Electric choice: cheap to run, no air pollution

Tim Sadler, Executive Director of the Oxford City Council, talked to us about buying an electric car, charging it, and shared some advantages of using those in the UK.

— Why did you decide to buy an electric car? Was it for pure practical reasons, or, maybe, you were thinking about the ecological side of the issue?

— I am concerned about the environment in terms of air quality and about climate change.  I have a leading role in the Low Carbon Oxford partnership and I wanted to be part of the “early adopters group which can often lead the way to the introductions of new technologies and ways of doing things.

Importantly, as at present EVs are more expensive than the alternatives I could afford to pay more for the car and make savings on running costs.

It costs me less than £4 to fully charge the car whereas petrol for a similar range would cost about £20 currently in the UK.  Plus you don’t pay car tax for an EV in the UK which is around £140 per year.

— Are you happy with your decision now?

— After testing several models we settle on the BMWi3.  We could have got a cheaper model such as the Renault Zoe but the BMW is well engineered and feels like it will last a long time.  BMW also guarantee the battery for 8 years which is important as these are still new technologies.

The ride of the car is very smooth, quiet and positive.  It is really quick from a standing start.

— How do you think, what are the main advantages of electric cars?

— Cheap to run, no air pollution and if you buy your electricity from renewable energy sources there is no carbon impact of your driving.

— How developed is the infrastructure for electric car service in the UK?

— In the UK we talk about “range anxiety” as EVs tend to have lower range then petrol equivalents.  However, the range is very predictable and is not dependant on traffic conditions.  In the UK the network of chargers is growing rapidly

For example the new shopping centre in Oxford  “Westgate” has 50 charging points.

The new charging points are quite quick.  Some will recharge our car in just 40 mins.

The other issue that we have found is that the batteries take a lot of space.  In the BMW space in the cabin has been preserved but the boot space is compromised.  This makes sense as it is essentially a town car, but don’t expect two sets of golf clubs in without dropping the back seats.

The charging network is growing quickly.  They are found in car parks, shopping centres, workplaces.  But most people charge at home and only occasionally have to charge away from home when they take a journey.

A problem with home charging is what about people who live in flats or in terraced houses with no front gardens or drives.

Oxford is carrying out a study into both the best equipment and how users and their neighbours react to these installations.

— Are electric cars rather popular these days in the UK?

— In Oxford, I cycle to work most days and I see 3 or 4.  Mostly BMW i3 of Teslas. The growth in the UK market is shown here.  Of course the UK Government, along with other European nations has said that by 2030 all new cars most be ultra low emission which essentially means electric or hydrogen.  Currently electric is way in front.  The manufacturers have responded by changing their production plans for example recently Volvo announced that by 2025 they expect 50% of their sales to be EVs. This is not just an European trend, China a country determined to «de-carbonize» their economy has similar plans and Chinese manufacturers are gearing up for massive EV production.

In UK Alternative Fueled Vehicles now make up 5% of the market and the share is growing.

What perspective do you see for the electric cars in the next 10-15 years?

I have read that in the next 5 years there will be a transition point where:

  • The range of a typical EV will be 280m + (ours is 125)
  • The cost of EV cars will be comparable with ordinary cars
  • The charging times will be down to 20 mins
  • People say when this happens the scales will tip and most people will buy EVs. I think this will be true for urban environments