The internal combustion engine is dead. Long live electric vehicles.
The UK has come a long way in a short time on electric vehicles. The country ranks third in Europe for the total number of electric vehicles, with the number of plug-in cars on the road now over 390,000, up from just 3,500 in 2013. This represents around 1% of the market and sales have grown. increased by 21% last time. single year.
The future is not easy to predict. UK network National Grid thinks the stock of electric vehicles could be between 2.5 and 10.5 million by 2030 – a wide range, but the measures in place are encouraging.
The rise of electric vehicles can be attributed to a number of factors: more electric car models than ever; lower costs and higher consumer demand. The clear drivers for European governments are the twin factors of air pollution, with particular urgency post-pandemic, and the climate crisis. This means that the days of the internal combustion engine are limited. France, Britain, Denmark and Spain have all set target dates to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars within the next 10 to 20 years and other countries are expected to follow.
Leading this transformation is Norway, where there is a series of incentives for electric vehicles dating back to the 1990s, including: no annual road tax or import duties; a 25% VAT exemption; free parking; and compensation for the scrapping of fossil fuel vans, among others. These strong incentives transformed the Norwegian market; in 2019, 56% of all new cars were electric or plug-in hybrid.
Norway may be in the lead, but other European nations are working hard to catch up. Green think tank Transport & Environment recently published an analysis which found that 10% of all new cars in the European Union could be electric in 2020, rising to 15% in 2021. This is largely due to the rush to meet strict EU carbon emission standards over the next year.
There is palpable excitement within the industry as companies begin to innovate, invest and overcome barriers that are holding the market back. For a very long time, one of the common concerns with electric vehicles was the fear of running out of power during a journey, known as “range anxiety”. Many people may think this is still a problem. Today’s Cornwall Insight analysis found the average electric car in the UK can now travel over 200 miles on a single charge. And new Tesla models can comfortably exceed 300 miles, which is starting to put range anxiety in the rearview mirror.
The next concern is where and how people can charge on the go and the availability and affordability of public charging. The number of charging stations in the UK now exceeds 35,000 and 210,000 across Europe. Increased infrastructure investment has seen the number of fast charging stations in the UK rise from around 3,000 in 2013 to over 19,000 today, with an additional 9,000 for fast and super-fast chargers . These new devices reduce charging time to less than 30 minutes, a significant improvement in just a few years. The average stop at a petrol station lasts up to 27 minutes, which mimics the average time spent on a long journey to “refuel”.
Thus, electric vehicles are moving from the realm of innovators to early adopters of technology, which means that the technology will have to be accessible and cheaper to buy. This is where the scale of networks and models will be important. After that, manufacturers and networks will have to tackle the more conservative parts of the market, where drivers will demand more from the service, such as being able to reserve charging stations to guarantee access. The transformation will be abrupt and there is still a long way to go.
The right investment will see EVs transform society: cleaner air, green jobs and grid-supporting home charging. What we’ve seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s hope those icebergs don’t melt before we see ambition become reality.