Electric Vehicles

For a quick introduction to Electric Vehicles, here we provide a summary of the types of vehicle and their benefits. In addition there is a fuller guide available as a PDF download.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has worked with a number of organisations across the automotive, transport infrastructure and energy sectors to produce a thorough and authoritative introduction to Electric Vehicles and all the issues surrounding them.

    • Hybrid EVs (HEVs): currently cost around a fifth more than an equivalent petrol or diesel vehicle, due to the additional cost of the battery, electric motor and associated equipment. Hybrids have high fuel efficiency in city driving but this advantage dwindles on high speed roads where battery weight impacts on fuel consumption. Policy makers view hybrids as a short-term bridging technology, being superseded by plug-in hybrid and full EVs.
    • Plug-In Hybrid EVs (PHEVs): hailed as the new generation of hybrid vehicles, they are primarily used for short journeys powered by the on-board battery and achieve significant greenhouse gas emission savings. The two main barriers to their current uptake are battery technology and the availability of a widespread recharging infrastructure. Improving the access to a network of recharging posts is a key aim of EValu8.
    • ‘Full’ Battery EVs (BEVs): they face similar barriers to widespread adoption as plug-in hybrid EVs, with infrastructure, public perception and battery issues all magnified. Batteries are the major technological barrier to EV commercialisation. The leading battery chemistry for EVs in the short to medium-term is lithium ion. It is expected that BEVs will achieve dramatic CO2 reductions as the UK and other nations decarbonise their electricity supplies.
    • Extended Range EVs (E-REVs): primarily an EV but also utilising a small internal combustion engine driven alternator to generate electricity. This differs from normal hybrids as the primary drive is always via the electric motor. E-REVs are seen by many as the ultimate goal for EVs, due to their high efficiency and ability to be topped up with conventional fuel when required. This removed ‘range anxiety’ for even the longest journey. E-REVs have a range of around 40 miles using battery power alone, with a total range in excess of 300 miles.

There are just over a thousand first generation EVs, including Citroen Berlingo’s. EValu8 will however act as a catalyst, providing the recharging infrastructure to enable many more people and businesses to buy and operate the next generation of mass produced EVs as a viable alternative for the majority of every day journeys.

Citroen, Mercedes Benz, Renault, Nissan, Ford, Peugeot, Mitsubishi, GM, Vauxhall, Subaru and many other main stream manufacturers all have EVs which will reach our showrooms starting from now, with many more in the pipeline. These include commercial as well as saloon cars.

A broad range of EVs are available to buy, ranging from city cars like the Mitsubishi iMiEv, the Peugeot Ion and the Citroen C-Zero to family saloons such as the new Nissan Leaf EV and the new Toyota plug-in-Prius, to executive vehicles like the Renault Fluence and the Vauxhall Ampera E-Rev range extended EV. Sports cars such as the Tesla are manufactured under license by Lotus in Norfolk.

The first production Nissan Leafs will be available from March 2011. The Vauxhall Ampera, a range extended electric vehicle, will also be on sale in the UK from 2012. This will be followed by electric vehicle releases from all major manufacturers on a global market basis, not just the UK.

Commercial EVs are already on sale in the UK, as currently produced by Allied Vehicles, Modec and Smith Electric Vehicles. This includes an electric minibus.

The number of dealerships selling EVs in the East of England is set to rapidly expand. Already a number of dealerships in the region have been successful in obtaining Nissan Leaf franchises. A Citroen dealership selling EVs has also been established in Cambridge. Further information on dealerships selling EVs will be available in due course.

EVs can practically fill over 95% of typical daily driving needs, with a typical range of 90-110 miles for pure EVs. Range extended and plug-in-hybrids have a range of 20-25 miles on electric and a combined range of over 300 miles using a low carbon high efficiency engine.

EVs can be charged either through a directly connected plug-in cable or by electromagnetic induction. The latter has no exposure to conductors and is therefore safer when transmitting high power, although suffers from inductive losses and is therefore more expensive than a direct connection.

This a classic case of ‘Chicken or egg?’ Without the recharging infrastructure people won’t buy an EV. Without lots of EVs there’s no commercial case to invest in a recharging infrastructure. This is why the government has intervened. The Plugged in Places initiative, through projects such as EValu8, aim to change this by removing this significant barrier to EVs.

Already EValu8’s partners have already committed to 350 EVs, with a projection of 500 East of England EVs on the UK roads by December 2013. Recent national EV projections suggest 240,000 electric cars and plug-in hybrids on UK roads by 2015, and 1.7 million by 2020, if supported by appropriate recharging infrastructure.

It is intended that EVs are comparative in total life time cost to conventional vehicles but with a much reduced cost to the environment. As the market increases and oil prices rise it is feasible that a tipping point will be reached.

    • Range anxiety: The majority of journeys are for less than 20 miles, so are perfectly suited to EVs, which have an average range of 100 miles. The vast majority of journeys are well within the range of an EV. Commercial electric delivery vehicles can already reach a range of 150 miles, due to the extra space available for battery storage.
    • Ease of use: EVs are easy to use. Just plug them in at home, at work or at work, just as you do now for other types of electrical equipment, such as mobile phones and laptops. The only difference is that an EV recharging unit is needed rather than a conventional plug socket.
    • Electrification of transport is not new: high speed train tracks such as the Channel Tunnel rail link and East Coast mainline have already been electrified. EVs have also been on the UK’s roads for over 100 years. What has prevented their widespread use until now has been the absence of a recharging network
    • The overall cost of operating an EV is reasonable: whilst it’s true that the up front purchase price of an EV is currently high, the operational costs are extremely low. The cost of the electricity to fuel the EV is also dramatically lower than with petrol or diesel. It typically costs just £1 to £2 to travel 100 miles in an EV, as compared to the much higher fuel costs of a conventional petrol or diesel car to travel the same distance. With only 1 moving part in an electric motor, versus 400 in a typical combustion engine, there are also far fewer parts in an EV requiring maintenance.
    • EV recharging time will require a fairly easy change in behaviour: this is no different to what many millions of people already do with their mobile phones, plugging them in to recharge over night. People are generally comfortable that a mobile phone is different to using the land line. Similarly EVs are different to conventional petrol and diesel vehicles.
    • EVs are suited to almost all journey types: EVs can practically fill over 95% of typical daily driving needs. For example an overnight recharge at home will provide a fully charged battery in the morning and comfortably enable a 70 mile commute. The EV can then be plugged in for just half a day at a recharging post at work to enable the commuter to travel home again in the evening.
    • People and businesses in rural communities are suited to driving EVs: the EValu8 network specifically targets the rural-urban commute as one of five journey types covered by the network. This will enable rural commuters to use EVs, for example for the first leg of their journey and then transferring to park and ride facilities and train services, where recharging posts will be located.
    • EVs will benefit all parts of society: EVs have zero exhaust tail pipe emissions. Their widespread uptake will improve local air quality in congested city centres, which in turn improves the health of the many people suffering from poor air quality in these locations. EVs will also reduce carbon emissions and global warming, which is an environmental problem that affects us all.

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