, including accelerating softly, controlling top speed, selective use of air conditioning / space heating, and even making route choices which minimise power consumption.

While for some the risk of running out of electricity has given rise to the phrase ‘range anxiety’, with a little planning this should never need to happen, particularly with the rapidly expanding public chargepoint network across the UK.

How can I charge up an EV?2021-06-01T13:50:14+01:00

As the switch to EVs accelerates, there’s an expanding range of charging options available. These range from installing home charging for drivers with off-street parking, to public charging at locations such as car parks, workplaces, electric forecourts, community buildings, supermarkets and hospitality businesses. The most widely used reference for finding public chargepoints is ZapMap [www.zapmap.com].

Charging speed for electric cars is measured in kilowatts (kW), and chargepoints can vary between 3kW slow chargers up to 150kW+ super rapid chargers. Note that the actual maximum charging speed you’re able to receive may be limited by your vehicle’s onboard charger.

For those with private driverways or garages, dedicated home chargepoints give residents complete convenience without needing to divert to a ‘filling station’. Home charging will also undoubtedly be the cheapest option, able to take advantage of flexible energy tariffs to charge at the lowest rates overnight. A home charger is a compact weatherproof wall-mounted unit, installed by qualified specialist installers. Home chargers will typically charge your car at 3.7kW or 7kW, giving about 15-30 miles of range per hour of charge, so are ideal for a full recharge overnight.

As of 2021, the UK government is offering grants of up to £350 to help eligible residents or businesses with the cost of installing home or workplace charging [https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/government-grants-for-low-emission-vehicles].

When out and about, drivers are understandably keen to make best use of any ‘dwell time’ while charging. Therefore advanced planning makes great sense, combining charging with parking at work, a shopping trip, or a meal out – if so this can mean the charging effectively takes little or no time, given it’s part of your existing lifestyle anyway. Many businesses such as hotels, cafes and pubs are already installing chargers as an added facility for their customers.

Are EVs actually any better for the environment?2021-06-01T13:49:37+01:00

Given that around 25-30% of the UK’s CO2 is emitted from travel, electrifying our transport networks is crucial to national targets for achieving net zero emissions. This means a phased switch from the petrol and diesel vehicle technologies which we’ve all become very familiar with over more than a century.

EVs are responsible for considerably lower emissions over their full lifetime, as compared to conventional (internal combustion engine) vehicles. However, while EVs themselves may have zero emissions from the power source while they’re on the road, of course there are still significant environmental impacts from:

  • manufacturing the vehicle, particularly the battery
  • generating power to charge the vehicle, given it runs on electricity which in many parts of the world may still be using fossil fuel sources
  • pollutants from wearing components like tyres and brakes (just as from petrol and diesel cars)

Manufacture of an EV is similar to that of a regular car, requiring many of the same raw materials to be mined, processed and transported during assembly and production. Of course the big difference is the carbon footprint of the lithium-ion battery; producing the batteries for electric cars requires additional resources and energy, particularly as batteries become larger to extend the vehicle range, so EVs may have a larger environmental footprint from the production phase. However depending on the vehicle model and how it’s used, this excess carbon ‘debt’ could be repaid after less than two years of driving.

Once an EV battery is no longer capable of powering a car, so called ‘second-use’ schemes can still reuse the battery for energy storage in the home, workplace or electricity network. Renewable energies such as wind or solar power can all be stored in EV batteries, helping balance out the electricity grid’s supply and demand. If a battery cannot be readily reused, the next alternative is disassembly and recycling, recovering and reusing the battery’s valuable minerals used rather than mining more.

Ultimately EVs are only as green as the electricity that powers them, so it makes sense to charge from renewable energy sources wherever possible. This could mean installing a solar PV array & battery storage at home, switching to a green energy tariff, or looking for public chargepoints powered by renewable energy. Finally EVs significantly reduce air pollution, so are far better for our general health and well-being. Traffic noise along our roads is also hugely reduced.

Are EV batteries ethical?2021-06-10T13:29:04+01:00

An overall transition to clean electric energy is a vital part of reducing carbon emissions to address climate change.

In 2020 the UK government reported that transport remains the UK’s largest carbon emitting sector, responsible for 28% of domestic greenhouse gas emissions, with road traffic as the most significant source of transport emissions, in particular passenger cars.

Therefore the switch to electric vehicles (EVs) is principally to meet net zero carbon emission targets, plus to significantly reduce air pollution from road transport and the associated impacts on human health.

As the mass switch to EVs gains momentum, understandably there are questions about the way vehicles and their components are produced. CAfS strongly agrees that these are legitimate concerns which must be addressed by governments and manufacturers.

While many aspects of EV design and construction remain the same as for existing petrol and diesel vehicles, clearly the batteries and electric drive train are the most obvious differences. EV batteries are larger and heavier than those in regular cars, and are made up of several hundred individual lithium-ion cells.

Of particular concern is ethical sourcing of the often hazardous materials needed for EV batteries, including:

– the working conditions for those employed

– reports of possible widespread use of child labour

– the broader environmental impact of mining

As the switch to EVs accelerates, so will global demand for vital raw materials such as cobolt and lithium used in large-scale battery manufacture. Although other sources are being developed, currently the known reserves of these metals are highly concentrated in just a few countries, with nearly 50% of world cobalt reserves in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and 58% of lithium reserves in Chile.

While the supply of these materials represents a massive economic opportunity for these countries, and can be of direct benefit to local communities, obviously this must not be at the expense of human welfare or the natural environment. Meeting climate targets, improving air quality, and delivering an equitable transition to EVs across Cumbria, should never be based on unsafe and unjust practices elsewhere in the world.

A just transition to electric transport puts a direct responsibility on auto manufacturers to identify, assess and thoroughly regulate their supply chains, to ensure materials are extracted and sourced in an ethical and sustainable manner, including fully safeguarding all those employed. This critical obligation increases in importance as the world moves at scale to electric mobility.

Clearly there is also a central leadership role for governments to properly regulate the global automotive industry, including ensuring legislation is adequate and appropriate to secure robust human and environmental protections.

In a Feb 2021 statement Amnesty International again emphasised that ensuring clean and green battery supply chains must be a top priority for businesses and governments during the post-pandemic recovery.

A step change in battery use for EVs also raises important questions about how batteries and their components will be reused or recycled.

Whilst battery performance generally declines slightly over time, even after batteries cease to be used in vehicles there are growing opportunities for ‘second use’ applications as stationary energy storage devices, including an important role in helping to level out spikes in electricity supply and demand.

There is also an emerging industry to responsibly dismantle automotive batteries and reuse the materials, the aim being that over time this becomes more commercially attractive than mining new metals in a maturing EV market.

To tackle climate change, shouldn’t we all just be ditching our cars and using public transport?2021-06-01T13:52:14+01:00

While EVs may be considerably better for the planet over their full lifespan, clearly they do still have a significant environmental impact. Therefore widespread personal vehicle ownership needs to be positioned within a ‘sustainable transport hierarchy’.

We all have choices on where and how we travel, and for shorter journeys active travel such as walking and cycling is by far the greenest option (as well as providing benefits of healthy exercise!).

Where this may not be realistic, public transport such as the bus and train networks are our next best option environmentally.

Nonetheless in reality the car has obviously become central to our lifestyles over the past century, and particularly in a rural county like Cumbria there can often be little practical alternative.

Where we do still need to use a car, various forms of car sharing or members’ car club schemes can be a way of making most effective use of each vehicle, given that most cars generally sit idle for at least 90% of the time. This could help reduce the number of vehicles which need to be manufactured, and that then eventually have to be scrapped afterwards!

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