For the past year and a half I have been driving an EV and it is a great pleasure. It is very smooth to drive, no gear changing and always plenty of power available instantly. It also promotes a gentler style of driving - partly because the accurate information about fuel consumption rate and remaining range makes you more aware of the impact both of changing conditions and of the way you are driving. Thus I find I now tend to drive a good 10mph slower on dual carriageways - seldom exceeding 65mph and often dropping to 55 or less on hills whereas in a petrol car I would put my foot down to keep my speed up. You drive more efficiently in an EV because you have better information.

This is amplified by the fact that the range on a full "tank" is only half that of a petrol car. 

The need to refuel more often, makes you plan your journeys a bit better, and seek out public chargers that are somewhere where you can get a nice cup of coffee or cakey tea, or simply go for a pleasant walk to stretch the old legs. More mindful journeying - like cycling the journey itself becomes more important and not just wasted time between destinations.

Couple all this with the relatively poor state and quantity of the public charging infrastructure and the fact that it takes half an hour to recharge from 20% to 80% and the need therefore to have flexibility in your journey so you don't arrive nearly empty at the only charger for miles around to find it broken - you can't simply hitch a ride to the next garage to buy a can of petrol to get you going again.

And here's the rub.

We happened to stop to change drivers at a motorway services, we didn't need to charge as we had several options after we would be off the motorway, but I observed that there were three chargers available, all occupied with at least 2 more cars waiting. This is quite normal at busy places as many people are still driving EVs in the petrol mindset and are prepared to pay the extortionate prices charged for electricity rather than plan to seek out the chargers less well used (and often cheaper) off the motorway.

At the same services there were a total of, I think, of at least 12 petrol pumps (4 lanes with 3 or 4 pumps in each lane). It was pretty busy but no-one was having to queue. As noted above it takes 30 mins for a rapid charge for an EV, but you can fill a car tank from empty in less than 5 mins, including paying, and get your full 10 gallon range - perhaps 500-600 miles. A 30 minute charge on an EV at the normal 50kW fast rate will give you 25kWh - about 100 miles before you need to top up again. So for the equivalent range of a petrol car you will actually need to spend 2 hrs or more rapid charging.

You begin to get the picture.
As of July 2022 there were just over half a million EVs on the road in the UK [1] and there were just over 33 million total cars [2]  , so 1.5% of cars are currently EVs.

So we see that with 1.5% EVs two chargers on a motorway services are barely adequate - to provide the same range capacity as a petrol pump you would need 4 times as many, and you'd still be spending half an hour rather than 5 mins. But that might be ok as there are other facilities at the motorway service, you can get something like a cup of coffee etc. and most people don't just stop to refuel there. Instead of taking a few minutes to fill up at the end of your visit you would start the refuelling at the beginning of your visit and leave your vehicle for a mooch around. Even so we would require 12 chargers just to provide the same range refuelling ability for 1.5% EV population as the 12 petrol pumps provide for the remaining 98.5% of cars. 12 50kW chargers - that's 600kW of electricity supply needed per motorway services. Today. 

Now fast forward to the time when we have 60$ of cars being EVs (maybe 30 years at current vehicle replacement rates). That's 40 times more chargers needed. 24MW of electricity needed at every motorway services just to recharge cars. That's a dozen large onshore turbines operating at peak capacity (ie when the wind is blowing at optimum speed), or 6 acres of solar farm when the skies are blue and the sun s high. Or perhaps just two of the giant 14MW largest offshore wind turbines sited in a permanently windy area with transmission cables and distribution infrastructure to suit.

Is this realistic?

Clearly using current technology, and current patterns of car use, it is a complete fantasy to suggest that EVs are a solution to anything. 

Of course the techno-fix airheads will argue that charging will get faster (but you'll still need the same amount of electricity), and that batteries will get more capacity (really? there is a power-weight trade-off and you'll still need the same amount of electricity), and that the cars will get more efficient (maybe in small percentage terms, but not realistically enough to reduce the amount of electricity  significantlyJevrons Paradox [3] still works), or that nuclear fusion will ride to the rescue (really? really really? not something to bet the planet on if you want to keep it habitable for humans)

And then the realists will point out that most of your charging needs can be fulfilled by solar panels on your roof and a buffer battery for the house which charges during the day and charges the car at night. Yes, I have this (although the house battery only has a tenth of the capacity of the car) and it is true that in summer most of our driving is done using solar juice so long as the sun shines and we don't go more than 200 mile away from home (2oo mile range on our EV). So in summer about 75-80% of miles a done by sunshine - in winter closer to 0% (we also use electricity in the home so even if the sun does shine there's not much spare for the car).

What it comes down to is that EVs are only relevant if the entire transport system is changed so that we don't expect to use a private personal vehicle for trips over about 10 miles. An for less than 10 miles it would make more sense to have a scheme like the city bike schemes were you rent a vehicle for the immediate need, rather than tying up a massive resource on your driveway for occasional use.

So much as I "love" my MG5  the conclusion, as always, is the only alternative to climate disaster is system change. And techno-sticking plasters like EVs are not relevant.


References & Footnotes
  1. SMMT July 2022 :
  2. DFT June 2022 :
  3. Jevron :

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