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Why I’m not in a hurry to go electric

In recent years, we have been hearing about the environment and ‘climate change’ almost non-stop. It has intensified in the last year or so with jobless idiots blocking roads and then wondering why normal people trying to drive to work aren’t best pleased. Then there are those (extremist or otherwise) who would rather everyone used public transport.

However, for people who can’t use (or don’t fancy) the bus or train, electric cars are often proferred as the next best thing. Regardless of one’s personal view on ‘climate change’ and other purported environmental issues, here are some of the reasons I don’t consider them to be a viable option, at least not yet.

INFRASTRUCTURE (OR LACK THEREOF)

It’s true that there are an increasing number of electric vehicle (EV) charging points available from various places. I visit my nearest two cities (Aberdeen and Dundee) regularly and there are some petrol stations which have electric facilities, in addition to all the charging points in public car parks, at shopping centres etc. If you live in a city and only go a few short journeys per day, it might be feasible. However, I’d argue there aren’t anything like enough charging points available for a mass switch to EVs at the moment. The government has started to work towards this, however it isn’t there yet and I can see it being quite some time before ‘everyone’ could move to electric cars.

WHAT IF YOU DON’T HAVE A DRIVEWAY?

The infrastructure problem might be partially solved by getting people to install a charging point at their home. At the time of writing, the government is offering drivers up to £350 towards this. However, it will only be suitable for those who have driveways or some other form of off-street parking.

Up until a couple of months ago I lived in a flat with no parking attached to it. There was only a public car park across the road, which was fine for normal use, but there wouldn’t have been any way to install a charging point or to run cables from the flat to the car if I’d wanted to go down the EV route. I would imagine there will be countless other people up and down the country who will face that same scenario. This comes back to the problem of the lack of charging points — if you can’t install one at home, you need to use one somewhere else, which means more ‘public’ ones will be required.

RANGE AND CHARGE TIMES

My perception of EVs is that they take a long time to charge, and then don’t go very far once they are charged up. There have been improvements made on the charging front, however even rapid chargers still take around 20–30 minutes to charge a vehicle. They are rarer than standard charging points and more difficult (and costlier) to install. It is also the case that not all EVs are compatible with them. So there are still vehicles which require several hours to charge. This is another thing which adds to the number of charging points we need. If they are taken up for several hours with one vehicle, we will need more in order to get more vehicles charged at the same time.

Then there is the range to consider. This varies considerably between different makes and models but for modern EVs, it can be anything from around 130 miles to over 400. As with the mpg figures of old, you probably won’t get exactly what the manufacturers claim. Still, if you’re an older person who just drives to the supermarket or coffee shop and couple of times a week, it’s probably OK. On the other hand, if you have a lengthy commute or need to do more running about, it might present issues. Me personally, until I can charge an EV in less than 10 minutes and have it go the same distance as my diesel car does with a full tank, I won’t be getting one.

HOW MUCH?

Even if we can get over the charging point, range and time issues, there is still the cost of EVs to consider. Again, the government has made some investment in this and at the time of writing, are offering grants of up to £2,500 towards certain new EVs. For a lot of people, myself included, this still doesn’t make purchasing a new vehicle possible. The most expensive car I’ve bought is a 7 year old Audi A1 for just shy of £6,000 and even that was financed over a 3 year period. Before that, the other cars I’ve had have typically been older and cost somewhere between £1,000 and £3,000.

I would need to wait until used EVs were cheap enough to be that sort of price. However, I’d imagine that by the time they are that old, the battery will at least be on its way out, if not already in need of replacement. I don’t have an exact cost for this, however it will certainly be into the thousands, possibly more than the cars are worth by that stage.

HOW ARE THEY GOING TO BE TAXED?

At the moment, EVs tend to be zero-rated for Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) in the UK due to the lack of emissions, and because the government wants to encourage more take-up of them. In the future, things may be different. There have been news stories recently suggesting that once more people have EVs, the government will need to introduce some form of road tax for them. This is one thing, however what has bee mooted so far is charging per mile.

There are a number of possible methods for this but in any event, some form of keeping track of how of many miles everyone drives will be needed. This could develop into a kind of government surveillance, in which they have details of when and where people have been driving. As someone with fairly libertarian views, I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable with this. The pay by mile idea may never actually come to fruition and I definitely don’t want to make anyone panic about something that might never happen. However, it is something to be borne in mind.

MECHANICING AS A HOBBY

As a car enthusiast, a big part of the fun for me is being able to carry out servicing and repairs myself. For many years, my dad and I have been working on our own and other family members’ cars and it’s something we really enjoy doing together. If we all swapped to EVs, this just wouldn’t be possible. The risk of electrocution if you make a mistake would render it too dangerous for hobbyists like us. Again, I would imagine there are a lot of other people in the same situation. EVs would therefore take a lot of the fun out of owning a car. Granted you may be able to have a second car with a conventional engine for a weekend toy, but this won’t be affordable for everyone.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’m just one car enthusiast from the North of Scotland. I can’t speak for anyone else, but personally I’m not in a hurry to go electric. EVs cost too much, there aren’t enough places to charge them, they don’t go long enough on one charge, I can’t fix them myself and they might even end up with the government keeping track of my movements.

Unless Boris wants to buy me an Audi e-tron (or even a VW e-Golf), I’m not getting rid of my diesel car just yet. It might be that at some point in the future an EV is a possible option but at the moment, it’s not for me.

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