Do electric cars still make sense in light of rising energy prices?

The website conducted a poll on electric cars in 2011 and, considering that the technical advance was still in its infancy, the result seems little surprising: 38% of readers were convinced that “they will never sell”. One forum member posted “Electric cars are terrible as they have a tiny range and take 8 hours to recharge to go 5 miles. They will never sell … only … to some hippies”.

Of all the benefits of owning an electric vehicle (EV), the big attraction for buyers is that they are cheaper to run. Taking an EV for a 100-mile spin around the neighbourhood would cost somewhere between £4-6, opposed to £13-16 in a petrol or diesel car.

Those who, in spite of the opinion of some Petrolheads a decade ago, had bought an EV, would have enjoyed the fact that almost all public chargers in the UK were free to use. And even though it might have been frustrating that the range was limited to under 100 miles, at least they would have had more money in their wallets and the conviction to have done something amazing for the environment.

But as Europe is facing an energy crisis and electricity prices are rising, where does that leave EV drivers? One could, of course, argue that fuel prices are rising, too. However, motorists need good reasons to dump their old cars and go electric.

In 2019 and 2021, the average price per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity in the UK was around 18p. Even though the data for 2021 hasn’t been published yet, it is expected that the average cost from the UK’s big six energy providers will level at about 24p per kWh in September this year.

Whilst a full charge of a car with a 50-kWh battery would cost £9.50 in 2020, the same will cost £13.50 at the September 2021 rate. With public charges also varying wildly, that price can go up to 69p per kWh, or £34.50 for a full charge.

We shouldn’t forget that an EV’s battery is completely indifferent to what the source of the energy is – wind, water, nuclear, or solar power generated by photo-voltaic panels on the roof of a house or carport. One may argue that these panels cost money to install, but once they are and the sun is shining, you can charge your car while it is sitting in the drive.

Charging your car on energy rates that apply to home will almost certainly mean that your costs will rise. But if you have PV panels installed, you can be smart about when you charge your vehicle and benefit from very cheap, if not even free fuel costs for years to come.

Rather than being more expensive to fuel in times of an energy crisis, charging your EV with solar power will not just save you a lot of money in the long run, it could actually help prevent future crises and high prices.

Gérard Fabrice Guminski - Climateq - September 2021

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