Where next for the electric car?

For a long time, electric cars were very much a niche market. Concerns over practicality and range anxiety meant that mainstream car buyers have tended to take a conservative approach and stick to trusted internal combustion cars or take a halfway house with hybrids.

As we enter 2019 though things are changing fast. There are a number of reasons for this, ‘Dieselgate’ has seen a big drop in sales of diesel-powered cars. In addition, improved technology has started to make electric cars a more practical proposition with electric car hire in London widely available.

Mainstream makes catch up

For a long time Tesla has been the leader in making all-electric cars with a range that makes them a practical choice as an only car. However, more makers are starting to catch up. In the executive market the Jaguar iPace is a serious Tesla rival and other premium makers including Audi and Mercedes are expected to launch all-electric models this year.

But mainstream makers have taken big strides too. The early months of 2019 will see the Kia e-Niro go on sale to join its sister car the Hyundai Kona Electric. These are cars that offer around twice the range of a Nissan Leaf while only costing around £7,000 more. This will bring long-range EVs to a wider market than before and help make them acceptable as everyday transport.

Volkswagen is expected to launch its ID model this year too, said to be price-competitive with the Golf and with options available to vary the range and performance from the battery.

Although the UK government has cut its Plug-in Car Grant by £1,000 this doesn’t seem to have dented sales and indeed demand for electric vehicles is looking strong. Firms offering electric car hire in London allow you to try one out for yourself before committing to buy.

Improving infrastructure

One of the main worries for electric car drivers has always been the ability to charge the car. Again Tesla has pioneered things here with its Supercharger network, but things are starting to change in favour of EV’s generally.

The UK government’s Road to Zero strategy will mean new build homes and workplaces must have provision for electric vehicle charging, and on-street charging points will receive a boost too. Wireless charging technologies that don’t require you to plug the vehicle in are also in the late stages of development.

A significant move in 2018 has been the acquisition of Chargemaster – the UK’s largest EV charging network – by energy company BP. Plans have been announced to up the number of available EV charging points, including installing them at BP filling stations. Tesco has also announced plans that will see charge points installed at many of its supermarkets.

In some circles battery electrics are seen as being only a stop-gap technology and most makers are said to be working on hydrogen fuel cells. In the longer term this offers lower CO2 over the vehicle’s lifetime but would need major infrastructure investment.