It is just us, or are there charging points for electric vehicles everywhere these days? On the side of the streets, at service stations, and even at some offices – it seems to be increasingly easy to own and charge electric vehicles in the UK. With the sudden interest, we wanted to investigate where the UK are with electric vehicles and what trends we can see.

Of all the electric vehicles (EVs) sold in the UK, 71 percent have the option of using petroleum fuel either as hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicles. UK sales of EVs have shown steady growth, rising 11 percent year-on-year. This year, the electric vehicles share of auto registrations is at 2 percent (or approximately 53,800 vehicles). In the first quarter of 2018, sales of electric vehicles reached 14,084 units.  Sales performance puts the UK in the top 5 among nations.

It is China, however, that has the most impressive numerical sales figures for EVs. In the first quarter of 2018, Chinese sales of EVs was 142,455. This included private cars, lorries, and busses. That represented a 145 percent increase year-on-year. However, despite this the total market share of EVs in China is still only 2 percent.

Germany and Norway sold about the same number of EVs in the first quarter of 2018. German sales were 16,000, whilst Norway had about 15,000. The rise in sales in Germany was 60 percent year-on-year. The year-on-year rise in Norwegian EV sales was not as dramatic because 2017 sales were also high. Electric vehicles in Norway are run almost exclusively on the nation’s highly developed hydroelectric power system.

Buying Electric Vehicles in the UK

The UK government is committed to electric vehicles as part of its drive to reach environmental emission targets. Businesses and individuals at their domestic properties are entitled to grants and other support to encourage EV purchases.

Businesses can get up to £4,500 off the price of an electric vehicle when it forms part of a fleet or company car option. The grant depends on the CO2 emission level of the vehicle and are subject to government model approval. Owning a low emissions electric vehicle also qualifies for certain tax incentives including tax exemptions for fuel duties, company car taxes, van benefit charges, and fuel benefit charges.

Effects of EV on the environment

Although EVs have zero exhaust emissions when they are using electric power, the energy source used to charge the battery and the car’s efficiency are factors to be considered in evaluating their environmental impact.

The Union of Concerned Scientists completed a study of the emission effects of EVs in 2015. Analysing all the impacts of manufacturing and operating EVs they found a significant potential benefit of EVs. Overall, battery electric cars generate half the emissions of the average comparable petroleum-using car. That is true even when pollution from battery manufacturing, power to charge batteries, vehicle production, operation, and disposal are considered.

In the manufacturing stage, electric car and battery production do generate more emissions because the large lithium-ion batteries are “particularly material and energy-intensive” to produce. Manufacturing a mid-sized EV that can travel more than 250 miles on a charge can produce 68 percent more manufacturing emissions than an equivalent petroleum-based car. The zero-emission operation when the vehicles are driven makes up for the manufacturing emissions within between 6 months and 18 months of operation however, and they continue to produce the lowest emissions for the rest of their operating lives.

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