Electric cars are a buzzword right now, and with good reason. Pure electric cars are on the brink of making the transition from novelty to mainstream, with models such as the Kia e-Niro and Hyundai Kona Electric offering near-300 mile driving range in an affordable, sub-£35,000 car for the first time ever. Before 2019, you’d have been looking at twice that much money and a trip to a Tesla dealer for driving range anywhere near 300 miles.
It’s taken a long time to get to this point. Indeed, the earliest crude electric cars were recorded in the first half of the 1800s, and more usable production electric cars from company’s such as Detroit Electric became a relatively popular choice for aristocratic types in the first few decades of the 1900s.
PRIUS AS POSTER CAR
In more recent years, it has been full hybrids such as the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius (pictured above) that have become the poster cars for electrification. They gained popularity at the beginning of the 21st century and, in the case of the Prius, went on to take over the world one Uber at a time. Additionally, some would argue that the later range-extender Chevrolet Volt and Vauxhall Ampera were just as significant for the way they popularised the concept of plugging in for short electric journeys and then offering petrol-powered backup thereafter.
It’s as a result of this momentum that increasing numbers of motorists (around 60% according to AA research) are considering making the switch to a full EV or plug-in hybrid when choosing their next car. At the same time, it is highly likely that we will see the current 1% share of the new car market currently held by pure electric vehicles begin to increase at a rapid rate.
THE MANUFACTURERS JOINING THE CHARGE
There’s no doubt that car manufacturers are racing to meet this predicted increase in demand. Hyundai and Kia are in good company with new, bigger battery versions of the Renault Zoe, Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 now on sale that offer ranges from a full charge of 200 miles or more.
Next up will be Peugeot, Citroen, DS and Vauxhall, all of which are on course to launch pure electric hatchbacks or small SUVs with 50kWh battery packs by early 2020. A quick drive in a prototype version of the pure electric DS 3 Crossback E-Tense (a small, premium SUV, pictured above, that will rival the Mini Countryman) suggests good things, too. The brake regeneration is smooth and easy to predict, and the electric DS offers decent comfort levels and pokey performance to go with a predicted range of 200 miles.
Volkswagen, too, is bringing a whole range of pure-electric cars to market from 2020, a new electric Honda supermini will be here by the end of the year, and Fiat has just showcased a concept pointing to an all-electric Panda (pictured below).
Then there are the plug-in hybrids, which have been brought into the public conscience largely by the big, affordable and company car tax-friendly Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (pictured below). There’s a world of plug-in hybrids beyond the Outlander, though. You can buy plug-in hybrids from the very practical and budget-oriented such as the Hyundai Ioniq PHEV, right through to prime, prestige plug-ins from Range Rover and Porsche. For a happy medium, the forthcoming VW Passat or Audi Q5 PHEV might appeal.
IS ELECTRIC THE ANSWER?
This isn’t to say that the electric car – be it hybrid or pure electric – is a one-shot answer to our motoring woes. It’s not. Even conservative estimates expect petrol and diesel engines to remain a large chunk of the UK’s new car market for another ten to fifteen years, not least due to reservations over charging infrastructure.
A huge swathe of motorists can’t charge at home, and the public charging infrastructure is less than reliable, currently. Even with providers such as BP Chargemaster rolling out fast chargers of 150kW (faster, even, than the fabled Tesla Superchargers) to garage forecourts this year, we are still not at a point where drivers who routinely do high mileages to far flung destinations can realistically move to a pure EV.
On the subject of infrastructure, as of spring 2019 there are more than 20,000 charging points at over 11,000 sites in the UK – albeit, only some 2,000 of them rapid chargers. Not bad, then, but there’s more work to do. With that in mind. it’s reassuring to know that National Grid representatives have gone on record stating that there should be no problem with the growth in demand for electricity, despite estimates that it’ll need to support 11 million vehicles by 2030, and 36 million by 2040.
WHY 2019 IS A TIPPING POINT
This is all critical stuff, but it’s not why 2019 is a landslide moment for the electric car. This year is a tipping point because most normal car buyers will have downed their aspirin on January 1st thinking that a Nissan Leaf or Renault Zoe are the only electric cars going. By the time the tinsel is back out in December, they will be able to buy a pure electric car with a 200-mile range (or more) from Peugeot, Vauxhall, Citroen, Hyundai, Kia, Audi, Mercedes, Mini, BMW, Jaguar and more.
This is the year that the electric car stops being a thing that’s coming, and becomes something that has arrived.
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