Without causing a huge amount of fuss or making the headlines too much, it would appear that electric cars have begun to gain traction and acceptance in the UK, as well as elsewhere around the world. According to Ecotricity, who are the company that has been responsible for the installation of a network of charging stations along Britain’s motorways, we are now seeing the emergence of an electric car ‘revolution’.
Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has suggested that electric car sales have now amassed more than 10,000 units in the UK. In addition to the government incentives that have been able to cut ownership costs, one key development has been a nationwide roll-out of superfast chargers at motorway service stations. Ecotricity have said that they have installed around 170 chargers over the past year, which covers 90 per cent of the motorway network and allows electric car owners to charge their vehicles battery by 80% in just 20-30 minutes. That level of charge can allow this type of vehicle to travel an extra 150 plus miles.
Just 4,000 cars had used these chargers between October and December in the three months to the end of June 2014 with the number then jumping to an impressive 15,000 uses. Dale Vince, the founder and Chief Executive of Ecotricity said
“In the past 12 months we’ve gone from 8 hours to charge a car to 20 minutes. All of this point’s to a coming revolution in how we get around, they are super cheap to run, totally clean especially if you run them on renewable energy, they just are the future of personal transport.”
Another important reason for this apparent success for greener cars is that customers who are currently able to plug in at these stations are getting their volts for free. If this is the future of motoring, it is no surprise that other companies such as Tesla, the brainchild of Elon Musk, are keen to get in on the act. Although Tesla has started at the high end of the market with its current models, Musk eventually wants to manufacture a mass market of electric vehicles.
Incorporated in that plan is for Tesla to manufacture its own batteries by 2020, which will be done in a factory that will be powered using solar energy and wind power. Although there are currently only four Tesla superchargers in the UK, the company plans to roll-out many more by the end of 2015. A spokesperson for Tesla said
“Superchargers give 170 miles of charge in just 30 minutes, just enough time to stop and have a coffee and be ready to go again. By the end of 2015, we will have UK and Ireland route coverage and also numerous convenience supercharging locations in London.”
However, Tesla has set it’s sights wider, and not solely on just the UK, as they plan to expand their network of chargers in other countries including China, who it is said are ready to invest $16billion into a national network of chargers, which they hope will combat the ‘range anxiety’ that so many potential customers fear.
Although the acceleration of greener cars across the globe has increased recently, the growth has occasionally been a little bit too quick for some areas. Norway has embraced the concept of electric cars more than anyone else and has three times the number of electric cars on the road compared to the UK. This is despite having a population of just five million people and per capita, the Norwegians actually have more green cars than any other country in the world. In Norway, electric cars currently account for 13% of their sales since March 2014, with the Nissan Leaf becoming the country’s highest selling car in just one month. The question has to be, ‘what is driving the surge of popularity for plug-in cars in Scandinavia?
Norway is known to be a country that has a high level of environmental awareness. However, when it comes to pure economics, value for money is the main reason electric cars are proving so popular. They are exempt from VAT and sales tax, which means that a new, battery powered vehicle, will cost about half the price of the petrol-powered equivalent. The transition to greener cars has been so successful that they are now filling the highways of Norway and causing congestion in the country’s bus lanes, which drivers of these green cars have the right to use. The Norwegian government has decided to quickly re-think the policy, which has cost them an incredible 500 million euros so far.
Despite the boom in Norway and evidence of more rapid growth in the UK, it seems that not every country is so happy to embrace the electric car revolution. Although the Germans can boast some fairly solid green credentials when it comes to wind power and solar energy, they are falling behind quite badly with their European neighbours in terms of green vehicles. In 2009, Chancellor Merkel set a target for Germany to have one million electric cars on its roads by 2020, yet there seems to be a lack of innovation from German manufacturers and this coupled without incentive schemes from the government, mean the initiative has begun to stall.
According to Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer from Duisburg-Essen University, he said the Chancellor’s target was now unachievable when speaking to the wire agencies and said