Are electric vehicles practical for a real-world business?

Monday 22nd June 2020

Whatever the financial or environmental benefits of running a fleet of electric vehicles, the idea quickly becomes a non-starter if their adoption has a negative impact on day-to-day business operations. So the question is, are electric vehicles a practical solution for a real-world business? Let’s see.

Is ‘range anxiety’ based on fear or fact?

The best performing vehicles now boast a real-world range of 250+ miles

Range anxiety has been a major sticking point for business fleets. And it’s a concern shared by many drivers, with a recent YouGov poll indicating that 81% of people are concerned about the number of miles they would be able to travel before needing to recharge. This would seem to indicate a major problem, especially for business-need drivers who often need to travel further and more frequently than the average individual. But does this fear really stack up with the facts?

Early versions of the Nissan Leaf had an official range of just over 100 miles. To put this into context, a trip from London to Birmingham would fall into the “possible” category and, whilst you might be able to get from Leeds to Liverpool, you would need to leave enough time to recharge before the return journey.

These days, it’s a different picture. Long distance drivers can take their pick from cars such as the Jaguar I-Pace, Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia e-Nir, all of which offer ranges well in excess of 250 miles. There’s the ever-popular Tesla Model 3 and Model X and even the latest Nissan Leaf breaks through the 200-mile barrier. Not to mention upcoming models such as the Polestar 2 and Volkswagen ID 3 which promise ranges of 311 miles and 373 miles respectively.

Granted, this is a feat that is easily achieved by pretty much all regular cars and vans on a single tank of fuel but, with average mileage ranges continuing to increase year on year, it would seem that there is no longer any real need to worry about how far you can drive before topping up.

Look to the future and things are even better with a growing number of manufacturers committed to a strategy of delivering continuous improvements in battery performance by updating energy control systems via Software Over the Air (SOTA). Add to this the fact that Samsung’s Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) are getting ever closer to commercially viable solid-state batteries capable of 400-600 miles on a single charge and it appears that range anxiety will soon be a distant memory.

When time is money, how long will a recharge take?

Rapid charging points can provide an extra 100 miles in around 30 minutes

Even with ranges beginning to break the 300-mile mark, some drivers will still need to top up during the working day and the idea of sitting around for hours waiting for enough charge to complete the next leg of the journey is simply not an option.

In simple terms, battery charging times can be calculated using two core elements. The size of the battery and the power available from the charge point. Since electric car batteries are measured in kWh and charge points in kW, it’s fairly easy to work out how long it will take to recharge the battery.

kWh ÷ kW = Charge Time

As a practical example of this, the 64kWh battery on the Hyundai Kona Electric would take around 9 hours from empty to full on a standard 7kW charger. This makes overnight charging simple to do via an easily installed home charging point that works in a similar way to your mobile phone, quick charging the first 70-80% and then completing the charge at a slower rate, before finally cutting off when the charge is complete.

Whilst a home charging point conveniently handles longer charges, most cars spend more time parked up than they do on the road and, whether it’s day or night, this provides ample opportunity for topping up the battery. After all, even fossil fuel drivers rarely let their fuel run down to empty before visiting the nearest garage.

This shows that electric vehicle operators need to think less about how long it takes to go from empty to full and more about the speed, range, and convenience of top up charging. And it’s here that we continue to see a rapid development, both in terms of infrastructure and technology.

Can I find a charge point when I need one?

There are 36% more EV charging locations than petrol stations

There has been a 30% increase in the number of public charging locations over the last 12 months and there are now over 31,900 connection points at 11,424 locations across the UK. To put this into perspective, the number of petrol stations operating at the end of 2019 was just 8,385. What’s more, there are now nearly 8,000 rapid chargers (typically 50kW), capable of providing an additional 100 miles of range in around 30 minutes.

Ultra-Rapid chargers, such as the Tesla’s Supercharger network, currently operate at up to 120kW and we are already starting to see a handful of V3 Superchargers with peak rates of 250kW, along with IONITY’s gradual expansion of their 350kW charge points.

Additionally, Hitachi Capital (UK) PLC and GRIDSERVE Sustainable Energy Ltd are working together to provide ultra-fast (350kW) electric vehicle charging  at one hundred Electric Forecourts® over the next five years, starting with the soon-to-open site near Braintree in Essex, where there will be spaces for 24 vehicles to simultaneously charge up in just 20-30 minutes. And there are plenty more to follow, during which time we can expect to see a new crop of EVs capable of charging at such high speeds.

Putting it all together, ensuring you have enough charge can be as much about changing the re-fueling mindset as it is about the battery technology or levels of available power. You may top up more often but, managed correctly, this needn’t impact on business efficiency.

Does going electric mean comprising on choice?

There are around 30 models of pure electric car already on the market, with plenty more on the way

Go back a decade or so and one of the major problems with electric cars was that most of them, and there weren’t that many to choose from, looked like electric cars. They were frequently small, low specification models that even people who shared the same environmental goals rarely aspired to driving.

Arguably, this started to change when Nissan launched the Leaf in 2011. Billed as a mainstream five-door hatchback, it looked and felt far more like a regular car. It was a strategy that worked, and it started a trend that continues to this day, with most electric vehicles now indistinguishable from their petrol or diesel counterparts.

Driven by the rapid increase in demand, there are now around 30 models of pure electric car available from 18 different brands. This means that from city cars and family hatchbacks, right through to executive luxury, there is a growing choice across the range.

In reality, the van market is a little further behind but as the technology develops the level of choice and payload is improving and within the next 18 months or so (given recent events) we can expect to see around 20 models on the market.

Given that 2019 saw a 144% growth in electric cars, compared to a 22% fall in diesels and a meagre 2% rise in petrol models, the surge in customer demand means that manufacturers are fighting for their slice of a rapidly growing market. And as the competition hots up, choice expands, technology improves, and prices come down, making it a win-win for drivers and businesses alike.

Are electric vehicles practical for your business?

Improvements in range, charging speeds, infrastructure and choice makes electric cars a practical option for most businesses right now, and the situation is only going to get better over the next year or two as more cars come on to the market and the technology continues to develop.

If you would like to discuss the practical, financial, or environmental case for electric vehicles with one of our experts, just get in touch.

Back to top