A perennial problem of electric cars is that introducing them on a broad scale via private companies is that a chicken and egg scenario is encountered; potential owners don’t want to buy the cars until there are plenty of charging points available, and potential charging-point companies can’t get any serious investment until there is sufficient demand. Some cars even have solar panels, but the power provided by them is – at the moment – rather insignficant. In 2011, the UK government launched a £5,000 grant scheme, paying thousands of pounds to the newest owners of these energy efficient vehicles. However, with the issue of “range anxiety”, as popularised in the car review program ‘Top Gear’, owners weren’t hasty to take up the government’s seemingly-generous offer. The Department for Transport’s figures show 465 sold in Q1 of 2011, and a depressing 215 further electric vehicle sales in Q2 of the same year – figures, unsurprisingly, have been delayed for Q3. Studies have shown that the majority of electric car charging would be happening at home, but even with a grant for the cars, who would want one if they couldn’t drive any distance on a slightly more adventurous trip?
Recently, it has been announced that a Boris-backed recharging network will be introduced across London. This will consist of 216 charging points across London, so hopefully when this is coupled with the grant scheme, the chickens and eggs can be introduced at the same time! Private companies are also slowly starting to invest – Ecotricity, supposedly a national scheme, have 12 charging points. More excitingly, the Manchester Electric Car Company are building 300 points up North, and Chargemaster currently have 150 points in place across the country, with plans for a further 3,850 by the start of 2013.
For the full privatisation of electric cars to be a success, and for them to achieve a real degree of popularity, it’ll be necessary that any government funding is used to address issues surrounding incompatibility between different companies’ systems, and to ensure there is sufficient investment in place in a broad infrastructure to make electricity as available as widely as possible, and so it can start to approach petrol as a viable alternative.
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