Electric Cars: Are We Ready in the UK?

Are we ready for an electric revolution? Motoring journalist Ginny Buckley investigates

In just 15 years’ time the government has said the sale of all new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars will be banned. 

But how ready are we to embrace electric cars? 

The number of new fully electric cars being sold went up by 175% in the first seven months of the year. But, that is still only 4.7 percent of total sales. So in tonight’s programme, motoring journalist Ginny Buckley speaks to experts, car manufacturers, and government Transport Secretary Grant Shapps about what can be done to quicken the move to cleaner vehicles. 

And one couple road tests an electric Mini to see how it copes (and how they cope!) with a trip from their home in Yorkshire to London.  

Marc and Diane from Yorkshire road test an electric Mini

A major survey with the AA

In a joint survey with the AA, ITV Tonight asked more than 17,000 people in the UK for their opinion on electric cars.

Tonight found that nearly half of the respondents would consider buying an electric car as their next vehicle. But a massive 82% of people said they thought electric cars were too expensive.

However, while electric cars tend to be more expensive to buy, the lower running costs could mean they are actually cheaper in the long term.

Lower running costs of electric cars could make them cheaper in the long term.

Research by car manufacturer Peugeot suggested that over an average distance of 145 miles, petrol and diesel drivers would spend a respective £16.50 and £14.90 in a family car.

By switching to the electric version, a similar journey would cost just £5.18 when using a standard home charge point, though it would cost more than that on most public chargers.

However, in Tonight’s study with the AA, two thirds of people said they would also be worried about battery range, while just over half were concerned about how long the car’s batteries will last. And the most common reason for not wanting an electric car was the concern about a lack of public charging points, with nearly 7 in 10 people (69%) stating this as a reason not to buy one.

Responding to this concern, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told reporter Ginny Buckley that: “we have more charging locations, than petrol stations, in this country now” but he conceded that there is still work to be done to make motorway charging easier and more widely available.Edmund King OBE, president of the AA, also raises the concern that most traditional rescue vehicles cannot charge up electric cars, and the majority of electric cars can’t be towed away because it could damage their motors - which could be particularly worrying for anyone who broke down on a smart motorway. 

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps says the future is electric.

“If an electric vehicle runs out of charge on a motorway, without a hard shoulder, that is very problematic,” he told Tonight, because it requires a large truck to remove it - “and if it's in a live lane, that can be incredibly dangerous.”

We've raised concerns about smart motorways anyway, because there aren't enough laybys. Normally in a regular car If you break down on a motorway, you can freewheel to the layby, if there is one, the hard shoulder, or to an emergency refuge area. In an electric vehicle, that is more difficult.

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps

Grant Shapps responded that the government was looking at this issue, as are the rescue services - which will usually provide electric vehicle users enough power to get to the nearest service area, where their vehicle can then be towed. 

 

Further results from the AA/Tonight survey

Women were more likely (49%) to say they would consider an electric car than men (46%), and younger respondents (aged 16-25) were most keen on buying an electric vehicle as their next car. Geographically, those living in London (56%) were most likely to consider purchasing an electric car as their next vehicle.

AA members were then asked about their level of agreement with a range of statements about electric cars. 

The top three most agreed with statements are as follows:

1. Electric cars are too expensive (82%)

2. Charging an electric car takes too long (58%)

3. The national grid won’t be able to cope if we all switch to electric cars (49%)

So what would encourage more people to buy an electric vehicle? The most popular answers here were - bring down the cost of buying an electric car so that it is comparable to a petrol or diesel version, increase the number of rapid charging hubs on motorways, and have more charging stations at places like supermarkets, leisure centres & shopping centres.