Posted by British Gas in Electric Vehicles
My grandfather was born at the very end of the 19th Century, at about the same time as the first motor cars were spluttering into life. He was a farmer, and often declared that a car was a poor substitute for his old horse and cart, which might seem like a blinkered viewpoint until you hear his reasoning. We have yet to see a car that knows its way home from the pub, letting you doze peacefully in the driver’s seat.
Since I started GreenMotor.co.uk in 2005, I’ve felt a little like I’m standing in my grandfather’s shoes, witnessing the end of the old order and the emergence of a fledgling form of transport. Electric cars aren’t new, but until very recently they’d never been offered as a credible way for ordinary people to get about. Today, major manufacturers like Renault and Nissan are daring to offer family cars that are entirely battery powered. You don’t fill them up, you plug them in.
We all understand ordinary, liquid-fuelled vehicles. They can carry you the length of the country in a day, and need just minutes to refuel. And we know their drawbacks: they are dirty, demand regularly servicing, and running them seems to cost more every month.
Electric vehicles are much less familiar, and it’s not surprising we dwell on their shortcomings. They seem expensive. They are slow to recharge. They offer a very limited range. Charging points remain rare, and many people have nowhere to plug-in at home.
But equally, we mustn’t ignore their merits. Electric cars don’t worsen air quality. They are mechanically simple with fewer moving parts. They are cheap to recharge. And as electricity generation becomes cleaner, they will help to cut greenhouse emissions.
Granddad’s horse may have been slow, but it offered unique attractions. And today there are many families in the UK who might welcome the merits of an electric car, while being unaffected by its drawbacks.
Few people realise that the UK has more cars than it does families. Roughly one third of our 27 million households own two-thirds of our 31 million cars. And since about two million new cars are bought each year, arithmetic suggests at least 600,000 may be bought as a secondary form of transport.
Most of us are familiar with these second or third cars. They ferry children to school, trundle around our suburbs and nip to the shops. When it’s time for a longer journey, they stand idle on the drive while another car takes to the highway.
Not every family works this way, of course, but many of the UK’s eight million multi-car households do. Many families will eventually learn what an excellent fit an electric car might be for their second-car needs.
Today, we aren’t quite there. Prices must fall. Choice needs to grow. And familiarity must be gained. But all these barriers will vanish in time.
It may be decades before electric cars match petrol and diesel versatility – if they ever do. But their unique merits mean electric cars could soon become a sensible choice for a surprisingly large number of buyers.
This guest post was written by Lem Bingley of www.greenmotor.co.uk