Electric vehicles (EVs) have got the world’s attention. From Prince Charles implementing them into the royal fleet, to the UK and France proposing a ban on sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, EVs are hard to ignore. This shift has made industry and business more conscious about vehicle emissions, particularly in light of ongoing revelations of car-makers fitting illegal devices and increased London emission charges due to take effect next year.
This has in large part been driven by phased and binding EU emissions targets for new vehicles. Targets for 2015 (for cars) and 2017 (for vans) were exceeded. In November 2017 the next set of targets for the period after 2020 were set (95g CO2 per km for cars, 147g for vans). However, the most feasible way manufacturers are going to achieve these more challenging targets is through electrification as emission levels are no longer reducing at a progressive enough rate with fuel efficiency improvements.
This begs the questions: Are we about to enter the “Volt-Age”? Should we all be moving to electric? There are challenges for EVs but also valid reasons to plug in to the electric vehicle revolution.
What are the challenges of Electric Vehicles?
EVs may be on the verge of an industrial revolution but there are challenges looming:
- Energy Demand: By 2020, one million electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids will be on the road in the UK. This means increased demand on the grid, potentially causing large spikes in electricity usage at peak times. Plus, how this demand is going to be met, unless renewables can bridge the gap, limits the environmental advantages of EVs.
- Pressure on Scarce Natural Resources: Commodities such as lithium are a fundamental component in rechargeable batteries. Lithium is indigenous to only four countries (Argentina, Australia, Chile, China), and recycling rates of this limited resource are poor. According to research < 5% of Lithium ion batteries are recycled, and demand is set to increase with the growth of EVs.
- Making the Mainstream: The extent of the EV revolution depends on the financial impact to consumers. With the uncertainty of Brexit and the ensuing Trump trade wars, creating a mainstream product that is accessible and affordable is a challenge for manufacturers. Besides this, consumers also have concerns about limited mileage range and the impacts of charging times on travel.
- Infrastructure: Related to the above, the transition to electric vehicles needs development of a widespread and effective charging network, which at present is limited. It has been predicated that the UK will need a sixfold increase in charging points to meet the demand of the 1 million EVs by 2020.
Why Plug in to the Electric Vehicle Revolution?
The good news is that the challenges are being tackled and whilst EV technology continues to improve more opportunities are emerging.
- Better Infrastructure is coming: The UK Automotive and Electric Vehicles Bill is anticipated to go through this year and is designed to facilitate the imminent increase in EV demand. This will include mandatory charging points at motorway service stations to address infrastructure needs. It will also require all new charging points to be ‘smart’, which means they can interact with the grid and give energy back at peak times to ease the pressure.
- Be future-fit: With the up-and-coming ultra-low emissions zones & charges due to start taking effect in London next year, plugging in now could avoid the charge burden but also provide a great opportunity to invest in long-term sustainability and demonstrate to investors positive, forward-thinking business policies. As the grid begins to green (as is required of the Paris Agreement) your vehicle or fleet will only get cleaner.
- Enjoy cash breaks: Now is the time, as the government is trying to incentivise uptake, to plug in and enjoy the cost benefits, not to mention the lower running costs. Businesses have the opportunity to benefit from tax advantages such as exemptions from Vehicle Excise Duty and reduced road tax and grants to reduce the cost of purchasing.
- Get Smart: Onsite smart charging points provide businesses with access to a wide range of useful data, such as activity on your charging point(s) and kWh-usage but it also means that off peak charging and giving back to the grid in peak times, will reduce costs even further.
- Improve our air quality: Poor air quality contributes to 40,000 premature deaths annually in the UK. Research has shown improving the air quality at work improves productivity, benefiting business whilst contributing to the vital goal of improving the wellbeing of the entire pollution.
Despite the challenges to date, plugging in to the EV revolution is becoming an increasingly attractive choice and legislative measures alongside more incentives mean we are on the cusp of the “Volt Age”.
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