The AA has revealed that a tiny fraction of the emergency assistance calls it receives from electric car owners is due to them running out of charge, despite the wider perception that it is a common occurrence.
The breakdown provider said 99 per cent of motorists are overly concerned about EV ranges and overestimate how common it is for them to drain their batteries to empty, in a new report released on World EV Day.
AA president, Edmund King, says battery electric car ranges are ‘far better than drivers think’ and should not – along with concerns about not being able to reach a charge point – put people off buying them.
On the day earmarked to celebrate electric vehicles and promote their benefits, we examine the latest reports into what would make them more appealing to drivers…
What’s stopping you from buying an electric car? As the AA says only a fraction of EVs breakdown due to running out of charge and range anxiety is a thing of the past, we celebrate World EV Day 2021 to examine what might be stopping drivers from making the switch
In 2020, the AA says it attended around 13,000 electric vehicle breakdowns in total.
Fewer than 4 per cent of these were for vehicles running out of charge – a figure that has halved in the last few years, due to latest models having extended ranges and public charging infrastructure growing, though not as quickly as some would like.
But despite this statistic, only 1 per cent of 14,500 drivers polled by the motoring group could correctly estimate the infrequency of this issue, with the average guess being two thirds (65 per cent) of all EV breakdowns due to the main driving battery running out.
The reality is that the top two causes of EV breakdowns are the exact same as petrol and diesel cars – issues with tyres and the smaller 12-volt battery (not the one driving the wheels).
Drivers were also asked what they believed to be the average distance an EV could travel on a single charge, with a quarter correctly identifying a range of up to 200 miles.
Only 6 per cent were expecting less than 100 miles from a single charge, which is fairly uncommon for any electric model on sale currently.
In fact, Volvo recently announced it is developing electric cars batteries for 2030 that will allow them to travel for 621 miles on a single charge.
‘The reality is far better than drivers think, with very few EVs failing to reach a chargepoint,’ King says.
‘As more chargepoints, especially rapid chargers, are installed across the country the number of cars failing to reach one will further reduce, providing more confidence to drivers to help them make the switch.’
The RAC also confirmed that it experiences a very low volume of breakdown callouts for EVs running out of charge.
However, it admits to have come across plenty of cases of drivers growing frustrated when reaching chargepoints that are out of use and then don’t have ample range to reach the next-closest device to them.
Director of EVs, Sarah Winward-Kotecha, said: ‘While the number of drivers running out of charge is currently small, it remains the case that every year thousands of drivers of petrol and diesel cars still run out of fuel.
‘By this token, it’s fair to say there will inevitably be some drivers who will run the ‘EV range gauntlet’ and end up stranded.
‘We also know that even today sadly some drivers are reaching public charge points only to find to their frustration they’re out of order, and they then don’t have enough charge to get to a working one.
‘We’ve also been to the rescue of drivers whose home chargers haven’t worked properly.’
With the AA attempting to bust the myth that EVs regularly breakdown due to running out of charge, This is Money looks at what drivers really want in order for them to make the shift to electric car ownership…
Electric cars: How popular are they today?
With the Government signalling the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 – and hybrids from 2035 – the reality is that many drivers will have little choice but to buy an electric vehicle in less than a decade’s time.
Already there are around 260,000 pure electric models on the road in the UK, though this is just a fraction of the 31.7 million cars registered in total.
Sales are on the rise, though. According to the latest industry figures, 92,420 EVs have been bought in the UK this year (to the end of August) with year-on-year demand growing more than 100 per cent.
Still, that’s only half as many diesel models purchased in 2021, with 180,670 oil burners registered so far this year.
Demand for pure EVs is growing by more than 100% year-on-year, but still only half as many are being registered compared to diesels (and mild hybrid diesels). Source: SMMT
Electric cars: ‘They’re too expensive to buy’… but for how long?
The biggest factor preventing more people buying electric cars today isn’t range anxiety or poor infrastructure but their upfront cost, according to a recent study by Direct Line Motor Insurance.
A poll of 2,000 UK adults found that a third (32 per cent) that don’t already own an EV say a premium price is what’s preventing them from making the switch, with the same percentage believing they’re also more expensive to run than an equivalent petrol car.
While electric cars remain at a premium over a similar-size model with an internal combustion engine, the cost difference is shrinking.
In fact, a report published by BloombergNEF earlier this year says that by 2027, EVs will cost the same as a petrol or diesel car. This is mostly down to falling battery costs as demand grows and technology and manufacturing improves.
The BloombergNEF report says the driving factor behind EVs becoming cheaper than petrol cars is the lower cost of batteries, estimated to be 58% lower in 2030 than they are currently
Green campaign group Transport & Environment says it will take slightly longer for smaller EVs to be less expensive than compact petrol cars compared to the crossover in affordability for larger vehicles
In the meantime, the UK Government has committed to continue subsiding the purchase of new zero-emission models via the Plug-in Car Grant for the short-term future.
However, in March MPs cut the grant amount to £2,500 and made it only available for models prices up to £35,000.
Electric cars: Are they already cheaper to own than petrol or diesel models?
Direct Line says EVs actually cost £107 a year less than a petrol car over a lifetime – and costs are predicted to continue decreasing.
On average, a new electric vehicle would cost £3,752 a year over the course of its life, which the insurer says is 14 years.
In the same period, a new petrol car will cost £3,858 annually, despite the higher purchase cost for electric vehicles, which is eventually offset by lower running costs, as well as tax and maintenance being cheaper.
And the insurer isn’t the only one saying they’re already more affordable for the long run.
Reports suggest electric cars will be as cheap to buy as petrol or diesels by 2027 and are already less expensive to run and offer lower insurance premiums
Volkswagen Financial Services UK claims they can cost around half as much to run as petrol and diesel cars, with average annual running costs of £866 when taking into account maintenance, charging versus refuelling, tax, insurance and congestion charges.
This is a whopping £711 cheaper than a comparable petrol car (£1,577 annual cost) and a substantial £640 less expensive than a diesel car (£1,508 annual cost).
The cost of insurance for EVs has already fallen below petrol and diesels in the last couple of years.
The average annual premium for electric vehicles has dropped to £566 in the first quarter on 2021, down from £641 in the previous three months, according to data from Compare the Market.
Now, electric vehicles are typically £45 cheaper to insure than petrol and diesel alternatives.
That said, this gap has narrowed substantially compared to the last three months of 2020, with petrol and diesel models seeing bigger falls in cost – though this is likely pandemic related due to less use and lower mileage.
Electric cars: Do we need more chargers?
Without hesitation, the answer to this question is ultimately yes. And infrastructure needs to grow hand-in-hand – if not pre-empt – demand for EVs to ensure there are enough devices to go round.
Direct Line’s recent study found that claims of a lack of access to charging points away from home (20 per cent) and access to charging points at home (16 per cent) were the next most common reasons why drivers aren’t considering an EV just yet.
One of the key issues currently is the postcode lottery for public charge point availability.
Analysis of the provision of electric vehicle chargers by parliamentary constituencies by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) found that some locations are well supplied while others are severely lacking.
The constituencies across the country with the fewest public charging facilities are Birmingham Perry Barr and the Rhondda, which both have none at all.
At the other end of the scale, Glasgow Central and Leeds Central have the greatest proportion of public charging points per 100 electric vehicles, boasting 139 and 127 respectively, more than the number of electric cars on the roads.
Liverpool Riverside and Coventry North East also have more chargers than vehicles.
A recent report by Transport Focus found that drivers of EVs believe the charging experience is the biggest drawback of ownership.
This is Money EV charging guides
Users want charging electric vehicles to be just as easy as filling up a petrol or diesel car and identified what improvements are needed to achieve this.
Owners called for better maintained charging points and more of them to meet demand.
They also want the industry to simplify and improve information on planning trips and charging as well as tackle the various complications around charging such as different providers.
Interestingly, nearly a third (31 per cent) of motorists recently polled by Direct Line said they would be happy for an electric vehicle public charging point to be installed outside their home.
Electric cars: How will they be taxed in the future?
With fully electric cars currently exempt from the CO2 emissions-based Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) and therefore leaving a multi-billion-pound hole in Treasury coffers each year, drivers have been asked how they would like EVs taxed in the future.
A flat annual tax that is equal across all makes and models was voted as the most suitable method by a third of the 1,796 drivers who took part in a What Car? poll in August.
Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) said they would like to see road charging introduced, where owners are charged per mile driven. A progressive annual tax based on the car’s original list price was favoured by 18 per cent, while another 18 per cent preferred a progressive annual tax based on the vehicle’s battery size.
One issue the Government is yet to resolve around EVs is how they are going to tax drivers in the future. With VED currently based on CO2 emissions and battery cars producing zero carbon dioxide, motorists have called for a flat-rate tax system to be introduced
Seven-out-of-10 drivers said they would already like to see electric vehicles pay road tax while 30 per cent in favour of keeping EVs tax-free. Just over a third want them taxed by 2030 when new petrol and diesel cars are banned, while 12 per cent want them taxed by 2025.
Steve Huntingford, editor, What Car?, said: ‘One of the big questions the Government will need to answer in the future is how to change Vehicle Excise Duty. Current fully electric vehicles are tax exempt, leaving a growing hole in the Treasury’s books.
‘Tax exemption is helping drive the uptake of electric vehicles, but the Treasury will need to strike a balance in the future as petrol and diesel ownership declines. Our research, based on feedback from current drivers, shows the public is most in favour of a flat, equal tax across all electric vehicles in the future.’
Electric cars: Are they safe?
Despite concerns that vehicles loaded with batteries could be a potential fire hazard, Euro NCAP – the company that specialises in crash testing all new motors – says they’re among the safest cars on the road.
Of the 17 EV and hybrid models it has assessed in the last two years, 14 have scored the highest five-star ratings. The three that didn’t were awarded four stars.
The Audi Q4 e-tron is one of the latest electric cars to ace Euro NCAP’s crash tests with a five-star rating
Electric cars: Who is most likely to buy them now?
Despite all the worries about EV ownership listed above, around half (49 per cent) of all motorists – the equivalent of 18 million people – said they would be happy to own one either now or in the future.
For the under-35s the number who are keen to go electric now or in the future rises to 64 per cent with 28 per cent happy to own one now.
Ian Exworth, at Direct Line, said: ‘Electric cars are rapidly becoming an accepted part of the driving landscape as demonstrated by the number of electric vehicles we now see on the roads.
‘Millions are open to owning an electric vehicle, which is brilliant, but many are still understandably concerned about factors such as cost and infrastructure availability.’
Electric cars: What does the ideal EV look like?
To mark World EV Day, Autovia – a group of motoring publications – created their own vision of the perfect electric car that blends the best qualities of today’s existing EVs in one model.
The EV-21 concept imagined is based on the best features of existing cars from MG, Lexus, Audi, Porsche, Citroen, BMW, Honda, Mercedes, Mini and Vauxhall.
Its pricing and servicing would be based on MG’s models, with its MG5 EV starting at £26,495 after the Plug-in Car Grant has been deducted, and would benefit from Lexus’ 10-year or 100,000 mile warranty.
This is Autovia’s vision for the perfect electric car in 2021 by amalgamating the best features of EVs on sale today
The EV would charge as fast as an Audi e-tron GT but also be as practical as a Citroen e-Berlingo.
The interior is inspired by the BMW i3, ride comfort replicating Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 and the Mercedes EQS’s range, which is 479 miles between charges – more than the distance by road from London to Glasgow.
In terms of performance, it has the potency of the £2million Rimac Nevera, with 1,914bhp from four electric motors, a sub-two second 0-to-60mph time and a 254mph top speed.
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