A recent roundtable debate was hosted by Jonathan Woodthorpe, head of e-mobility at the energy company npower, for stakeholders from across the electric vehicle industry. Looking to the future and how to secure the widespread adoption of electric vehicles in the UK, the message was loud and clear; education is key.
Many businesses and consumers have limited, if any, knowledge about EVs and are still misinformed in many areas, so do not know enough about EVs to make an informed decision. This applies to members of the public considering a single purchase as well as fleet managers assessing EV fleet viability.
So, what needs to be done to help overcome this significant barrier to increasing take-up of EVs?
Addressing negative perceptions
One key area discussed at our recent roundtable was the need to eliminate negative perceptions around ‘range anxiety’ and the speed of EVs. For example, many consumers and fleet managers may not realise that numerous new EV models can reach the same speeds as traditional cars and can travel up to 100 miles before recharging, covering 90 per cent of journeys. It is clear that educating the public on the reality of today’s EVs could make a significant difference to take up of the vehicles. But to do this, stakeholders including manufacturers, infrastructure providers and the Government would need to work together to deliver these messages effectively.
Highlighting total cost of ownership
The discussion also identified how many people are put off by the initial cost of an EV. Government incentives such as the plug-in car and van grants available – potentially up to £8,000 for a van – are certainly a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to educate on the potential long-term cost-saving benefits of an EV.
By conveying the total cost of ownership and running cost benefits of an EV compared to traditional vehicles, it is easier to see the advantages of opting for this type of engine. For this reason, the rise in the cost of fuel may well be the kick-start needed, particularly when it is estimated that a £200 spend a month on diesel would be comparative to around £10 for an EV, so there is a significant cost saving message the industry and Government needs to convey.
The participants at the roundtable also agreed that all parties in the EV world need to work together and only through close collaboration will behavioural change be achieved. It is always going to be a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario in terms of what should come first, the charging infrastructure or the vehicles, but both elements of the EV puzzle are required to ensure the increased take-up of EVs.
This is not only crucial for protecting the environment from the harmful effects of traditional fuels, but there is also evidence to show it is important for protecting public health. A number of recent studies have reported a link between air pollution from traffic fumes and health issues, highlighting even more reason for the industry to drive forward initiatives to help educate the public on the true picture of EVs and the benefits they can bring.
Looking to the future, it will require behavioural change driven through effective education for people to fully embrace EVs. When you consider that 10 – 15 years ago recycling was the exception not the rule, and that most households have now adopted this practice, it is clear to see what education and making it as easy as possible to change a behaviour can achieve. With this in mind, increasing awareness of the benefits, ensuring efficient and effective charging solutions and helping with funding, will all play a vital role in making sure the UK is best-placed to increase the popularity of EVs across both business and residential communities.
Round table attendees
Andy Heiron, Renault
Noemie Delesse, Renault
Jonny Smith, Motoring journalist
Jason Chamberlain, BT Fleet
Simon Staton, Venson Automotive Solutions Limited
Gareth Williams, Northern Rail
Benedict Faulkner, National Grid
Joe Dickinson, Electric Corby
Jonathan Woodthorpe, npower
Gary Johnson, npower
Joerg Lohr, RWE
npower’s own EV fleet trial
npower’s own internal fleet trial of two Renault Kangoo vans resulted in a fuel saving of 57% totalling £764.61 across 9,433 miles in comparison to a diesel equivalent and in addition, 2,500 kg of CO2 was saved.