Electric vehicles by John Bowman

I read Daren's article in the last magazine with interest as I intend that my next car will be a battery electric vehicle (BEV). I have been running a Toyota petrol electric hybrid car since 2001. Although these were available in the UK a year or two earlier, it was only that spring that they became taxed as 'alternative fuel'. My annual VED remains at zero (although newer hybrids from March 2017 are now taxed at £140 per annum).  My purchase spreadsheet that included servicing, tax, insurance, purchase incentives and fuel usage compared to two non-hybrid cars predicted that the higher purchase price would be offset and I would be 'in profit' from year four of ownership.  Various world events increased fuel costs, so I was in profit in just over three years. 

Just like my move to hybrid in 2001, I have been researching the topic. BEVs are different to petrol/diesel and hybrids which use an internal combustion engine (ICE) and one needs to tune in to what they are and how they work when thinking about purchasing one. That's why I think that Daren's article may have missed out: by applying ICE principles to BEV's.  They are different. 

Here's a few 'snippets'.  I can provide a lot more information that is verifiable and offer to the editor to provide future articles.

In autumn 2020 there are about 20 manufacturers offering BEVs in the UK market and by early 2021 this number will increase to over 30. Several of these manufacturers offer multiple vehicles, so you can choose the model and options / accessories that suit you.  BEVs have been around in the UK for many years so are also readily available second hand; eg. Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, Renault Zoe, Kia Soul EV and many more.  Because these cars do not have the complexity of an ICE to go wrong / wear out, they are often holding higher prices than their ICE equivalents.  Searching for BEVS costing less than £20k within 25 miles of Grove Green shows 60 available at date of writing. https://www.autotrader.co.uk/car-search?postcode=me145tq&radius=25&include-delivery-option=on&price-to=20000&fuel-type=Electric&co2-emissions-cars=TO_0  In the last year, I have seen that some BEVs have even been seen to appreciate in value from the new on the road cost!

And in this year of pandemic, when car sales are down by a third, the electric market is strongly up.  Data from SMMT at https://www.smmt.co.uk/vehicle-data/evs-and-afvs-registrations/ .

The current regulations in the UK (since 2018) require car figures to be quoted under the WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure) regime.  https://www.wltpfacts.eu/what-is-wltp-how-will-it-work/ .  These are merely, as has always been the case, to allow potential purchasers to COMPARE one with another.  So there are figures for use in an urban (around town) environment and another for use on the highway.  And these yield the combined figure of a BEV's range. 


If you check the consumption figures for your ICE vehicle you will notice that the urban (around town) are quite low and the highway much better. This reflects that in an urban environment, a lot of the slowing down is wasting energy (heat in brakes) whereas on the motorway the engine is just dealing with moving the car along the road under the influences of friction and wind resistance. 


For a BEV the urban range figures are much higher than the highway reflecting that a lot of that wasted energy in an ICE vehicle can be recovered into the battery by regeneration (this also happens in hybrids).  An example of a 'middle of the road' recently launched BEV, the Volkswagen ID3, the WLTP combined range is 263 miles.  And that might translate from an estimated cold weather range on the highway of 155 miles to the city in mild weather at 320 miles.  And remember these figures have yet to factor in your driving style and the actual traffic conditions.  

https://ev-database.uk/car/1300/Volkswagen-ID3-1st .


One of my journeys in my BEV will be to visit friends in York next summer (pandemic permitting).  There are several BEVs that can comfortably do this without charging en-route.  Although I will be taking a break every couple of hours as all Advanced Motorists do (following the Highway Code rule 91), I might 'graze' some top up electricity for the car as well as my food and drink along the way.  York is north of Doncaster by the way.


If on a journey you ignored all the instrument warnings in a BEV and 'flatten' your battery, then be aware that the RAC since summer 2020 have capability in their service vehicles to charge a BEV battery sufficient for it to be driven to a nearby charging point.  https://www.rac.co.uk/business/news-advice/rac-deliver-roadside-boost-for-ev-drivers-with-lightweight-charging-unit .  Other breakdown providers would need to put it on a flatbed vehicle and tow it away.


The fundamental flaw of ICE cars is the lack of refuelling at home. The need to remember to queue up to refuel on your way home, or to get up early to fuel up for the day on the way out (often in cold conditions) are no longer a concern. And, of course, you may have to drive many miles from your home to reach the nearest fuel station (where the vapours given off by the fuel pollute the surrounding area).  Rural residents are most likely to have to suffer these limitations.


By contrast, electricity supply goes virtually everywhere!  So you can live 25 miles out of town and be able to leave home with 'fuel' for the day.  And do not worry about the National Grid coping:  just read their own website about the myths about electric vehicles.  https://www.nationalgrid.com/stories/journey-to-net-zero/5-myths-about-electric-vehicles-busted . Oh, and as well as charging at home, the vehicle can be pre-conditioned so it just the right temperature when you leave home and all powered from the grid (and not the battery).  No more 'de-icing'!


As for a plan, a Department for Transport document published in summer 2018 provides a comprehensive analysis and plan for the way ahead as the UK moves along 'The Road to Zero'.  https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/739460/road-to-zero.pdf


One of the downsides of my hybrid is that running purely electric at low speeds, that pedestrians cannot hear you coming.  It took a while but from July 1st 2019, all new electric vehicles in the UK have to make a noise when travelling below 12 mph in order to alert pedestrians.  The regulation specifies the minimum and maximum sound level at a specific distance from the car.  But not the actual sound although it 'shall be similar to the sound of a vehicle of the same category equipped with an internal combustion engine.'  Perhaps this is an opportuniy to replace the onboard noise generator with one that provides "the beautiful burble of a naturally aspirated V8".


John Bowman 


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