While hybrid cars have been on the road since the 1990s, electric vehicles are newer, and as such, it’s natural that there hasn’t been so much of an uptake of them as yet by consumers. However, although hybrids started out in the minority with only the real pro-technology posse buying them, they have now entered the mainstream of motoring, with hybrids becoming a third choice after gasoline and diesel cars. While all the coverage around electric cars would make you think the same will happen for EVs, it seems unlikely when you look at the number of people actually buying electric cars. In the US last year, for example, only 17,000 electric vehicles were sold. Although that may sound quite encouraging, it is in fact less than a tenth of one per cent of the whole market.
Although, like hybrids, EV technology has improved so that in theory most commuter journeys could be done on a single charge of an EV battery, the reality is that the range that you get on an EV is very susceptible to weather conditions and driving style. So, in cold weather, the range is a lot shorter and if you drive too fast, you’ll limit the range too.
When you look at the eco cars UK drivers have to choose from, it’s unsurprising that many opt to buy hybrids over EVs. To drive a hybrid, you don’t need to learn anything new. You take it to the gas station when you are low on fuel, there’s no range limitation as the engine kicks in and the electric motor battery is recharged by regenerative braking as the car moves along. Only this year has the UK seen the arrival of the Chevy Volt – marketed in the UK as the Vauxhall Ampera – which is more of an innovative hybrid than a true EV as the generator that is on board to produce more electricity is fulled by gas.
The other thing that has put people off buying EVs is the fact that it’s difficult to charge your vehicle apart from when you are at home. Gradually, the infrastructure is being put in to allow EV owners to charge their vehicles in public places, but it’s by no means straightforward at the moment.
Some auto makers seem reluctant to go too far down the pure EV track, with Toyota and Honda introducing plug-in hybrids this year rather than all-electric vehicles. Until the infrastructure really is established and the range limitation problems are overcome, it looks unlikely that we will see as many EVs on the road as hybrids.