It says a lot for the current interest in electric cars that at last week’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, traditionally a haven for the petrol head, it was in fact a stand called Electric Avenue: The Road To 2030, that seemed to have the biggest crowds.
Here a steady throng of visitors and would-be buyers came to see a selection of the latest EV models up close and ask a few questions of the experts on hand. After all, with EVs there’s still a lot to wrap your head around.
Much of this interest stems from that looming 2030 legislation which will effectively ban the sale of new petrol and diesel models to quicken the transition to EVs.
It’s a similar story in many global markets and such deadlines have required manufacturers to rethink their entire operations in an effort to keep pace. Unsurprisingly, it’s also attracted new brands looking to follow in the footsteps of Tesla and take advantage of this industry reset.
“Take a brand like Fisker that probably a lot of people don’t know yet but goodness me, they will. I think that’s one of the exciting things about electric cars,” says Ginny Buckley, founder and CEO of electrifying.com, “there are different players coming in to the market.”
Right now manufacturers can’t build EVs quickly enough. Supply issues and increased demand has created a waiting list across the industry.
“(Demand) is enormously strong,” says Jonathan Goodman, CEO of Polestar UK, another of those new electric brands disrupting the status quo, though it is backed by Chinese auto giant Geely, which also owns Volvo. “What we’ve seen this year is that orders are far outstripping our original forecasts. The caveat to that is that there are supply constraints. We had our factory close in China due to lockdown.”
If you ordered a Polestar Two right now, you’d receive it around New Year. For many brands it would be well into 2023.
Owning an electric car still carries the cachet of being not only a technology early adopter but also an environmental crusader. When I drove a Polestar Two last year, it garnered more interest from passers-by than a typical supercar.
Looking at the cars on show at Goodwood, it’s clear that 2022 is a breakthrough year in terms of the number of electric cars on offer from multiple brands, and models in pretty much every category, from quirky new players like the three-wheeled ElectricaMecanica, to design-led versions of existing classics like the Fiat 500, through to luxury options including the new Lotus Eletre SUV, the brilliant Porsche Taycan Sport Turismo and American start-ups like Fisker, Lucid and Rivian.
“Five years ago there would have been maybe half a dozen cars here,” says Butler. “An electric cul-de-sac rather than an electric avenue. There are now 140 different electric cars on sale.”
EVs are still more expensive than their petrol counterparts, largely due to the battery costs, though according to Buckley, we are starting to see that come down.
On the flip-side they’re cheaper to run than petrol cars, just 2p a mile if you charge off-peak with an efficient energy tariff, though that ramps up if you only use public charging bays.
Clearly the environmental benefits of EVs are another big draw for buyers, although even this is a more complicated comparison than many believe. The extent of these benefits still depends on whether the electricity is sourced from clean energy or fossil-fuels. Several studies have shown that producing EVs creates more emissions than combustion engine models, though EVs are cleaner over the car’s entire lifespan.
Range anxiety is still a concern for many would-be buyers even though many models now offer 300 miles or more. It might be more accurate to call it charging anxiety – everything from how to set up accounts with different providers, wait times for bays at busy times and needing to plan your stops carefully if driving across the country.
“There are more charging bays in Westminster than the whole of the West Midlands,” says Buckley.
Living in a home with off-street parking still feels like a requirement for owning an electric car for many buyers, though developments like lamppost chargers and increasing the number of street chargers is improving this.
“I think the infrastructure is improving quickly but as the volumes grow that will have to grow again,” says Jonathan Goodman. “That will be the major focus from us and all the EV manufacturers when talking to governments, to say we need to keep that acceleration of infrastructure going and if it does then I believe electric cars have a great future in the UK.”
All this information on electric cars and we haven’t even covered what it feels like to drive one and feel the instant torque on offer from electric motors for the first time.
“People who haven’t driven an EV before are pretty much blown away when they sit down and drive it,” says Goodman. “The reaction when people accelerate is always the same – woah!”
Given Goodwood has long been a festival for petrol heads, it seems as if the electric heads are coming.
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