Is EV range anxiety still a barrier to ownership?

Andy Cutler

05 Jul 2018, Blog Post

Electric vehicles (EVs) are here to stay, the range, styles and choices are growing wider with new offerings from mainstream manufacturers promised over the next few years. The technology is improving too. Many EVs are able to cover between 200-400 miles on a single charge. This means that for the majority of users, EVs are capable of carrying out almost every journey the driver will ever need to make without recharging during the day.

If you choose the right EV for your circumstances, effectively range anxiety is a thing of the past. Even many older models will comfortably cover 50 miles without an issue making them the perfect choice for the school or station run and even for short work commutes.

However, for the majority of people to consider taking an EV as their primary car, an increased range is needed, especially for those occasional journeys down to the coast. Of course there are alternatives such as schemes where dealers provide exchange vehicles with an internal combustion engine for occasions such as this. However, this solution does not give the total flexibility that some drivers need.

Tesla EVs already have realistic ranges up to around 400 miles with a rapid charge time of just 45 minutes using their Supercharger network. Whilst they may be on the wish list for many, they are not for everyone due to their price, currently starting around £65,000 and going up to over £120,000. More affordable options such as the new Hyundai Kona EV, with an expected retail price less than half of the Tesla, will offer a range, depending on the battery size chosen, of around 300 miles. This means that for the majority of the UK population the range will be more than enough to become a first choice car.

The inconvenient choice?

The problem then is not range; it is the potential inconvenience that people are concerned about.  Currently if you drive a vehicle with an internal combustion engine, it takes five minutes to fill your car at any one of the 8,500 filling stations in the UK. The tank of fuel giving you a further range of anything between 400 to 700 miles.

If you have an EV and you are short on energy away from home, then firstly you need to find one of the 11,500 UK charging points not already in use. This requires a mind-set change for most drivers, with some planning required for longer journeys to ensure charging points coincide with planned routes and driving breaks. Alongside fitted EV navigation systems showing charge points, there are useful apps such as Zap-Map, which helps to locate charge points and show real-time availability.

An 80 percent battery charge will take between 30 and 40 minutes to allow you to continue your onward journey. This is just enough time for a comfort break, a coffee and to check a few emails. It is a mind-set change. However, with some planning, charging an EV away from home when the car is stationery anyway could actually save you time versus regular visits to a filling station.

The issue now is around the growth of the charging infrastructure versus the growth in sales of EVs. As more EVs are sold, without additional charging points, finding an available public charger when a driver needs one is going to become harder. The solution is not yet finalised, however, the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill 2017-19 will go some way to solving the charging point infrastructure issue.

This Bill is currently making its way through parliament and has two main aims.

  • Specify who is liable for damages following accidents caused by automated vehicles
  • Improve the network of charging points for electric vehicles

As part of the bill, EV charging points will be mandatory at all large petrol stations and motorway services. This will lead to the installation of multiple charge points at each of the UK’s motorway service stations, as well as at many of the 8,500 UK filling stations.

Currently, there are more than 11,500 public EV charging points in the UK. This move will nearly double the country’s charging infrastructure, a major barrier to the uptake of EVs in the UK.

Owning an EV

According to Glass’s Total Cost of Ownership data, owners of EVs can gain on running costs versus similar internal combustion engine vehicles, particularly if the vehicle is owned for an extended period. Running costs are saved chiefly with the cost of charging compared to filling a tank with fuel. Glass’s Service Maintenance and Repair (SMR) data show further savings can be gained. With fewer moving parts, key savings at the SMR level for EVs will be on oil, oil filters, air intake filters, spark plugs, drive belts, cam belts and brake parts.

Barriers to ownership

In the near future more of the barriers to ownership will be removed. The doubling of UK charge points, increased speed of charging and the introduction of wireless charging making charging an EV even easier than refuelling an internal combustion engine car will all increase the attractiveness of EVs to a wider audience.

Range is no longer the major barrier to EV ownership. The barriers are the potential inconveniences that owning an EV may cause. Over the next few years it will be interesting to see how many people adopt this new mind-set and purchase EVs as their primary cars.

About the author

Andy Cutler

Andy CutlerUK Car Editor, Forecast Values

Born and raised in the Birmingham area, Andy started work as an engineer at Land Rover working on prototype vehicles. Andy later moved into the Automotive Leasing and Contract Hire industry, working there for 20 years, before joining Glass’s in 2010.