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Making the switch: experiences of people who have already switched to using electric vehicles

father and son charging electric car

If you’re thinking about switching from a petrol or diesel car to an electric car, you might have some questions about whether an electric vehicle is right for you.

We spoke to some of our team members at Energy Saving Trust who have already made the switch, to find out why they haven’t looked back since.

Go green with an electric vehicle

A common theme among our electric car drivers was their reason for switching: to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions and help protect the environment. Our senior project manager for energy redress Graham says the best thing about driving an electric car is the environmental benefit. A 2018 report found that petrol vehicles produced the highest level of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at 125g per kilometre, while diesel vehicles emitted 122g. Battery electric vehicles in comparison produced zero CO2 tailpipe emissions.

 

Fiona, who is a regional account manager for transport at Energy Saving Trust, says she made the switch for practical reasons, including reducing fuel costs. She says: “My husband was doing a 40 mile a day commute and we wanted to reduce our fuel costs. That distance was more than practical in an electric car, so we decided to take the plunge.” The fuel cost to drive an electric car 100 miles is around £5-8, whereas in a diesel or petrol car it would cost you between £14 and £17.

At Energy Saving Trust we frequently talk to people about making the switch, so for Fiona it’s useful to have some real life experience of owning an electric car.

A relaxing and enjoyable driving experience

Matt Fraser in electric car

Electric vehicles are clean, quiet and easy to use. There’s none of the loud engine noise or pollution smells associated with petrol or diesel vehicles, which makes the driving experience much more relaxing and enjoyable. Energy Saving Trust’s senior manager of operational delivery Matt says: “It’s great to start the car and not hear the grunt – and smell the exhaust fumes – of an internal combustion engine.”

One thing that surprised our electric car drivers was acceleration. Kalina, assistant programme manager for transport, tells us: “The ease with which these cars accelerate is incredible. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the steepest of hills, it happens with practically the same ease. I love that.”

A common myth associated with electric vehicles is the lack of range but our drivers rarely found this to be a problem. Most journeys they made were well within the car’s range and for longer journeys they found plenty of charge points along the way. Fiona’s advice is: “Don’t get too hung up on whether you will be able to do that 300+ mile journey you do once every two years.” The average range of an electric car is now 155 miles, which is plenty to get most people from A to B without needing to stop to charge.

We’ve debunked some of the common misconceptions about electric vehicles to help you make the switch.

Where to charge your electric vehicle

In the UK, most electric car charging is done at home, which for Fiona, who lives in a rural village, is very convenient. You can access agile tariffs from suppliers such as Octopus, which encourage you to charge at night when demand on the grid is less. It’s also better for the environment to charge overnight – on average you can save up to 26% on carbon dioxide emissions per charge. If you have solar panels like Matt, you can also integrate your home charge point, which allows you to charge up using renewable electricity. There are lots of options to choose from, and Matt went for the Zappi charger from myenergi that integrates with his solar panels.

If you don’t have a parking space at home or are unable to install a charge point, the public charge point network is continuing to expand. In March 2020, the UK government announced the Rapid Charging Fund as part of a £500 million commitment for electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Currently, a driver is never further than 25 miles away from a rapid charge point anywhere along England’s motorways and major A roads.

In Scotland, the majority of public charge points are managed by ChargePlace Scotland, with new units installed regularly. There are now over 1,000 public charge points on the ChargePlace network, up from just 55 in 2013.[1] The Live Map can help you find points on your route and the electricity for the majority of charge points is free to use.

The number of new public charge points has increased over the past few years, which Fiona has found more helpful since buying an electric car. She says: “New infrastructure is increasing all the time and is often being installed in convenient places like near coffee shops and food outlets, so I can charge my car while grabbing a coffee or some lunch.”

But what about longer journeys?

electric car charging in driveway

Graham says that he does some charging at motorway services for longer journeys and uses apps to plan charging (and coffee) stops. Matt uses the Zap Map app, which shows you rapid charge points on your route throughout the UK. When we ask him about a recent longer journey he made, he says: “Both times I stopped, the charge points were available and both were free to use, so it cost me nothing financially”.

Kalina tells us: “At the very beginning there were occasions where I had to queue to get on the charge point. But now that there are more charge points around I have not experienced similar issues.” Some locations have now got constraints on how long you can charge your vehicle, which prevents people from using the charge points as a free parking space.

Making the investment

There is financial support available if you’re interested in buying an electric vehicle. The UK government’s low-emission vehicle grant takes up to £3,000 off the price of a new electric vehicle, and if you live in Scotland you can also access an interest free loan of up to £35,000 to help cover the cost of purchasing a new electric vehicle. This loan scheme, and the domestic charge point grant scheme, are both funded by Transport Scotland.

There’s also the option to lease an electric car as Graham has done. He tells us: “If, like me, you can’t afford to buy one, think about leasing. Lease costs vary a lot between models and some are more affordable than you might think. Also you can then factor in your monthly fuel savings for budgeting purposes.”

Given the number of new electric car models being released onto the market and the increasing range of these vehicles, now is the perfect time to make the switch. Take advantage of the financial incentives available to purchase an electric vehicle or consider leasing one as a more affordable option. Graham’s parting advice to us is: “Test drive one, but beware, you might find you’re hooked.” So, what’s stopping you from making the switch?

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[1] https://chargeplacescotland.org/uncategorised/over-1000-electric-vehicle-charge-points-in-scotland/