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Motorists ready to get plugged-in

30th June 2010 Print

Report findings unveiled today, reveal that the UK consumer is ready to embrace the electric revolution on the nation’s roads with about two-thirds of consumers stating that they’re willing to consider an electric vehicle if the charging infrastructure is improved.

Over three-quarters of the UK agree that petrol/diesel emissions need to be lowered to reduce the amount of C02 emissions in the UK and 74% of respondents are prepared to do their bit. The results form part of the smart Plugged-In report, an independent study by the Future Foundation commissioned to coincide with the start of the smart fortwo electric drive consumer trials in the UK.

The smart Plugged-In report also reveals that the majority of people believe local councils and communities have a responsibility to help make this a reality. 87% of the UK believe that local councils should invest more in the infrastructure to support electric vehicles (e.g. more recharging points away-from-home) and 84% think it’s the responsibility of their communities to make sure residents can live 'greener' lives with easier local recycling facilities, electric vehicle charging points and cycle lanes.

Commissioned to understand the UK perceptions around electric vehicles, the smart Plugged-In report coincides with the first London consumers taking delivery of their smart fortwo electric drives, as part of the UK’s biggest electric drive trial. Funded by the Government’s Technology Strategy Board, the nationwide trial is the first of its kind with over 340 vehicles being trialled on the UK roads. The programme sees 60 smart electric drives exclusively tested by residents in London and the South East for 12 months. A further 40 will be trialled by residents in the West Midlands.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said: “We are now on the brink of an exciting era of cleaner, greener electric motoring. London is already taking steps to ensure drivers in the capital will be able to embrace this new technology and plug in with confidence.”

“Britain is in the enviable position of leading the electric vehicle revolution in Europe, and the considerable momentum we have built up must not be lost. We must be prepared for the arrival of mass-produced electric cars by putting in place a suitable charging infrastructure now,” comments Calvey Taylor-Haw, Founder and Managing Director of Elektromotive, the world’s leading manufacturer of electric vehicle recharging stations. “The installations of Elektrobays in London are generating an extremely high level of round-the-clock usage, which provides a clear template for how the creation of a proven infrastructure is essential for electric cars to become widely accepted.”

Bethan Carver, Manager of Product Development at EDF Energy, said: “EDF Energy is installing charge points and smart meters in to the homes of the trial participants to help us better understand customers charging behaviour. We believe over 80 per cent of all charging will take place at home or work. Nevertheless, we believe some public infrastructure is important. This will help to address the public’s concerns over infrastructure highlighted in the report. EDF Energy has a partnership with Elektromotive and has installed 85 on-street charge points in London and across the UK and at our own sites in Brighton and London.”

Whilst revealing an enthusiasm and understanding for the ‘green’ benefits (69% of the UK believe owning an electric car would reduce their carbon footprint) and potential saving advantages of electric vehicles (the benefits highlighted by consumers were: money saving 61%, energy efficiency 54%, lower taxes 52%, lower insurance 46%), the report shows that there is still a need for more information: 73% of people would like to know more about electric cars. This thirst for information is reflected in the lack of knowledge and confusion around the perceived pit-falls including the maximum range of electric vehicles. Findings show that 75% of consumers worry that they will run out of charge quickly and that they might not be able to travel as far as they need. However, dispelling this myth around the range, Professor Julia King comments “97% of our journeys in the UK are less than 50 miles”. Heiko Bornhoeft, Head of Product Marketing at smart reminds consumers “The smart fortwo electric drive has a potential range of 84 miles between charges which is more than most people’s daily driving requirements.”

61% of respondents also acknowledge that driving an electric vehicle could have money saving benefits. But how much exactly? On average, respondents in the smart Plugged-In Report state that they spend £1,100 on fuel a year. EDF Energy estimates that to charge a smart fortwo electric drive off peak or at weekends on the Eco 20:20 tariff will cost £1.51. Based on three charges per week the typical annual electricity cost is £236 – a saving of well over £850 per year. “The saving on running costs of the smart fortwo electric drive isn’t limited to the massive saving in fuel - drivers can also benefits from paying no road tax, free parking and not paying the congestion charge in London – making the economical benefit as appealing as the environmental. ” comments Heiko Bornhoeft, Head of Product Marketing at smart.

Bornhoeft concludes: “The start of the smart fortwo electric drive consumer trials is an important step towards the future of driving. The smart Plugged-In Report shows that people are willing to consider an electric vehicle as their choice of transport but need more information before they actually commit to converting. The trials will enable us to start dispelling myths around electric vehicles and to communicate the benefits such as the zero emissions, the excellent range of over 80 miles per full charge, cost savings as well as exceptional safety features and long battery life of the smart fortwo electric drive.”

David Bott, Director of Innovation Programmes at the Technology Strategy Board said: "It’s great to see the smart fortwo electric drive being handed over to the first drivers. This London based experiment is part of a much larger UK –wide trial funded by the Technology Strategy Board and the Department for Transport. Low carbon vehicles are being put into the hands of real drivers in eight different projects. Vehicle performance and user behaviour is being monitored by computers in over 340 cars and data from trials across the UK will be collated and published in an act of open innovation designed to support the development of Low Carbon Vehicle technology”.