IAIN ROBERTSON 

Nissan-Leaf-2010-2

Nissan-Leaf

While automotive electrification is very much a 21st Century development, reports Iain Robertson, fully electric vehicles have only been present in larger volumes within the past decade and, with around 170,000 in a total UK car parc of 35m, it is a sector set for astronomical growth.

Watch television advertisements, go online, read magazines and newspapers and, if motor vehicles are your motivation, you will not be able to escape the glorification of the EV industry. Government has already set the date (2030), even if it has not established the agenda and seems almost unwilling to do so. EV websites proliferate, all keen to pontificate about the zero carbon, zero emissions, zero everything nature of transport’s future, almost as if the motor industry had been ignoring it.

However, everything that has been promoted is new, novel, innovative, inventive and pioneering. Good Lord! It is almost beyond excitement, to a level that I am sure diaper manufacturers and knicker knitters must be immensely motivated by the increased demand for their products. Even ITV’s ‘Tonight’ programme spent 27 minutes extolling the virtues of roadside rechargers and their idiosyncrasies (damaged, inoperable, awaiting parts etc), which only serves to highlight that the real buzz should be around domestic EV chargers.

Mitsubishi-iMIEV

Mitsubishi

In fact, even when I mentioned it to the UK’s leading domestic charger manufacturer (SYNC EV), it was relieved, as it had given no thought to existing EV owners, working on the basis that, as the charger maker, it only satisfies the demands of its electrical wholesaler customers. Understandable.

Yet, the already owned, leased and second-hand EV market has a number of issues to confront. Firstly, while early adopters, keen to shine their ecological halos and also be ‘first to the grid’, are driving vehicles possessing a fraction of the range potential of the most recent EVs, many other equipment aspects of their vehicles are nowhere close to the specifications of the latest iterations. In some respects, these situations make their vehicles obsolete, a factor that is readily recognisable, when they attempt to trade-in their beloved EVs, only to discover that a £20-£25,000 investment then is worth less than £3,000 now. Some of them will wish they had not made such an early choice.

It is a factor not helped by the carmakers invested in EV technology a decade ago being mildly shocked that their battery packs (usually NiMh, Nickel Metal-hydride type) have been so durable. Remember that, as soon as a regularly recharged battery reaches around 79% of its efficacy, it is as well being put out to the repurposer’s pastures, or ‘scrapped’, were it feasible. Yet, many of them retain several usable years of life. There is clearly a secondary market awaiting exploitation to upgrade older EVs to newer technology.

Renault-Zoe-2012

Renault-Zoe

Many of those early cars also had brand-dedicated domestic charger units, complete with complicated groundworks and damaging ‘trickle-charge’ facilities. Moving home would create a problem in renewing equipment. Yet, uniquely, the SYNC EV charger is vaunted as the only SMART technology unit available that can recharge ALL different makes and models of EVs. The firm’s hardware can also be removed from its ‘box’ easily and ready to install in a new ‘box’ at the user’s new home, the software being carried on the user’s smartphone app.

Once again, I turned to Michael Youles, a consultant to the charger industry, for critical comment. He told me: “I work closely with SYNC EV, mostly because its chargers are not only compact and quite handsome but they are packed with intelligent features that make me wonder about the short-termist attitude adopted by some other charger manufacturers. Each of its domestic chargers is future-proofed in both construction and technology terms.”

While gratifying to SYNC EV customers, those unaware of the options are left in limbo by carmakers more interested in moving metal. Again, understandable. However, while the building of a nationwide, publicly accessible infrastructure of rapid and superchargers is essential, not least because of a present industry standard 30-minutes rest halt to gain around 50 to 80 additional miles of range, it is the domestic charger network that needs bolstering. Naturally, it is helped by the £350 government grant for each OZEV-approved (Office for Zero Emissions Vehicles) installation but, as stated in previous reports, the waiting times for installers to receive their funds can wipe-out any hopes of making a profit. In fact, a lot of charger installers wish that the grant scheme would not exist at all.

Nissan-Leaf-2010-1

Nissan-Leaf

As Mike continued: “Again, that is the beauty of the SYNC EV installation, in that it can be achieved within a couple of hours, meaning that four units can be installed in the average working day and this is a boast supported by online affirmation that also confirms that latch-up to energy supplier and the in-built equipment software is instant and unproblematic.”

Our country is peppered with new and used car dealers, many franchised outlets and others just private businesses, each of which need not fear dealing with EVs, as there exists a proper recharging option and SYNC EV has a nationwide wholesaler network with which it co-operates. Coincidentally, this option might also have the effect of bolstering the second-hand values of used EVs, which would be a most positive step, rather than resort to ‘fly-tipping’ them.

Conclusion:        With less than nine years to go before ‘E-Day’, the excitement inherent to the entire EV scene tends to obscure genuine opportunities. If anything, this report should highlight to a market sector largely ignored that alternatives are available. The next concern must be to engender the proper support of government by way of a concise political roadmap, so that a semblance of order might ensue.

Peugeot-iOn

Peugeot