The vehicle industry is undergoing one of the largest transitions it has ever seen, with the ban on the sale of all new diesel and petrol cars from 2035 onwards recently announced. This change is a result of the government taking action to reduce the harmful pollutants emitted by vehicles on the road up and down the country.
According to the Royal College of Physicians, every year in the UK there are over 40,000 premature deaths linked with air pollution. Their research shows that pollution is linked to illnesses such as cancer, asthma, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, costing the NHS and businesses approximately £20 billion every year.
Despite the ban starting in 15 years, many car makers such as Fiat, Volvo and Mini have already started to cease production of, or plan to cease production of, fully diesel and petrol fuelled cars, instead, producing either hybrid vehicles (HEVs) which are powered by both fuel and electricity, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) which are hybrids that can be charged with a plug or fully electric vehicles (BEVs).
Many people believe electric vehicles are a relatively new concept, which is why they may be surprised to learn that they actually date back to 1837. See the Electric Car Timeline below to see the developments from 1837 to 2020.
The Electric Car Timeline
Scottish inventor, Robert Anderson, built the first electric car, but these would not become practical until the 1880s.
Using his own specially designed rechargeable batteries, English inventor Thomas Parker built the first electric vehicle that had the potential to be mass produced and revolutionise how people travelled.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Walter Bersey designed electric taxis that would come to be known as ‘Hummingbirds’ due to the humming noise they made as they drove around the streets of London.
Only a decade after electric cars became popular, their production came to an end when it was cheaper and more practical to use petrol-powered cars. This was because electric cars could not match the abilities of conventional cars and there were also worldwide discoveries of large petroleum reserves, making it more available and therefore cheaper.
Once again, manufacturers began to experiment with electric cars, creating concepts such as the Scottish Aviation Scamp, the Enfield 8000 and an electric version of the Electrovair. These never became popular and only the Enfield 8000 actually entered production, where 112 were produced.
The Lunar Rover, a battery powered buggy, was the first manned vehicle to drive on the Moon. It was first deployed during the Apollo 15 mission and has remained on the moon ever since.
Tesla Motors started to develop the Tesla Roadster, the first highway legal all electric car. It hit the roads in 2008 and became the first all electric vehicle to travel more than 200 miles per charge.
Towards the end of 2010, Nissan introduced the Leaf in Japan and the US. It was the first modern all electric family hatchback with zero tailpipe emissions.
In January 2011, the government introduced a plug-in car grant which would reduce approved plug-in vehicles by £5,000 as an incentive to buy electric over conventional cars.
The government announced a ban on the sale of all new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. This rule would only apply to fully petrol/diesel powered vehicles, not PHEVs.
The Tesla Roadster went on an adventure into outer space. In February 2018, Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX launched a rocket into space with a Tesla Roadster on board and an astronaut mannequin in the driver’s seat. The car still remains cruising around the solar system and is over 1 billion miles away, beyond the orbit of Mars.
Boris Johnson announced the ban would be brought back by 5 years to 2035 and suggested it may be brought back even sooner as according to him, 2020 would be a “defining year of climate action.” The revised ban also applied to HPEVs and hybrids in an attempt to go fully electric.
How Popular Are Electric Vehicles?
From our timeline, we can see that electric cars have come in and out of popularity over the years whilst petrol and diesel vehicles have remained consistently sought-after. However, the electric vehicle market has grown rapidly over the last few years and is continuing to do so, despite the significant fall in car sales over the coronavirus lockdown.
In July 2020, there was a 262% increase in pure-electric vehicle registrations in the UK compared with July 2019. PHEVs grew by 322% and hybrids by 65%. Petrol and diesel car sales dropped by -0.3% and -26%.
The Pros and Cons or Electric Vehicles
As with any purchase, it is wise to weigh up the pros and cons of an electric vehicle before buying one.
1. They’re better for the environment
For many people, doing their bit for the planet is a big factor in their choice of vehicle. Electric vehicles don’t have an exhaust system, so they have 0 emissions. Switching to electric vehicles would significantly reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions in the atmosphere.
2. Electricity is cheaper than fuel
In 2019, 46.9 billion litres of petrol and diesel was consumed. Motorists spend an average of £1,042 on petrol and £1,265 on diesel. Businesses spend even more. The costs of charging your vehicle with electricity is just a third of the cost to fill up on fuel. Although electric vehicles are typically more expensive, you’ll certainly be saving more money in the long run.
3. They’re low maintenance
As electric vehicles don’t have combustion engines, they don't require as much maintenance such as oil or transmission fluid changes, new spark plugs, fuel filters or drive belts. Additionally, electric vehicle brakes don't tend to wear as quickly as conventional cars. With less fixes, you’ll be saving lots of time and money.
4. You’ll receive grants and tax credits
In order to make electric vehicles more appealing, the government introduced an incentive of 35% off the purchase price up to £3,000 for a new low-emission vehicle. For businesses buying electric vehicles for a company car or business fleet, there are a number of incentives. Companies choosing an electric car from April 2020, will have a zero tax on Benefit in Kind (BiK) during 2020/21.
They will also be eligible for 100% first year capital allowances. For a car costing roughly £40,000, you could save £7,600 in tax relief in the first year. There’s no need to pay road tax on electric vehicles either, as they have no tailpipe emissions. Electric vehicles are also exempt from paying congestion charges, which are currently £11.50 per day in London.
5. They’re incredibly quiet
Roads are going to become far quieter in 2035 as electric vehicles are almost silent. They’re so quiet that many have noise-making devices installed to warn nearby pedestrians of their presence.
Cons of Electric Vehicles
1. Electric vehicles have short ranges
Although electric vehicles are rapidly improving, they still have limited ranges of between 60-370 miles per charge, which isn’t ideal for long journeys or travelling in rural areas where there are fewer charging ports.
2. Charging takes a long time
Filling a car up with fuel takes a few minutes, but for some electric vehicles, it takes around four hours, with some even taking 15 hours. However, this time is set to go down as companies such as Tesla release Superchargers that can complete a full charge in 15 minutes.
3. Initial cost
Electric vehicles cost significantly more than conventional cars, which can certainly be off putting to a potential buyer. On the other hand, the savings in fuel and maintenance costs will outweigh the initial cost, which may be more appealing to some buyers.
4. There’s limited availability of charging ports
Many homes and car parks don’t have adequate space for large charging ports to charge cars up, so the availability of chargers would be limited. Not to mention, if you are travelling to more rural parts of the country, you’ll need to have a plan for how you’re going to charge up. Luckily, as electric vehicles become more common, so will the charging ports.
5. There’s less choice
Although there are far more choices of electric vehicles now than there were previously, the variety still remains limited as most car brands continue to produce conventional cars without the EV option. However, if you’re willing to wait there will most certainly be an option of EV in every car model once the 2035 ban comes into action.
Will Electric Vehicles Be Used in Fleets?
With the ban on conventional vehicles coming into force in 2035, fleet drivers will eventually have to change over to an electric vehicle. Although electric cars and vans are becoming more readily available, electric lorries are still yet to be developed for mass production. This is because lorries will require more electricity than smaller vehicles and usually do much longer distances, meaning they will need a much greater charging range.
Once electric lorries are produced, the change from conventional ones could be a move that saves businesses thousands every year on fuel, maintenance costs and tax.
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