Obviously during the current lockdown, you should only drive if it is absolutely essential. But while in isolation, you may be thinking about your next car and what effect the COVID-19 outbreak might have on the growing EV market.
So, is now the time to buy an electric car?
Oil prices have collapsed in the wake of coronavirus. Is this a victory for petrolheads? Fuel prices always fluctuate and will likely continue to do so during and after this crisis. And despite this, electric vehicles are still cheaper to run at an average cost of 2p per mile vs 10+p per mile for petrol cars.
Interest in EVs has risen steadily over the last few years, spiking in February when the government announced its intention to bring forward the phase out of new petrol and diesel vehicles to 2035:
Source: Google Trends.
The EV market has primarily been driven by environmental concerns, incentives and ever-tightening emission regulations so a post-coronavirus retreat to petrol seems very unlikely.
Of course EVs do not produce zero emissions. There is still a carbon footprint associated with the car’s manufacture and the electricity used to charge its battery. But they are much cleaner than petrol or diesel vehicles: better for you because you don’t inhale petrol or diesel fumes every time you fill up, and better for local air quality because they don’t produce exhaust gases from the combustion engine.
An encouraging new study has found that EVs produce lower emissions than traditional vehicles, even when charged from grid electricity, in 95% of the world. In some countries their total carbon footprint is up to 70% lower, and in the UK it’s about 30% lower, than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
As the grid continues to decarbonise, this is only going to get better. And to slash those emissions right down, you can always charge your EV on home-grown solar power!
The government has recently confirmed that the OLEV grants, which offer significant discounts on electric cars and charging points, will run for at least another year. This will help towards the cost of buying an EV, which is currently about 18% higher than an equivalent ICE model. By 2025, prices are expected to reach parity due to falling technology costs.
In the meantime, EV running costs are significantly lower. Due to the superior efficiency of electric motors, electricity works out about 80% cheaper per mile than petrol. Maintenance costs are likely to be reduced since an electric car has far fewer moving parts.
You can also benefit from lower road tax, plus avoiding congestion and low emission zone charges, which more cities are bringing in. (But these benefits won’t last forever - the London congestion zone exemption for EVs lasts until 2025.)
Ultimately, it takes about 3-5 years to see the financial returns of owning an EV. While the resale market is still young, batteries can be expected to retain up to 80-90% of their original capacity after 10 years. With ICE phase outs looming, for how much longer will traditional cars hold their resale value?
The average car trip in the UK is 8.5 miles, with half of all journeys under 5 miles. Yet still range anxiety is holding people back from investing in an electric motor. Fortunately, the average range across leading EV models is increasing by about 17% year-on-year:
As this trend is likely to continue, range anxiety should soon be a thing of the past.
There’s never been a better time to go electric
Electric vehicles are almost certainly the future of private transport. The technology is here, the financials are healthy and the environmental benefits immediate. As the Department for Transport said in its recent Decarbonising Transport publication, “all road vehicles will be zero emission”.
All car owners have a part to play in bringing our air pollution down from its illegally toxic levels, which currently cause 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK. As the coronavirus lockdown has demonstrated, a decline in ICE vehicle use will lead to a dramatic improvement in air quality.
If you’re looking to buy an electric car and would like to learn more about home chargepoints, download our free guide: