Tuesday 2nd Aug 2016
Not so long ago, electric cars were either glorified golf buggies capable of 25mph max, or sleek sports cars only driven by the likes of George Clooney.
Now, there are more than 1.25m electric cars on the world’s roads, including over 60k in the UK. More than 30 different models are now on sale here for a range of budgets, from the Peugeot iOn and the Citroën C-Zero (each starting at £16,995) to the BMW i8 (£100k plus).
Richard Branson might have been getting ahead of himself when he said that ‘The day everyone drives electric cars isn't far away’, but sales are rising – and fast. In 2011, 1,056 new electric cars were registered. By 2015, that number had soared to 28,188. And this year has seen further growth, so much so that roughly one in every 70 new cars registered so far in 2016 has been electric.
So what's driving these sales?
According to a 2013 study for the Department for Transport, the main reasons people choose electric cars break down into three broad categories: financial, environmental and technological – in that order.
It’s perhaps a bit surprising that financial reasons should come ahead of combating climate change and air pollution, especially given the high upfront cost compared to the equivalent petrol car. However, if you can afford to pay more at the outset, you can really reap the benefits later, saving on petrol money, Vehicle Excise Duty and congestion charges.
Plus, there are a number of government schemes that can sweeten the deal further, including the ‘plug-in car grant’ – which gives buyers up to £4,500 towards the price of the car – and the ‘Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme’ – which pays for 75% of the cost of buying and installing a charge point up to £500, meaning customers can get one in their home for around £300.
So what puts people off?
Other than the price tag, another common barrier is ‘range anxiety', as people worry about how far they’ll get without having to recharge.
There are also concerns about their reliability - George Clooney got fed up with his Tesla breaking down, telling them to “Make it work, one way or another."
But, as so often with new technology, a lot of it comes down to a lack of information and a wariness of the unfamiliar, and many of these concerns will be reduced as the technology and education on it improves.
Both the Nissan Leaf and the Renault Zoe can now get 150 miles on a single charge; more and more charging points are spreading through town centres and at motorway service stations; and – crucially – prices are coming down. The growth in sales is sure to continue.