Electric cars – the public has their say

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With the rise in registrations of electric cars on UK roads over the past several years, more and more people are turning to alternative ways of getting around. But there are still some myths to be dispelled.

EV car charging

To set the record straight on EV ownership, we checked in with members of the public to get their say on several topics including ease and convenience of use, plus the big one – the cost of owning an EV.

Making the leap to electric

When asked why they made the decision to trade in their conventional cars and vans for electric vehicles, two things immediately sprang into the conversation with our panellists:

  1. Helping the environment - While none of our panellists see themselves as “eco warriors”, it’s a positive sign so many of them took clean air into consideration when weighing up their choice. Shamsi Pearson calls helping the environment ‘a bonus’, while Pippa Kieser wanted to solve “the implications of driving a diesel car”
  2. Car performance - The advanced technology that reduces emissions in electric vehicles also went into improving performance – particularly in high-end makes like Tesla. 

“The silence, the incredible instant torque, the linear acceleration from a standstill to 90 mph, all of these contribute to a relaxed, enjoyable (and safer) driving experience that nobody would willingly forego, once having experienced it.”
-    Stephen Bell and Sheila Joynes, Nissan Acenta owners

What’s putting potential EV owners off?

We asked our electric car owners why they think anyone considering an electric car might be put off. 

What were the obstacles that our drivers felt brave enough to be able to overcome, which others wouldn’t? And is there any hard evidence to solidify their doubts?

If you’re considering buying an EV or hybrid car next, take a look at our eco-car comparison tool to give you an idea of the running costs and performance of your current car vs a greener model. 

As with most innovations that are yet to make the mainstream, it’s mostly a matter of perception. Michael Turner, a Londoner and EV owner since 2016, calls it ‘milk float syndrome’ – the idea that electric is a byword for poor performance. 

“A belief that they’re all short-range, small and ugly.” While he agrees that this isn’t the case anymore – at least since the first generation of somewhat boxier options – Michael, along with most of our panellists, is aware of a larger problem facing the everyday commuter: infrastructure.

Electric car charging facilities

The current generation of electric cars – including the wildly popular Nissan Leaf, which dominated our Electric Cities Index – is capable of much more than the daily commute between charges. 

The 2019 Leaf, for example, claims a range of 168 miles, while the Leaf E+ claims almost 240 . More than a mild-mannered runabout, today’s electric vehicles can comfortably contain enough charge for a cross-country drive.

But for some drivers still mulling over the miles, the myth persists that electric cars are barely able to make it to the end of their drive. Our panellists would argue otherwise – but they do agree that more needs to be done to support those considering the move when it comes to support on the open road.

Roy Richardson says the “appalling” state of public charging facilities in the UK needs to be improved, while Gary Hunt wants “a concerted effort to commoditise the charging infrastructure” – different manufacturers and power providers are fragmenting the situation by only offering certain kinds of charger, with certain charging durations. 

While some top-end Teslas can be on and off the forecourt before their owners have had time to drink a cuppa, other cars need much longer to fill up.

“The cars aren’t the issue – it’s the charging.”
-    James Edgerton, EV owner since 2016

Charging at home overnight is the most convenient method for now – but many owners are still put off by the bill. Some aren’t even able to do this until, as Michael Turner says, local authorities are more willing to invest in on-street parking

The growth of electric cars in the future

Despite these reservations, our panellists are confident that electric cars will continue to grow in popularity – and will one day be the only way to traverse our roads.
Oliver van Bilsen says it’s ‘inevitable’ – with the EU’s stringent targets on CO2 and EV manufacture, plus the falling costs and rising benefits of ownership. 

Mark Simlo sees ownership of a conventional car eventually going the way of “the Sony Walkman – fantastic in its day but hardly seen now”.

The last word on the future of electric cars goes to Stephen and Sheila, who say not only that it’s ‘an unstoppable trend with immense weight’ but that it’s not even the future – “this is the present!”

Hybrids and EVs are booming, so why not take a look at the pros and cons of EVs.

Thanks to all our interviewees who took part. 

Take a drive around our interactive Electric Cities map to find out where in the UK the electric vehicle revolution is fully charged… and where it’s lagging behind. 

Interviewee profiles

Name: Shamsi Pearson - Tesla owner for two years
Location: Leeds
Car: Tesla Model S90D
Age: 51
Job: VIP Flight Attendant

Name: Pippa Kieser 
Location: Carlisle
Car: Tesla Model X
Age: 46
Job: Director

Name: Stephen Bell and Sheila Joynes
Location: Worcester
Car: Nissan Acenta
Age: NA
Job: Retired

Name: Michael Turner - EV owner since 2016
Location: London
Car: Tesla Model S 75D
Age: 42
Job: IT Consultant

Name: Roy Richardson 
Location: Basildon
Car: Tesla model S 90 RWD
Age: 69
Job: Retired 

Name: Gary Hunt 
Location: Cardiff
Car: Tesla Model SP90D
Age: 45
Job: Senior Developer

Name: James Edgerton 
Location: Bristol
Age: 38
Job: Airline Pilot

Name: Oliver van Bilsen 
Location: London
Car: Tesla Model S, Renault Zoe and BMW C Evolution electric motorcycle
Age: NA
Job: NA

Name: Mark Simlo 
Location: Peterborough
Car: Tesla Model S90D
Age: 54
Job: Director of the UK owner’s group / Business Owner

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