Is 2018 the year of the electric car?

2nd May 2018

Electric car charging up

At this year's Geneva Motor Show, manufacturers showed off an impressive roster of electric vehicles and innovative technologies for such. In the wake of this auto show in March, WIRED triumphantly declared that "electric cars finally took over".

However, does a closer look at the facts back up such enthusiasm? The truth is, electric vehicles - or EVs - remain very much a revolution-in-waiting; however, our own study of the market has shined light on enough green shoots to suggest that we are on the brink of a green revolution.

How the UK is faring among the global EV ranks

Recent sales figures suggest that increasing numbers of UK citizens are already buying - literally - into well-publicised benefits of electric vehicles. In figures compiled by the Centre of Automotive Management and reported by The Guardian, it was revealed that UK sales of electric cars had increased by 11% year-on-year, putting the UK at the forefront of the EV revolution.

Admittedly, it might be more accurate to say that the UK is cementing its place in the EV premier league. The country's e-vehicle sales totalled 14,084 units, of which 71% were plug-in hybrid vehicles, during 2018's first quarter.

However, EVs have continued selling in higher numbers in Norway, where 48% of all vehicle registrations in the year's first three months were for EVs. This was a marked increase from the proportion of 35% during the corresponding period of 2017. Meanwhile, the market share of EVs in the UK was still just 2% - though this remained an increase from the 1.5% share of a year ago.

An electric shock to the system?

Automakers have also been helping fuel growing optimism about EVs. Nissan, the purveyor of the biggest-selling EV, used the Geneva Motor Show to unveil the second generation version of its Leaf car, which now features a 168-mile range.

However, Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, has cited "four R's" which appear to be impairing consumer confidence in electric cars - and, thus, limiting their uptake. These factors, he explained in words shared with BusinessGreen, are "retail price, range limitation, recharging availability and uncertain residual value".

His expressed some disbelief about the prospects of the UK's EV market. He conceded: "Until more affordable models come to market with a longer range, and more is done to make recharging less of a headache, it is hard to see how the picture is really going to change." Nonetheless, manufacturers have unveiled innovations which may help tackle the issues.

The electrified elephant in the room

To help dispel "range anxiety" for future owners of EVs, smart energy company Envision has partnered with GFG Style to show how, through use of an Internet of Things platform, a vehicle could connect itself to surrounding energy infrastructure to replenish its electricity reserves.

"Integration of EV charging into the electricity grid is one of the biggest challenges for the automotive industry today," Felix Zhang, executive director at the Envision Energy group, has opined. He noted that, while "big manufacturers are slowly reacting to this need to move away from traditional fossil fuel technology, ... nobody is talking about the bigger picture."

Nonetheless, many consumers and businesses might soon be able to benefit from that "bigger picture" to a surprisingly large degree. Nissan is currently trialling how Leaf owners could connect their vehicles to the grid, though testing has largely involved just operators of major fleets so far.

Does the UK dream of an electric future?

All the same, it remains unclear what share of the EV revolution's proceeds the UK could stand to benefit from. During the first quarter of 2018, 142,445 EVs were sold in China, making it the world's leading buyer of EVs in absolute numbers.

Bruno Lambert, CEO of the China-based Iconiq Motors, claims that the People's Republic is "undeniably leading the way in terms of developing the technology, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's a few relatively unknown Chinese companies that produce some of the best future vehicles".

Those vehicles may help reduce some or all of EVs' adverse effects highlighted by Gooding. UK motorists could be especially heartened that, according to a recent study, some electric models might actually - unlike many fossil fuel vehicles - see rises in value a year after purchase.

Insurance does not have to prove financially troubling, either. At Call Wiser, we can help EV owners to select a car insurance policy representing the best value for money. You can apply for a quote online.

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