- There are around 37.9 million cars currently licensed in the UK (as of 2018)
- The average car’s annual mileage is 7,134 miles
- An average car in the UK emits approximately 200g of CO2 per mile
Using all of this information, an average car then emits over 1.4 tonnes of CO2 per year. Therefore replacing a fossil fuel powered car with an low-emission one would cut these emissions by at least 60%. This would be even more if the car is powered solely by renewable energy and is particularly energy efficient.
Electric cars might not be an option for all journeys but about half of the car journeys in the UK are below 5 miles. Therefore, where cycling or walking aren’t options, electric cars could definitely make a contribution to reducing emissions.
Electric vehicles are in fact a big part of the UK Government’s ‘Road to Zero‘ strategy. This aims to reduce the transport sector’s carbon emissions over the next 30 years. Their adoption is strongly supported by national schemes.
While the initial investment cost in an electric (EV) or plug-in hybrid vehicle can be higher than for a initial combustion engine, this is offset by lower running costs. Driving 100 miles in a petrol or diesel car will cost around £13 to £16 in fuel, which can be two to three times more than the cost of charging an electric car. The financial savings are even higher if you are able to charge the car at home and have access to an off-peak overnight electricity tariff. Citizens Advice have published a great analysis of the EV tariff market. In addition, pure EVs have a zero rate of Vehicle Excise Duty and typically lower servicing and maintenance costs.
This video by the Energy Saving Trust explains how electric vehicles work and what types are available.
Types of low-emission vehicles
BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle)
A BEV is a vehicle powered only by electricity. This is also known as ‘pure’ or 100% electric. The vehicle is charged by an external power source, i.e. at a chargepoint. They do not produce any tailpipe emissions.
Currently typical BEVs have a real-world range of over 100 miles, with many of the newest travelling up to 300 miles on a single charge.
PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle)
A PHEV is a vehicle which has a battery, electric drive motor as well as an internal combustion engine (ICE). It can be driven using the ICE, or the electric drive motor, or both, and can be recharged from an external power source.
Typical PHEVs will have a pure-electric range of up to 30 miles. Once the electric battery is depleted, journeys can still continue in hybrid mode, meaning that you can travel without having to stop to charge. However, PHEVs are only efficient if they are regularly charged, otherwise they can be more expensive to run than a conventional petrol or diesel.
OZEV Plug-in Vehicle Grant
Grants are available to reduce the initial purchase cost of eligible plug-in vehicles and the cost and installation of chargepoints. The Plug-in Vehicle Grant provides up to £3,000 for a car, £8,000 for a van or £1,500 for a motorbike.
The Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) is responsible for these grants and maintains a list of eligible vehicles. The grant is automatically deducted from the retail price when an eligible vehicle is purchased, so there is no additional paperwork to complete.
When considering an electric vehicle, a barrier can be concerns over charging options. Chargepoints can be installed at homes with a garage or driveway. More and more are also available at workplaces, on residential streets, in town centres, public car parks, motorway service stations and so on. The speed your vehicle recharges will be affected by the chargepoint speed available and also how fast the vehicle itself can recharge.
Cambridge City Council are providing information about charging electric vehicles in Cambridge on their website.
Charging at home
It’s most beneficial if the majority of charging is done at home, ideally overnight. If you have a driveway or garage, the cheapest and most convenient way is to install a dedicated chargepoint. The OZEV Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme covers up to £500 for installing a home chargepoint. Some energy companies offer tariffs specifically for EV drivers. The Energy Saving trust provides some tips on how to save money on charging your EV at home.
Public charging network
Chargepoints vary as to how quickly they can charge an EV.
- Rapid chargepoints are the quickest way to recharge a vehicle, recharging to 80% in around 30 minutes. However, rapid chargepoints are the most expensive to use (similar to expensive petrol or diesel fuel at motorway services), and they cannot be installed at home.
- Slow chargepoints are often the cheapest to use and are suitable when vehicles are parked for several hours, such as during working hours or overnight.
- Fast chargepoints are a happy medium and ideal when vehicles are parked for a few hours
The network of public chargepoints is rapidly expanding across the UK. You can search for them on a range of websites including: