Open day enables visitors to plug into the electric vehicle revolution
- Credit: Archant
An open day for Suffolk’s electric vehicle businesses helped visitors find out more about this growing sector.
The UN’s latest report on climate change, released last week, made sobering reading.
Scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warn that unprecedented changes are needed by society to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels and to avoid a higher risk of catastrophic weather events. It says worldwide carbon emissions must be halved by 2030 and brought to net zero in the next 30 years - it’s clear energy production, buildings and industry have to become significantly cleaner - and quickly.
Transport is another area where this campaign will be hardest fought - figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy released earlier this year, show transport accounts for around a quarter (26%) of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, putting it on a par with energy supplies as the most polluting sector.
The big green hope for transport is electrification - a shift from vehicles with petrol or diesel combustion engines to those powered partly or wholly by a new generation of electric batteries designed to provide power over a sustained period of time.
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A snapshot of where we are in the electric vehicle (EV) market in Suffolk was offered to visitors to an ‘Electric Vehicle Experience Day’ held at Bentwaters Parks, near Woodbridge earlier this month - an event that attracted around 500 people, and featured a number of local car dealerships and businesses offering EV-related services.
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According to the organiser, Linda Grave, CEO of Melton-based EV Driver, a company that installs charging points and advises businesses on how they can embrace EVs, the event was aimed at “debunking a few myths”.
Myth No.1 is around what it is like to actually drive an EV.
“People have this impression they are like milk floats, but they are performance vehicles,” promised Linda, as I made my way to a Nissan Leaf waiting on the tarmac. A quick run through the controls and I was off......and your correspondent has to report I was incredibly impressed with how powerful, responsive and smooth the driving and passenger experience was. Later in the day, I also got behind the wheel of a Jaguar I-Pace - a more high-end EV - and exceeded 100mph without trying - the ride eerily quiet without an engine to rev.
Myth No.2 relates to the range of the batteries found in electric vehicles - how far can they go on a single charge? After all, it’s no good if you break down on the way back from Sainsbury’s.
The Nissan Leaf, which costs £25/30,000 new, can travel around 170 miles on a single charge while the I-Pace, which retails at £65/80,000, goes for up to 230 miles (if driven steadily) - that’s almost enough to take you from Ipswich to Brighton and back. Spend only a short while in this world and a common topic of conversations involves this weighing up of cost over range.
Myth No.3 concerns the charging infrastructure that’s available to EV drivers - are people likely to find themselves stranded low on battery charge without an accessible charging point to hand?
Linda says in the brave new world of EVs, 70% of time spent charging is expected to take place at home or in the workplace.
“The majority of EV charging will be done at home overnight and for as little as 2p per mile, while petrol and diesel vehicles cost around 16p per mile,” said Linda.
On the public network, rather than putting charging points where petrol garages are currently located, charging points are expected to start cropping up at destinations we usually drive to - proliferating as the number of EVs on the road increases. EV Driver, for example, is working with East of England Co-op to install charging points in its store car parks. Other EV Driver points can be found in the car parks of Ufford Park Hotel and Sudbury Leisure Centre.
There is also a whole business sector developing around smartphone apps and sat nav functionality to inform drivers where their nearest charging points are and how many miles they have left on their current charge.
Linda says about 2% of vehicles on UK highways are some form of EV and this is increasing steadily - the latest figures from The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) showing that so-called alternative fuel vehicles (AFV) account for 6% of new car sales so far in 2018. This clearly isn’t quick enough to meet the IPCC targets and one of the main topics of conversation at the event was the inability of car makers to meet current demand - most reporting a six-month waiting list for new EVs. A cynic might say it pays for car makers to limit production of EVs when there are still many petrol and diesel cars for sale on garage forecourts but there is clearly a hold-up with supply.
The Government has committed to banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 and some green groups have urged politicians to consider rolling the deadline forward by up to a decade to close the gap in the UK’s climate targets - which currently stand at an 80% cut in emissions from 1990 levels by 2050 but are expected to become more stringent in the light of the recent IPCC report.
I ask Linda how much of the electricity used by EVs comes from renewable energy sources.
By way of an answer, she points to one side of Bentwaters Parks and the site of a large anaerobic digestion plant, which produces renewable biogas, before indicating a massive array of solar panels on the roofs of warehouses on the other side of the park.
“We have the technologies already - we just need to commit to them,” she said.