Electric Cars: Pros And Cons: The Complete Guide For The UK

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The benefits of electric driving are truly compelling. Hence, the rapid increase in the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in the UK and abroad!



Electric Cars: The Basics


For those of you new to zero-emission electric driving, we recommend a read of the following articles:


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As we move into 2023, one thing is clear, electric vehicles (EVs) are fast becoming central to our transportation narrative in the UK. Many individuals, households and businesses have already adopted electric driving, and this momentum is only getting stronger. Sales of electric cars have increased by 38.4% in 2022, compared to 2021. Electric cars now command a market share above 20% in the UK.

It is true, in that, the UK government’s legislation to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles from 2030 has been a catalyst for the migration to electric cars, but there are many other drivers for the increased demand for green cars in the UK. Consumers are fast recognising the numerous advantages and benefits of owning and driving an electric vehicle (EV)!

Though all types of electric vehicles are beneficial, the greatest benefits are derived from battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), more commonly known as pure electric cars. The best-selling all-electric Tesla Model 3 is an excellent example of a BEV! Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), like the ubiquitous Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid also offer significant benefits, but less than BEVs.

All stakeholders are fast recognising the advantages of electric driving, to include, governments, consumers and automotive manufacturers. In fact, even the famed luxury automotive manufacturer, Rolls-Royce, has launched its first pure electric car, the Rolls-Royce Spectre.


Type Of Electric Vehicle (EVs) Description
Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicles (MHEVs)Mild hybrids use both an internal combustion engine (ICE) and electric motor. These cars are also known as ‘self-charging hybrids’. The vehicle uses regenerative braking (recuperated electric energy) to improve the fuel efficiency (mpg) and to reduce tailpipe emissions (CO2 g/km). However, mild hybrids cannot be charged by an external power source (i.e. EV charger). The recuperated electric energy is also used to boost the the combustion engine, enhancing acceleration. Automotive manufactures (OEMs) like Toyota are one of the pioneers in developing and introducing mild hybrid vehicles. The ubiquitous Toyota Prius mild hybrid is an excellent example. Toyota also helped popularise the use of mild hybrids in the premium segment via its wholly owned Lexus brand.
Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) aim to achieve the same objectives as a MHEV i.e. increase fuel efficiency and reduce tailpipe emissions. However there is much difference between a PHEV and a MHEV. The PHEV has a larger electric motor and onboard EV battery, that is used to assist the internal combustion engine (ICE), but also to propel the vehicle. In a MHEV, the small onboard electric motor does not propel the vehicle. PHEVs come in varied EV battery sizes, but in general, most PHEVs have an EV battery size below 20 kWh. A plug-in electric car is capable of up to 25 miles zero-tailpipe emission electric miles. However, some PHEVs are capable of even longer electric miles. The Volvo XC60 PHEV is a good example of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle with a longer range (48.5 miles). Unlike a MHEV, a PHEV EV battery is charged by using an external power source, like a dedicated EV charger.
Battery-Electric Vehicles (BEVs)A battery-electric vehicle is more commonly referred to as a pure electric car. The EVs are ‘pure’ in that, the vehicle only uses electric power for propulsion i.e. a BEV does not have an internal combustion engine (ICE). It is easy to recognise these zero-tailpipe emission green cars, as these vehicles are silent (except for the artificial noise) and do not have a tailpipe! The electric vehicles have a much larger onboard EV battery than a PHEV. The EV battery on a BEV can be as large as 120 kWh, though an average in 60 kWh. In any case, most BEVs have an EV battery larger than 30 kWh. BEVs also use regenerative braking to improve the vehicle efficiency and electric range. However, the main source for the EV range is the EV battery, which can only be charged using an external power source, like an EV charger. BEVs can vary in electric range, depending on a number factors. However, the more recent BEVs deliver a range between 100 miles to 300 miles (WLTP) on a single charge. As an example, the all-electric VW ID.3 has a range up to 336 miles.

The Pros For Electric Vehicles (EVs)


Pros: Electric Vehicles (EVs)
Lower air pollution:One can never overestimate the negative impact of air pollution on the health of individuals, in particular, the vulnerable i.e. the children and the elderly. In the UK, we have witnessed a significant increase in air pollution over the past decade, and yes, petrol and diesel tailpipe emissions have contributed to the worsening air quality across all our villages, towns and cities. Road transportation, though not the only source of pollutants, is a leading source, contributing up to 30%. Electric vehicles help reduce tailpipe emissions i.e. leading to improved air quality. A pure electric car does not have a tailpipe, hence the expression ‘zero-tailpipe emissions’ or ‘zero-emissions’. PHEVs do have tailpipe emissions, given the hybrid nature of the vehicle (ICE and electric), but have far lower emissions than a conventional petrol or diesel car. Moreover, when a PHEV is driven on electric mode, the tailpipe emissions are zero! So bottom-line, both BEVs and PHEVs help improve air quality!
Lower running costs per mile: It is a misconception that electric cars are more expensive than petrol and diesel cars. EVs are cheaper to drive per mile than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Charging an EV battery can cost as little as £5, and in most cases less than £10. However, refuelling a tank of fuel can cost up to £120 (and possibly more). An EV costs between 3 pence and 10 pence per mile to drive, significantly lower, compared to the cost of driving a petrol or diesel car (20 pence + per mile).
Lower maintenance costs:This is applicable only for BEVs. Pure electric cars have far fewer moving parts compared to an internal combustion engine (ICE). Therefore, there is less that can go wrong or needs regular maintenance, resulting in lower total maintenance costs.
Lower risk of breakdown:Given the fewer moving parts in an electric car, it is not surprising that EVs have a lower probability of a breakdown compared to petrol or diesel vehicles. Most EV drivers have become astute at ‘topping up’ the EV battery on a regular basis to avoid the risk of being stranded due to depleted EV battery. One of the key reasons for seeking breakdown assistance.
Convenience of charging at home:An EV can be charged at the convenience of your own home or office (no need to visit a petrol station!). In fact, most EVs are charged overnight, at home, when the energy prices are the cheapest!
Solar panels can significantly reduce charging costs:Residential solar can be used to lower the cost of charging an electric car. Using residential PV solar, the cost of generating and consuming electricity is nominal. Both residential and commercial solar installations are ways to hedge against energy price inflation and achieve ‘well-to-wheel’ zero-tailpipe emissions. Petrol or diesel prices cannot be hedged as easily by consumers.
EVs owners enjoy many discounts:Yes, EV owners get a number of discounts, to include, incentives, grants, lower taxes, lower parking fees and more!
Lower noise pollution:In general, electric cars are silent with an in-built artificial noise generator primarily for pedestrian safety. The lower ‘noise’ from EVs, helps improve the quality of our living environment, in particular, those living close to busy roads and thoroughfares.
Instant torque:Yes, electric vehicles (EVs) deliver better torque performance than internal combustion engines, hence the ‘torque of the town’! If in doubt, look at a traffic light that has both these types of cars. As the signal changes to green, the electric car will quickly leave behind the diesel and petrol cars. The primary reason for the superior acceleration in electric cars, is that, electric vehicles deliver ‘peak or maximum torque’ instantaneously, producing immediate acceleration. However, petrol and diesel cars take time to reach maximum or peak torque. In particular, diesel cars are known for being sluggish. Bottom-line, the better torque performance of electric cars, further contributes to the ‘fun factor’ in driving EVs compared to conventional ICE cars.  
A more refined drive:For those of you that have sat in an electric vehicle, either as the driver or the passenger, you understand what we mean. Electric cars are a far smoother and more refined drive compared to petrol/ diesel cars, in particular, on long drives!
Better for the environment:Yes, apart from air pollution, in general, electric vehicles are better for the environment, given the lack of dependence on polluting fossil fuels.

The Cons For Electric Cars


Cons: Electric Vehicles (EVs)
Retail prices expensive:It is true, in that, EVs are still expensive in regards to the retail price, compared to an equivalent petrol/ diesel car. However, the past few years has witnessed a reduction in the prices for EVs, along with the emergence of many affordable EV models. In our view, as the EV sector continues to mature with increased manufacturing volumes, consumers will gain from the inevitable price reduction, as a result of the increased economies of scale. Moreover, the best way to acquire a car, is usually through a competitive financing plan like a lease, contract hire etc, making the acquisition of an EV affordable for many. Yes, you can lease electric cars via e-zoomed at fantastic prices. Simply follow this link!
Limited DC charging infrastructure: Though 80% of EV charging is done overnight at home, public EV charging infrastructure remains a focal point for debates among aspiring/ current owners of EVs. The UK has witnessed vast improvements in public EV charging infrastructure over the past 24 months and as of October 2022, the country has 59,059 connectors across 21,378 locations (credit: zapmap). However, we agree that rapid DC charging infrastructure still needs to be deployed more widespread, helping EV drivers achieve a 10% – 80% EV battery charge in under 30 minutes. The UK currently has 13,919 rapid charging connectors across 3,799 locations.
Limited choice of EVs:There is no doubt that there has been a significant increase in the number of electric vehicles (EVs) that have been introduced over the past three years. However, the number of available pure electric cars are still limited in comparison to petrol and diesel vehicles. As global automotive manufacturers ramp-up the development and production of EVs, we expect the ‘consumer choice’ to widen significantly.
Limited availability of used EVs:Given the relatively nascent nature of the EV sector, it is not surprising that the used electric car market is still very small. We do expect the used EV marketplace to improve significantly in the coming years, giving aspiring EV owners a vast choice at competitive prices.

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Author

Ashvin Suri

Ashvin has been involved with the renewables, energy efficiency and infrastructure sectors since 2006. He is passionate about the transition to a low-carbon economy and electric transportation. Ashvin commenced his career in 1994, working with US investment banks in New York. Post his MBA from the London Business School (1996-1998), he continued to work in investment banking at Flemings (London) and JPMorgan (London). His roles included corporate finance advisory, M&A and capital raising. He has been involved across diverse industry sectors, to include engineering, aerospace, oil & gas, airports and automotive across Asia and Europe. In 2010, he co-founded a solar development platform, for large scale ground and roof solar projects to include the UK, Italy, Germany and France. He has also advised on various renewable energy (wind and solar) utility scale projects working with global institutional investors and independent power producers (IPP’s) in the renewable energy sector. He has also advised in key international markets like India, to include advising the TVS Group, a multi-billion dollar industrial and automotive group in India. Ashvin has also advised Indian Energy, an IPP backed by Guggenheim (a US$ 165 billion fund). He has also advised AMIH, a US$ 2 billion, Singapore based group. Ashvin has also worked in the real estate and infrastructure sector, to including working with the Matrix Group (a US$ 4 billion property group in the UK) to launch one of the first few institutional real estate funds for the Indian real estate market. The fund was successfully launched with significant institutional support from the UK/ European markets. He has also advised on water infrastructure, to include advising a Swedish clean technology company in the water sector. He is also a member of the Forbury Investment Network advisory committee. He has also been involved with a number of early stage ventures.

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