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Steve Johnson

We asked "if it's worth having an electric car in Shropshire?


JT Hughes’ recent survey; a quick snapshot of opinion, suggests that there’s growing interest in the viability of electric cars (EVs) in Shropshire. With 47% in the ‘yes camp’, the arguments are stacking up. Stirring the debate, even at a basic level, suggests that acceptance and popularity is only going one way.  Battery technology and range capacities are improving with environmental issues and concerns to back things up.  
Looking at manufacturers of cars (and vans) pushing ahead with new vehicle introductions; it’s fair to say most brands are on the case to compete; driving emission targets and serving customer demand. Watch this space for 200 mile pure electric capabilities to accelerate the market. In terms of specifics, the success of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid is a good indicator– over 21,000 sold in the UK since launch in 2015. Electric vehicles may remain more expensive to buy, at least for a while, but a near silent wind of automotive change is gathering what appears to be unstoppable momentum. 

To the results of JT Hughes’ survey; the concerns (31.94% of responses) echoed about the lack of charging points in Shropshire are understandable – currently numbering less than 30 across the county as highlighted in a previous article about electric car charging point locations in Shropshire. Demand and supply forces will increase in the coming years, but if you take the view that that most return journeys are within EV range, recharging every 80 or 90 miles, probably at home, is less hardship, more change in routine.

eletric car survey

There are of course plusses and minuses when charging an EV away from base - a car park slot for the duration perhaps, but you may also be left waiting to ‘plug in’. Convenience that’s comparable to petrol and diesel fill ups will take time, but electric service stations with comfort and refreshment facilities may not be too far off.      

The biggest concern (43.06 % of responses) expressed was ‘running out of charge’. Unlike those of us who cast cursory glances at fuel gauges, EV drivers (especially without hybrid back-up) acquire somewhat finer, even paranoid range management skills. Driving conditions, wind speed, temperature and equipment usage all make a difference. Maximising range may become pub talk trivia, but out on the road, maxing battery capacity is one more thing to think about. If you are stranded out in the Shropshire sticks, or anywhere for that matter… put it this way; check out the breakdown and recovery clubs’ capabilities as part of the ownership research. Chances are EV drivers get up to speed (or not) without too much trouble.

Electric car survey  

If you are serious about EV motoring around Shropshire and beyond, and why shouldn’t you be, there are plenty of online resources for the Q&A (e.g. Zap Other websites are available). It all looks to be a relatively quick learning and familiarisation curve. Ensuring that your chosen charge points have connection and cable compatibility for your EV before setting off on long trips is one thing. Sorting specific network payment requirements is another.

Availability of charge points and concerns of running out might only need a change in mind-set, but charging time, particularly when away from base, is still up there in the quite inconvenient category for us Salopians. Without hybrid capabilities, a trip to Edinburgh, Exeter or Eastbourne would probably mean reaching for the keys of the family’s other vehicle.

For pure EV motoring, disregarding the Slow, eight hour cycle, charging is either Fast - 3-4 hours or Rapid – 80% of max in 30 minutes. Although Rapid (AC/DC) is newer technology, availability will surely increase for everyone’s benefit. A 30 minute charge time may not such a big issue; have a coffee, read a book – it could be a quite a liberating and relaxing experience. Might we even see motorway signs ‘Have You Enough Power to Get Home?  or ‘Take a Break, Charge Your Car’. Wouldn’t bet against it. Switching to an EV also adds a new excuse; ‘Sorry darling, I will be late home, the car’s on charge’. Don’t try it too often though, or you may wish you had a best of both worlds hybrid.

In short, Shropshire may not be in the top set of ‘UK goes electric’ counties, but if your motoring budget allows it and you are happy with the limited choice, then the ‘case for’ is increasingly rosy. After all, anyone serious about switching to an EV is bound to look at the whole cost of ownership picture and yes, if you have a £25-30,000 budget, you may decide to drop a class or two to go electric. Or dip your first toe in the water with a second-hand purchase.

With social media debate a-plenty, EV motorists are a new generation of automotive pioneers – ready to accept the challenges and restrictions, but reaping the rewards. Some might even wish to applaud EV motorists; quietly of course to reflect the sound of their motors.   

For those who don’t want to be pioneers.. yet , the fact that petrol and diesel engine efficiency continues to improve means that the vast majority of purchasers will not be putting an EV on shopping lists for a goodly while. In the meantime, we can easily have 50, 60 or 70+ mpg and there’s more to come. Manufacturers too are keeping all the fuel/power options alive.. unless you happen to be Tesla. If, by sticking with our status quo fuel, we can save £5,000 or so from purchasing an EV equivalent, then that’s equally fine.

At the end of the day, Shropshire car buyers mostly choose a vehicle to suit their particular needs – that’s how it’s always been and nothing has changed. EVs simply extend the range of choice. As of now, a pure EV may be sound proposition for an average mileage driver making short journeys keen to experience all that such a vehicle has to offer. And being part of a brave new motoring world.
Living in Shropshire is not, budget permitting, an excuse to put the idea on the back burner.

To wrap up. There are some serious questions to ponder. Do EV drivers wave at each other, but don’t flash their headlights to save power? Are they immune from the comments that fossil fuels may (or not) be used to make the electricity they use? Ditto how much energy has been used up in the manufacturing process?  Are they proud of their commitment to new technology and enjoying the new experience from motoring EV style. Absolutely. Will fuel prices return to the exorbitant levels we saw a year or two back? A greater chance than Leicester City winning the treble next season…

Anyone with an EV, or a PHEV hybrid-sized budget (new or used), has nothing lose, but to take a test drive. If he was alive today, would Charles Darwin drive an EV? I rather fancy he would.

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