Why I pulled the plug on my electric dream
My friends have always described me as someone very attached to his mobility and comfort, who uses a car when possible, whether to commute to work or for leisure.
However, in recent years, I have reduced my car use for several reasons. The obvious first is to try to be eco-friendly and limit my carbon footprint, while the second is the increasing cost of running a vehicle in a city such as London, where congestion charges, fees for low-emission zones and ballooning parking costs quickly add up.
Meanwhile, urban planning edicts have narrowed streets and reduced speed limits, squeezing drivers in the name of reducing pollution and ending our addiction to fossil fuel.
In short, 2021 was the year when I tried to trade my old petrol-guzzling car for an environment friendly electric vehicle. But the issue was not as simple as I expected. It was like returning to school, trying to navigate the cost and suitability of the car in the short and medium term. The internet is full of data that should help us to choose, but many, like me, find it daunting to research and compare the investment and running costs of a petrol versus an electric car.
In my failed bid to buy a BEV (battery electric vehicle), a PHEV (plug-in hybrid EV), or a REX (range-extended EV), I had to fight old habits and take on board new considerations.
The BEV offers a longer range, the lowest running costs, zero emissions and near-silent running. PHEV and REX vehicles promise a long range, reduced running costs compared with petrol, ultra-low CO2 emissions and “fully electric” drive for short trips. All models vary when it comes to efficiency and running costs, based on type of vehicle battery.
Batteries are the backbone of the eco-friendly cars of today, and the technology has improved to a level unrecognizable from previous battery cells types, which were highly toxic and costly to recycle. Rechargeable batteries used in all electric cars are made of lithium-ion, and come in different varieties and specifications. All offer energy efficiency, and are generally considered non-hazardous to the environment.
Most developed countries have been racing against time to comply with targets and pledges made in the face of the worsening climate crisis.
Overcoming the knowledge barrier and getting familiar with the various new or used electric car models was another hurdle. And then there is the problem of accessing charging points in cities and on motorways, and the cost for slow, fast or ultra-fast chargers. In the UK, expensive electric chargers appear to be draining drivers’ wallets, with many charging points demanding up to seven times what you would pay for the same vehicle at home.
Another challenge has been the slow pace with which government and local authorities have managed to install charging points, and whether enough electric sources will be available and affordable for the majority of motorists who lack off-street parking and are unable to benefit from cheaper electricity rates at home.
According to the Royal Automobile Club, there are fewer than 400,000 pure electric vehicles on British roads, while the UK energy regulator Ofgem predicts the figure could reach 14 million by 2030, when petrol and diesel cars are expected to become obsolete in Britain. To date there is still a gap in the availability of charging points, with under 30,000 available nationwide in the UK, and among those only 5,000 are considered fast or superfast.
My personal transition to an EV was stymied by confusing information, multiple considerations and high prices. I hope to renew my efforts early next year.
One thing I learned is that that upgrading to electric does not mean cheaper, or easier. Long gone are the days of simply putting the key in the ignition and driving off. Hello tomorrow, with the digital demands of charting, planning, and comparing and downloading charging apps — all before you set out to do your weekly supermarket shopping.
Most developed countries have been racing against time to comply with targets and pledges made in the face of the worsening climate crisis. One central tenet has been to slash greenhouse gas emissions caused by burning fossil fuels. Electric cars are just one piece of the jigsaw we face when it comes to altering our lives and behavior, creating a cleaner, less-polluted world that will save the environment, while also protecting the economy, sources of income for the treasury, and profits for the private sector.
Innovation and technology, we are told are key, but at what price?
- Mohamed Chebaro is a British-Lebanese journalist, media consultant and trainer with more than 25 years’ experience covering war, terrorism, defense, current affairs and diplomacy.