Electric vehicles and their role in the green recovery

Are you on a mission to ‘Build Back Better’ by reducing your travel-related emissions? Do you want to contribute to the green recovery? Investing in an electric vehicle (EV) is one way you can achieve these goals.

We know from our work with Scotland’s cultural sector and our carbon management planning and emissions reporting support that travel is often the biggest source of an organisation’s emissions, whilst also being a necessary part of what they do – whether it is touring work, travelling staff or even attracting audiences to their space. Road transport contributes to one fifth of greenhouse gas emissions (produced by burning petrol and diesel) in the UK.[1]

EVs are a key way in which we can reduce our fossil fuel consumption and the climate change-causing gases they produce. Of course, they’re not cheap. However, government ambitions for net zero, combined with the desire for a green recovery as we emerge from COVID-19, are resulting in more investment and incentives that might just bring an EV within reach for you or your organisation.

We’ve worked with our energy expert partners, Good Energy, to produce this special edition resource to share some insights into EVs and the things you might want to consider.

How long have EVs been around?

It is suggested[2] that one of the earliest electric vehicles was invented in 1832 and, even better, it happened in Scotland! Other electric vehicles were invented and manufactured in Europe and the US right through until the early 1900s, but their popularity was short-lived due to the rollout of mass car production. Now, however, EVs are making an impressive comeback. They’re easier to buy than ever before, and what’s more both the Scottish and UK governments are pushing for their uptake to help them achieve their net zero targets, and as we seek to ‘build back better’ following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Governments are getting behind EVs

Governments are promoting a green recovery to repair the damage wrought by the pandemic and to combat climate change. Getting behind EVs is one focus of their green recovery strategies. The Scottish Government aims to phase out sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032[3] and has been actively promoting EVs since at least 2013 when it published Switched On Scotland: A Roadmap to Widespread Adoption of Plug-in Vehicles. In November 2020, the UK Government announced it was bringing forward its target to end sales from 2035 to 2030 alongside a £1.3 billion investment into EV charging points.[4]

This year has seen a number of new electric cars become available, and there are now more affordable options, many from household car brands such as Hyundai, Kia, Peugeot, Renault and Vauxhall[5]amongst others. According to Next Green Car, combined EV (i.e. pure electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle or PHEV*) market share is up on last year from 3.8% in September 2019 to 10.5% in September 2020.[6]

Although many journeys can be made by public transport (particularly in well-connected cities) or avoided (through digital communications), EVs provide a cleaner, greener option for those who need a car (or van) to tour, traverse the country or who live and work in more rural areas. EVs are becoming far more common in the UK. There are now more than 164,000 pure electric cars and almost 350,000 plug-in models (including PHEVs) on our roads.[7] This is expected to increase to a million within the next two years and, if projections by the National Grid in a UK Government briefing paper are realised, there will be between 2.7 and 10.6 million EVs in the UK by 2030.[8] Mind you, it’s important to note that the phase-out mentioned above will include hybrid and plug-in hybrid models from 2035, so if you’re looking to futureproof your driving you’re probably better going straight to a pure electric vehicle.

Below we talk about some of the key considerations when thinking about investing in an electric vehicle.

  • Emission-free travel A traditional car requires fuel and emits gases often associated with climate change. The electric engines in EVs operate on a closed circuit, so there are no emissions. And, if the electricity you use to power your electric vehicle is sourced from 100% renewable sources (sun, wind, rain), the travel itself doesn’t produce any emissions either.
  • Lower running costs As fuel costs fluctuate globally, electricity prices are often cheaper and more secure so your ‘tank’ of electricity can work out to be a fraction of the fossil fuel fill-up cost. Other savings can be made via your home energy supply – for example, Good Energy offers a specific electric vehicle tariff for those charging cars at home – and on your road tax, because there isn’t any for pure EVs, they’re exempt!
  • Less maintenance Electric engines have fewer moving parts than internal combustion engines, which means there’s less to go wrong. Electric engines are generally smaller and quieter too.
  • Popularity As more and more people switch to using EVs, the number of vehicles available increases (to buy and to hire); charging places increase, insurance premiums are driven down and the number of petrol stations decreases, all leading to a better electric driving experience.
  • Range anxiety (fear of running out of charge before reaching your destination) and charging locations – When EVs were first introduced, the distances they could travel on a ‘full tank’ were shorter than a fossil fuel-powered car. However, now EVs have a range of 100 miles plus[9] (meaning you could get from Edinburgh to Aberdeen on a single charge) and most car journeys are actually less than 30 miles. The UK charging network is expanding on a daily basis, providing reassurance for those travelling longer distances. Statistics from Zap Map indicate that, as at 16th November 2020, there are 20,192 charging devices in 12,713 locations across the UK, which is a marked increase from three years ago when there were only 4,800 locations. In fact, statistically, Scotland has more charging points per person than most other areas of the UK, and the Highlands has more public charging points than Edinburgh or Glasgow[10]. The Scottish Government’s national EV charging network, ChargePlace Scotland, currently has 1500+ public charge points. One Point by Good Energy helps organisations install 100% renewable energy charging points on their premises, for use by their staff, visitors and audiences.
  • Charge time – Charging electric vehicles does take longer than a petrol station stop. Most EVs are charged overnight (which is good as demand for electricity is lower at night), but 30-minute, rapid-charging is available for those doing longer journeys. Drive Electric says you can top up your charge from empty to 80% full in 30 minutes with a 50kW rapid charger, which most newer charging points tend to be.[11] Most public charging points are located near cafes, shopping centres…or even cultural attractions so you’re free to do something else while your car gets back to full. For example, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh enables visitors to charge while visiting their exhibitions.
  • Initial cost and the incentives to buy – It’s true that electric vehicles are more expensive to buy than their conventional counterparts, but the government push towards EVs means prices are decreasing, urged on by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the UK car industry lobby group.[12] The Scottish Government’s interest-free low carbon loan scheme provides individuals and businesses with up to £28,000 for a new electric car or van or, since the scheme was extended in September 2020, up to £20,000 for a used one.[13] There is a list of eligible vehicles; plug-in hybrid models are excluded as are current EV owners. The loan is available in addition to the UK Government’s plug-in car and van grants, which will pay for 20% of the purchase price for eligible vehicles, up to a maximum of £3,000 and £8,000 respectively.[14] The grant is applied by the car dealership at the point of purchase.

There’s funding available from organisations in Scotland like the Energy Savings Trust, for those looking to purchase EVs! If you really want to find out more, here is a recording of a 2019 webinar that gives a ‘deep dive’ into the topic:

These incentives combined may be the perfect opportunity for Scottish creative practitioners and cultural organisations using a car or van for their work or touring schedule to make their first foray into the world of EVs, thus making a positive contribution to the green recovery while dramatically reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

One Point by Good Energy

One Point by Good Energy helps organisations install 100% renewable energy charging points on their premises, for the use of their staff, visitors and audience. As supporters of the Green Arts Initiative, we know they’re experts in renewable electricity, and are committed to enabling the cultural sector to help lead society in climate action. Find out more in this video or get more information:

Some final words

If you’re still not convinced about the pros of electric vehicles, have a read of this blog from the Energy Saving Trust, whose team members shared their experiences of owning and driving EVs. They’ve also written an excellent article on EVs and the green recovery, which is well worth reading.

This is a big topic and we’ve barely touched the sides, but we hope it’s helped you understand electric vehicles, their increased use on UK roads and their advantages a little better. If you have an EV, have experiences with buying or hiring, or have a case study to share with the sector – let us know!

Electric Vehicles and their role in the Green Recovery

We worked with our partner – renewable energy expert, Good Energy – to produce this blog. Good Energy are suppliers of genuine renewable electricity and are committed to enabling the cultural sector to help lead society in climate action. They are supporters of Creative Carbon Scotland and the Green Arts Initiative.

Pure electric vehicles are powered solely by electric motors, most often using a rechargeable battery. Plug-in hybrid vehicles generally use a rechargeable battery and petrol or diesel.

[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/environmentalaccounts/articles/roadtransportandairemissions/2019-09-16, accessed 17/11/2020

[2] Driving.co.uk (https://www.driving.co.uk/the-power-to-surprise/history-electric-car/), MG (https://mg.co.uk/hub/electric/the-history-of-electric-vehicles-a-timeline/), WhatCar (https://www.whatcar.com/news/history-of-the-electric-car/n18063), accessed 16/11/2020

[3] Scottish Government website: https://www.gov.scot/policies/renewable-and-low-carbon-energy/low-carbon-transport/, accessed 16/11/2020

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-54981425, accessed 18/11/2020

[5] https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/best-cars/top-10-best-electric-cars, accessed 16/11/2020

[6] https://www.nextgreencar.com/electric-cars/statistics/, accessed 16/11/2020

[7] https://www.nextgreencar.com/electric-cars/statistics/, accessed 17/11/2020

[8] David Hirst, ‘Electric vehicles and infrastructure’, Briefing Paper 7480, House of Commons Library, 25 March 2020, p.6.

[9] https://www.buyacar.co.uk/cars/economical-cars/electric-cars/726/electric-car-range-how-far-will-they-really-go-on-a-single, accessed 17/11/2020

[10] https://www.energyvoice.com/renewables-energy-transition/211147/scotland-leads-the-charge-on-electric-vehicle-roll-out/, accessed 17/11/2020

[11] https://www.drive-electric.co.uk/how-long-does-it-take-to-charge-an-electric-car/, accessed 17/11/2020

[12] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/04/higher-price-of-electric-cars-a-concern-for-more-than-half-of-uk-consumers, accessed 17/11/2020

[13] https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/grants-and-loans/electric-vehicle-loan/, accessed 16/11/2020

[14] https://www.gov.uk/plug-in-car-van-grants accessed 16/11/2020

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