For many drivers, the prospect of a fully electric car is both scary and exciting. Not only do some electric cars perform considerably better than gas-powered cars, but they are also much cheaper to run in the long term.
Unfortunately, there are some downsides to going fully electric. Long charging times and range anxiety aside, electric cars currently rely on an interconnected network of charging points to be a viable mode of daily transport.
Is a fully electric future possible? Are there enough charging stations for electric cars? And what are the costs involved? Find out as our motor experts discuss whether electric cars could viably replace their petrol counterparts.
Electric car challenges
On average, electric cars currently top out at a maximum range of around 200 miles. Petrol cars, however, have an average mileage of 300 miles for every full tank. While the gap between the two is closing, gas-powered cars have one clear advantage: filling stations.
Charging an electric car takes substantially longer than simply filling a tank of petrol. The most common charging speed available at the moment is between 7-22kW which takes between 4-10 hours to fully charge a car from zero capacity. Gas-powered vehicles, however, can have their tanks filled in a matter of seconds.
There’s also the challenge of availability. In the UK, roughly 8,380 stations are selling both petrol and diesel. The average station has around 4-6 pumps, which gives a total of approximately 33,000 and 50,000 individual filling points.
As of 2021, there are now over 45,000 individual charging connectors in the UK, with only around 11,000 of those connectors able to fully charge a car in less than an hour.
This means that while electric cars are driving change, it is currently much more convenient to drive a petrol car.
As part of our ongoing effort to analyse the motoring industry, we recently undertook some research into consumer attitudes towards car buying. The most drastic statistic we found was that 73% of consumers see charging as a major barrier preventing them from going electric. With availability continually rising, it’s not just where we charge that matters, it’s also how long that charging will take.
Signs of change
According to Zap Map, there are currently just under 26,115 electric car charging stations in the UK. This is over twice as many as there were in 2018, and nearly four times the amount from 2016.
As the UK’s recent fuel crisis has shown, there are far fewer logistical issues involved with electric car charging. While thousands queued up to fill their cars, electric drivers were able to comfortably charge their cars without facing any mass queuing or high demand.
If this trend is set to continue, it is highly likely that as the demand for electric cars grows, so will the availability of charging points across the globe.
The advantages of going electric
Even though the UK’s gas-powered network is currently larger than its electric one, electric vehicles have some clear advantages that can help them pull ahead as time goes on.
Other than filling up a small jerry can full of fuel, the ability to fill your car with gas while at home is nigh on impossible. This is not the case for electric vehicles, with owners having the ability to fit charging points at their homes for an upfront fee.
Electric car charging points cost roughly £800-900 to install. However, those in the UK are also entitled to the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS), which provides funding towards 75% of the cost of a new charging point installation, up to a maximum contribution of £350.
Reduced environmental impact
While manufacturing an electric car uses a similar amount of energy and resources as a gas-powered one, over time, electric vehicles have a substantially lower impact on the environment.
It’s no secret that gas-powered vehicles release harmful fumes into our atmosphere. These fumes cause damage to our planet’s ecosystem and further raise the risk of global warming. In the United States, cars and trucks contribute one-fifth of the country’s overall global warming pollution. By using a renewable, sustainable source of energy, electric vehicles cause significantly fewer problems for the environment.
Research undertaken by Carbon Brief has shown that as of 2019, the amount of emissions from electric vehicles in the UK were around 3x less than conventional gas-powered cars. However, electric cars do face their own problems with sustainability under the guise of lithium mining.
Much like modern smartphones, electric vehicles are powered by lithium-ion batteries. These batteries utilise the electrochemical properties of metallic lithium that enable them to be continually recharged. To develop these batteries, lithium is mined from saltwater by using all sorts of machinery, before it is processed until the lithium is suitable for use in batteries. This progression causes a variety of consequential environmental issues from a depletion in water supply, to causing a disruption to the earth’s natural environment.
Fortunately, used cars do not face this issue as there is no fresh lithium mining involved.
Electric vehicles are largely driven by a motor that receives power from high-capacity lithium-ion batteries. This means there are no oil changes, fewer chances of engine failure, and a reduced number of moving parts. With charging, servicing and maintenance included, studies show that electric cars cost 23% less to run than petrol cars.
All of which means that electric vehicles are much less prone to mechanical failure.
Electric cars receive instantaneous torque from the second the accelerator is depressed. This allows them to accelerate much faster than gas-powered cars and, over time, has meant that electric cars have made significant gains in the performance department.
For example, the Tesla Model S Plaid edition is one of the fastest production vehicles ever made with a 0-60mph time of just under two seconds.
The chances of a fully electric future
With the upcoming ban on new petrol cars in 2030 alongside the many clear advantages that electric cars provide, we believe that the future is heading towards being electric. That said, used petrol and diesel cars are definitely in the here and now, and are still a sound investment.
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