The transition to electric vehicles, driving towards Net Zero

10 August 2020 by Jack Porter
blog author

Only a few years ago, the thought of driving an electric car still seemed rather futuristic. Now, a revolutionary transition to electric vehicles (EV) is well under way and the UK government aims to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2035. The changing face of Britain’s roads is set to play a key role in meeting the target of zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Almost 38,000 fully electric new cars were sold in Britain in 2019. Within ten years, as many as 11 million hybrid or electric cars will be on the UK’s roads, according to estimates from the Energy Saving Trust.

EVs not only have none of the emissions of their gas-guzzling counterparts, they create far less noise pollution and have lower service and maintenance costs. So, theobvious question is: why aren’t we all driving off to buy one?

The truth is that a few sticking points need to be addressed before we can fully embrace new vehicle technologies. One is public fears about a lack of charge points and another is cost: EVs remain significantly more expensive than their fossil fuel counterparts.

In a survey conducted by the energy firm Ovo, more than half of respondents admitted that they would be put off buying an electric vehicle due to a lack of charging points. Scottish Power says that the UK will need 2.6m public charging points by 2050 to meet its net zero target.

Several companies are attempting to address this.BP Chargemaster – an offshoot of the oil and gas giant – is building a network of 7,000 charging points called Polar, the largest public network in the UK.

Mitie, the British outsourcing and energy firm, has launched the Plan Zero Fleet Transition Service to help other companies switch to electric fleets. Mitie has rolled out more than 500 EVs and 600 charge point installations in less than a year. 

The switch to EVs must be business-led because companies own more than half of all new registered vehicles and can implement a large-scale rollout.

The John Lewis Partnership, which owns Waitrose, aims to stop using fossil fuels across its fleet by 2030 and will trial two vehicle designs early next year for food deliveries.

Unilever has committed to transitioning its 11,000-strong fleet to EVs and is offering workplace charging for staff. The consumer goods multinational is among 59 companies (which also includes The Energy Saving Trust) to have joined EV100, a global initiative set up by the non-profit organisation, The Climate Group, to help make EVs the “new normal” over the next decade. So far 23 of the firms have initiated changes that have committed 2.2 million vehicles to make the transition to electric.

Local authorities also have a leading role to play, by helping to provide a robust and reliable recharging infrastructure and bridging the gap between facilities for EVs in urban and rural areas.

In terms of cost, EVs are still at the niche stage and as a result, don’t come cheap (you are talking at least £17,000 and that’s without the battery).

However, it is hoped that as more organisations adapt to EVs in the private and public sector, confidence in them will grow and prices will come down.

In the meantime, the government is providing £532 million in consumer incentives for ultra-low emission vehicles, meaning that those making the switch to electric cars will be eligible for a grant of up to £3,000.

So where does one start? Here are the three types of EV:

  • The Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) runs on 100 per cent electric, without any requirement for petrol or diesel. The good news is the range is continually improving and a vehicle can typically travel for 100-200 miles before the battery needs charging. Currently, the average lifespan of an EV battery is 200,000 miles

  • The Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) combines a battery and an electric motor with petrol or diesel which allows for a longer driving range. It can drive on electric power for shorter distances, with a range of up to 30 miles

  • The Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV) is a version of the PHEV above and is always driven by an electric motor, which takes its energy from the battery. Then when the power runs out, a petrol engine is used to generate electricity to power the electric motor.

How your business can transition to EV

1. Set out your firm’s future EV purchasing requirements to generate interest and look at the longer-term savings such a purchase will bring you (rather than the initial outlay)

2.Understand driving patterns among staff to determine which type of EV best suits your business (look at whether journeys are predominantly long or short distance, for example)

3.Research vehicles that are the most efficient and environmentally responsible for your company needs

4. Become aware of where local charge points are and how frequently you see one. It will help prevent ‘range anxiety’ where drivers fear they will struggle to find a charging point on their journey. There are apps to help with this

5. Keep an eye on the government subsidies and see what is available for your company