There is no doubt that the electric car market in the UK and around the world is set to grow exponentially over the next few years as the move from fossil fuels to more eco-friendly power continues. However, while many believe that the introduction of a whole host of attention grabbing and headline grabbing new electric cars has broken the back of problems in the past, this may not yet be the case. So how does the worldwide electric car market look today and what can you expect for the future?
Electric car market
We have seen a whole host of leading car manufacturers joining the electric car market over the last few years and the amount of money already invested into the industry ensures it will eventually be a success. Governments and local authorities have also put their weight behind the movement and various penalties and fines to be dished out by the European Union in relation to environmental issues has also added to the fray. So we have the cars, we have the manufacturers, we have the tax incentives, and now governments around the world are looking to improve the market and also increase the number of vehicles on the road. So what is one of the major stumbling blocks?
Charging your electric car
There is no doubt that at this moment in time there are major concerns regarding the number of electric car charging points up and down the UK and around the world. While there are very few people who would leave their home and wonder where the next petrol or diesel station was, the same cannot be said of those using electric cars, with a need to plan their journey in great detail to ensure they will not run out of fuel. So what are the options with regards to charging your electric car?
Charging facilities available
Many people would be surprised to learn that there are three levels in relation to charging batteries for electric cars.
Level one charging
Level one car charging is a simple regular 110 volt garage outlet which will take between eight and 14 hours to charge an electric car. However, the prolonged use of the car charger will place some strain on the home electrical system and could cause problems in the long run.
Level two charging
Level two charging requires the use of a 240 volt charging system which can fully charge a standard electric car in between four and six hours. This is a specialised charging system although the time-saving is there for all to see.
Level three charging
As you would expect, level three car charging is by far and away the quickest, with the ability to recharge the standard electric car to 80% capacity within half an hour or possibly less. So we have the three basic options at the moment which can be made available in your home or at any other public location.
The main problem with regards to car charging points in and around the home is the cost, which can be anything from a few hundred pounds to literally thousands of pounds. These systems will also place an emphasis on the electrical systems within your house which may need updated at an additional cost. So while the idea of a car charging network around the country is one which is certainly being taken into consideration by individuals, companies, local authorities and the government, there is still some way to go to ensure there are enough recharging stations to ensure a smooth ride.
Public awareness of car charging facilities
Over the last few months we have seen major advertising with regards to car charging plans for London and other areas of the UK which have caught the attention of the driving public. However, if you ask the majority of drivers in the UK where their nearest electric car charging station was, you can pretty much guarantee that 99% would be unaware of the location. Indeed, there are many drivers who will have no clue as to where there are any car charging facilities up and down the UK.
The truth is there are literally hundreds of electric car charging points available to the public even at this early stage of the development of the electric car industry. As a consequence, we need to see more media coverage, more government advertising and more public awareness of facilities which are available at the moment, at significant cost to the public and the government. It will be interesting to see which major companies up and down the UK decide to look towards the electric car market and charging facilities as there were rumours that Tesco and some other large retail outlets were looking towards incorporating car charging facilities at some of their larger shops.
Many people were hoping that garages up and down the UK would look towards the electric car market and offer charging points to their customers but it is difficult to see how this can be made financially viable in the short to medium term. Despite the fact that the cost of recharging an electric car will be but a fraction of the cost of filling a petrol or diesel tank, there is an expense which needs to be covered. If electric car users were to stop at stations up and down the UK, with many expected to be free of charge, there would need to be other attractions to ensure that companies and individuals continue to push for the installation of new car charging facilities.
Over the last few months we have seen more and more articles in the regular press with regards to electric cars and indeed a number of journalists and car enthusiasts have undergone significant journeys, for example between London and Edinburgh, to test out the facilities available and whether in fact it is possible to travel the length and breadth of the UK in an electric car. Surprisingly enough, all of the challenges undertaken in electric cars have been successful when people have done their homework and gained access to a map of electric car charging stations around the country.
Even if you are unaware of electric car charging points in your region, the chances are that the local authority has undertaken investment in this sector or else encouraged companies to step forward. There are very few local authorities in the UK, under pressure from the UK government, who have yet to look towards the implementation of electric car charging stations in their area. The trick now is to make sure that these pilot schemes gain major coverage in the national and the local press and investment in the systems is made to pay. Whether the economic downturn in the UK, and indeed around the world, will slow down the implementation of electric car charging points remains to be seen but there is no doubt that the industry itself is moving into a relatively new area of growth.
What came first? The chicken or the egg?
One of the age-old questions in relation to the UK, and indeed the worldwide, electric car market is the need to ensure there are enough points to recharge your vehicle while making investment in the industry, whether this is cars or charging points, as cost-effective and commercial as possible. The truth is that no company or individual will invest in any charging stations in their area, with the government and the authorities looking for free access initially, if there is no endgame and benefit in the longer term.
Thankfully the UK government has stepped forward with a number of tax incentives to ensure that more and more people will consider electric, or indeed hybrid, cars in the future, which will increase the requirement for more recharging stations and ultimately lead to more cars. We need to take a two pronged approach to the UK electric car market, both ensuring there are enough vehicles on the road to make the industry profitable as well as enough charging points to make journeys less stressful and more enjoyable.
Demand for electric cars
Over the last few years we have seen demand for electric cars hitting new highs with vehicles such as the Nissan LEAF catching the eye of many in the UK and around the world. There is no doubt that the major car manufacturers around the world have "gone past the point of no return" and they have invested far too much money to go back on their word to the government and environmentally friendly groups who have been calling for more electric cars for many years. There is also no doubt that the technology related to electric cars and electric car charging points is very much at an early stage and will only improve here on in.
As demand increases and the technology improves, the cost of electric vehicles and charging points is almost certain to drop in the medium to longer term, we will see a staged phase-out of petrol and diesel vehicles although this may take decades to conclude. There will be no tipping point in relation to the switch from traditional vehicles to electric vehicles although the rising cost of petrol, directly linked to the cost of oil, may well play into the hands of governments and local authorities around the world.
The cost of refuelling your electric car
The cost of refuelling an electric car is minimal compared to the cost of petrol and diesel even before the recent rise in prices. As a consequence there will be a natural transfer from more traditional petrol/diesel vehicles to electric cars in the future and with more economies of scale and improvements in technology the cost of refuelling your electric car is likely to fall in the medium to longer term than rise. This will place more pressure upon the National Grid in the UK and require the authorities to produce more electricity than they ever have done although ultimately this should be far less harmful to the environment and save motorists significant money in the future.
Car charging system
We have discussed the more traditional level I, level II and level III car charging systems above but are also a number of innovative ideas under consideration. Electric car charging stations powered by wind, solar and other natural resources will also ensure a much quicker rollout to the more rural areas of the UK and they will also reduce damage to the environment. The ability to literally pick up and move a car charging facility to any area of the country, if powered by solar, wind or some other natural resource, could be priceless.
There's also the ability to introduce these naturally powered charging stations to the consumer market and allow people to set up their own car charging facilities at home. The truth is that there are many options available now and there will be many more in the future, in relation to electric cars, charging options and the cost of entering the market.
On a smaller scale than required, there is no doubt that more and more people are now considering electric cars for the future and there are new electric car charging stations popping up on a regular basis. One of the main problems the industry has at the moment, and has had for sometime, is media coverage aimed at the public. We have seen the various environmentally friendly issues discussed in great detail, we have heard about the potential savings in fines from the EU and environmental issues, but could you hand on heart explain the cost savings for consumers and businesses in the UK?
The UK government and many companies around the UK, and indeed around the world, have invested significant money into the electric car market and the electric car charging station arena. Tax savings, economic issues, technological advances and the reduction in the cost of transport in the UK are all very prominent factors which will continue to push the electric car market in the short, medium and longer term. However, winning the hearts and minds of the UK motorist and the worldwide motorist will be the biggest challenge for the authorities and those in the sector.
Once the initial stigma attached to electric vehicles disappears we should see even better growth and better sales.