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Are electric cars the answer? The Dos and Don'ts of handling a fuel shortage

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September 30th 2021 info

Thirst sucks. It’s even worse when you can’t find something to drink. Now imagine a room full of thirsty people – it’s going to get confrontational and panicky.

Thankfully, the UK doesn’t have a water shortage. People aren’t thirsty. However, our cars have been, and people have gotten, well, very confrontational and panicky.

The UK has faced a nationwide shortage of both fuel and diesel for a number of reasons. After news leaked, petrol stations faced long queues and panic buying. Ultimately, people didn’t know what to do in a fuel shortage, so they panic bought. Thankfully, we’re here to explain what to do next time.

Here, we discuss why there is a fuel shortage in the UK, how to stay calm when it happens and whether electric cars are the solution to future fuel crises.

Why is there a fuel shortage in the UK?

So, why is there a fuel crisis in the UK? Is there even one? Is it just hyperbole? The short answer: yes, there is a fuel crisis, but not for the reasons you may think. So how did over 50% of forecourts currently end up dry, according to the Petrol Retailers Association?

The crisis is not a fuel shortage. It is, in fact, an issue in logistics. While there is not a shortage of fuel in the UK, there is a shortage of Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers. These drivers are responsible for delivering petrol and diesel across Britain.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) surveyed its members during the crisis, with results estimating that there is now 100,000 less HGV drivers in the UK. Drivers usually come from mainland Europe to fill the vacancies, but Brexit red tape has made this more difficult.

However, if people bought their usual amount, then we wouldn’t see such a problem with fuel shortage. Instead, reports of an HGV driver deficit has sparked panic and, in turn, a supply and demand issue.

A reduction of drivers has combined with increased demand to result in a lack of fuel across Britain. Some areas are worse than others, with metropolitan areas feeling the shortage the most.

What to do in a fuel shortage?

We’ve listed five simple points on what to do in a fuel shortage:

Chill out

Breathe. It’s okay. You don’t need to panic. The first step to solving this issue is not to panic buy. Usually, shortages like this only last a few days to a week. If you aren’t in an emergency, then you don’t need fuel.

Of course, this is much easier said than done. This measure is only effective if everyone does it, too. So what else can you do in a fuel shortage to stay calm and organised?

Only make essential journeys by car

It may seem obvious, but cutting out unnecessary journeys can save you a lot of fuel. Popping to the shop? Consider walking. Need to visit somewhere a little further away? Try biking.

These smaller journeys add up, and when fuel is at a premium, they can save you a lot of stress.

Close the cap, lighten your load and turn the engine off

If you do have to drive, you should take every step to save fuel when driving. If you don’t do this already, try to:

  • Ensure the petrol cap is fully closed. If the petrol cap isn’t 100% shut, you can lose a lot of petrol in the combustion process.
  • Turn your engine off when the car stops. A lot of modern cars have this built-in, but if you drive an older car. You should turn it off if you expect to stop for over a minute.
  • Poor tyre rolling resistance can result in a 15% loss in fuel efficiency. Check your tyres are in good health if you’re attempting to save on fuel.
  • Lightening your car load can save a significant amount of fuel.
  • Drive better. Okay, sorry, we know this is personal, but there is probably something in your driving you can improve. Sharp turns, sudden braking and uneven acceleration can make fuel usage less efficient.

Work from home (if possible)

Work from home if possible. For most people, we use our cars primarily for commutes. If you cut out commutes, then you save a lot of fuel.

Of course, working from home isn’t for everyone, but it’s a decent short-term option to wait until things blow over.

Don't fill up jerry cans

Please, don’t fill up jerry cans and store them in your home. If you’re going to fill your car up, then fair enough – it’s a safe way to do so. Jerry cans, on the other hand, are dangerous. They give off a lot of flammable fumes and present a major fire hazard if not stored properly.

It also means several other drivers go without fuel while yours remains unused.

What is the UK Government doing to combat fuel shortages?

The UK Government has set out a three-point solution to the fuel crisis. Currently, the plan involves:

  • A suspension of competition law between oil firms. This long-term solution aims to foster better communication about fuel supply between fuel giants.  This change will hopefully make it easier to highlight areas in need of urgent fuel.
  • Offering 5000 visas to Europe-based HGV drivers. These three-month visas will expire on Christmas Eve.
  • A simplification of the HGV licence process. The government has also sent out over one million letters to former HGV drivers and hopes to fast track 4000 novice drivers into work.

Response to these changes is mixed. However, if you use the tips above, you should be well-prepared for future shortages. Many drivers have skipped a few steps and have decided on a different path: going electric.

Are electric cars the answer?

Inevitably, the UK fuel crisis has sparked interest in electric cars. According to research, online searches for EV vehicles went up by 1500%, and Google Trends data showed a sharp rise for the term "electric car" as soon as the shortages began:

Wanting an electric car during supply crises makes sense. Now, questions like "are electric cars more fuel-efficient?" have become more frequent given the perceived scarcity of petrol and diesel. The question we should be asking, however, is: "Are electric cars the answer?"

If everyone had an electric car, there would, of course, be no fuel crisis. However, electric vehicles are typically more expensive than their petrol counterparts. We've covered the advantages and disadvantages of electric cars in electric car guide.

New petrol and diesel cars will be banned by 2030. However, the used car market will still provide solutions, and it isn't the role of buyers to end fuel crises: solutions are up to governments and suppliers.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

Charging an electric car overnight is, on the surface, easier than queueing at a rammed petrol station. However, there are two issues with electric car charging:

  1. Charging ports are still rare in the UK, though the situation is getting better.
  2. Fuel shortages in the UK are uncommon. The current petrol crisis in the UK is a rarity.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car compared to petrol, then? It is cheaper to run a car on electric than on petrol or diesel. However, the rate depends on whether you charge your car at home or on the street. At home is cheaper, but again, this varies depending on your electricity rates.

However, using existing rates, you can charge a 60kWh electric car for between £9.00 and £9.90 with 200 miles of range.

Relax: we have plenty of used cars on offer

All in all, the fuel crisis has been fueled by panic. By following good driving practices and common sense, most drivers can get through unscathed. The best place to start is with a reliable, efficient set of wheels.

We find you the best used cars from trustworthy dealers across the UK. That means all you need to do is browse, click and buy. It’s how car buying should be done.

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