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17 Sep 2019

Are we there yet? What obstacles are left to overcome before EVs are widely accepted?

With the opening of IAA Frankfurt last week, it was clear that the EV revolution is underway. A host of marques showed EV concepts and production editions. BMW revealed the Concept 4 Series Coupé that will form the basis of the i4, due in 2021, while the VW ID.3 and Honda e production cars were shown, set to be on the road for under £30k.

Although the tide is certainly turning on ICE vehicles, public perception about EVs is still a little slow to follow. We’re seeing new and exciting models but what are the factors that are still holding people back?

Range anxiety persists

Many believe that an EV will run out of charge or they can’t do long journeys. I’ve been driving EVs since 2012 and have taken many road trips, up to Scotland, to Spa in Belgium and Le Mans in France. More recently, I took a 270-mile trip from Munich to the Bern ePrix in a pure electric i3. Battery technology continues to improve, offering 200-250 miles in range, with some vehicles capable of doing over 300 miles on a single charge. It’s great to see how far we’ve come and how easy it is to do such long journeys.

Improvements in the charging network have helped with this, with rapid chargers ensuring that charging is quick and painless, getting closer to the speed of refuelling an ICE car. There are over 25,000 charging connectors in the UK now, which is more than the number of fuel stations. Admittedly, fuel stations typically have several pumps, but the charging infrastructure is expanding at a rapid rate.

What’s more, 1,700 of these are rapid chargers. As more cars utilise the higher charging speeds offered by the 350kW chargers, charging stops will be little more than the time it takes to go to the toilet and grab a coffee.

Price point pinch

Currently, EVs are typically more expensive than a new ICE vehicle to purchase, but prices are coming down thanks to developing technology and increasing interest in models. As mentioned, the VW ID.3 and Honda e are set to be more affordable options and the entry point for EVs is now around the £18k mark.

Although there is a higher initial outlay, running costs are dramatically reduced, with an i3 capable of saving around £1,300 annually. Fuel costs reduce from £13-16 for 100 miles in an ICE car, down to around £4-6. This is supported by lower road tax and congestion charges, as well as benefit in kind (BIK) tax rates set to be more favourable to zero-emission vehicles from the 2020-21 tax year.

Are they really better for the environment?

Even when charged using power from a coal power station, EVs are still marginally better for the environment than ICE vehicles. But the UK is relying more and more on renewable energy. We’ve gone many days without coal contributing the national grid’s electricity mix and this will continue to improve as time goes on. Plugging in at night helps this further, as electricity is generally lower carbon at this time, and if power demands become more consistent around the clock then that will reduce inefficient stop/start at power stations.

Down on power

Despite EVs having far more power and torque than ICE vehicles, the public perception endures that they are less powerful. They have instant torque from a standing start and the power just keeps coming. There have been some ridiculously quick electric lap records at the Nürburgring Nordschleife recently and we’re set to see more of this translate to performance on the road.

Where’s the fun?

Some doubt the fun of driving an EV, but I find them incredibly fun to drive. That feeling of putting your foot down and getting instant torque is incredible and makes them really playful. Being pretty competitive, even the longest and most boring motorway journey can be improved by trying to get a few more miles out of the range.

The torque, quietness and calm of driving an EV I find really appealing, as is the ease of charging at home and the reduced running costs. For me, EVs are certainly the way forward.

About Alexander Sims

The 34-year-old Londoner has been involved in Formula E since the series’ inception in 2014, initially testing cars before securing a race seat in Season 5 with BMW i Andretti Motorsport. Highlights in his first season included a pole position and second place finish in New York. Alexander had an impressive start to his second season, taking pole positions for both races of the opening round in Saudi Arabia and taking his maiden win in race two. It also made him the first driver to take three consecutive pole positions in Formula E.

Alexander currently races for Mahindra Racing.

Alongside his Formula E racing activities, Sims is a passionate advocate for sustainability and electric mobility on the road, having owned and driven EVs since 2012 and aims to incorporate sustainable choices into his daily lifestyle.

|Driver: Alexander Sims|Team: Mahindra Racing|Number: 29|Car: Mahindra M7Electro|Car: Spark SRT05e|
|Photographer: Lou Johnson|Event: Preseason Testing|Circuit: Circuit Ricardo Tormo|Location: Valencia|Series: FIA Formula E|Season: 2021-2022|Country: Spain|Keyword: season 8|Keyword: season eight|Keyword: S8|Keyword: motorsport|Keyword: electric racing|Keyword: single seater|Keyword: open wheel|Keyword: 2021|