EVs Likely to Remain Niche Products

Electric vehicles could remain niche products even if their forecourt tickets can be brought down to compete with ICE vehicles.

This was the admission by self-confessed EV zealot and owner Toddington Harper, founder and CEO of solar-powered EV charging infrastructure provider Gridserve. He added that the twin pressures of limited range and the unknown costs to the consumer of future electricity charging will always pose a challenge to prospective owners.
Harper said: “Price is very important to EV adoption. Different people have different views. I am an EV driver and have been for five years. Charging used to be free. People couldn’t get their head round whether to charge for it and now there’s a whole plethora of different options. If the price that I charge at is comparable with what I use at home, then I will use that all the time, there’s no reason not to. If it is twice the price, then I’ll only ever use it if I have to.”

Range anxiety
Even with the current relatively cheap cost of charging, range will always play a big role in which consumers would take the plunge into EV ownership. “The other joint biggest factors in EV adoption is solutions to range and charging anxiety,” said Harper. “That means installing the right charging infrastructure so people, who aren’t as committed as myself to EVs, will be able to buy one and use it like they use their existing car or truck. All without the stress and anxiety of ‘can I charge?’ ‘Will it be working, will it not?’ ‘Will there be a queue, will there not?’. That stuff is really important and needs to be dealt with.
“At this moment in time, I would say EVs are certainly suitable for enthusiasts and are becoming increasingly mainstream but there are still issues that mean it’s not as straightforward to use an electric car as it is a petrol car – typically, you have to take additional time to plan journeys.”

Lithium-ion issues
Harper also conceded that many climate conscious consumers are concerned about the carbon footprint of EVs exemplified by the fact that, currently, only 5% of the lithium-ion battery packs are recyclable.
He said: “I think the issue with recyclability of batteries is that it’s totally possible to do it. The cost of doing it, particularly the energy cost that it takes to do it, doesn’t stack up favorably today in comparison with the value that you get from the product at the end which you can then recycle. So again, there is a lot of work going into this, it is obviously unsustainable.”
Harper sees a way forward in the short term of employing batteries in second-life projects as several carmakers are currently investigating. “Batteries that might not be suitable for EVs anymore because they’ve lost 10% or 20% or 30% of their energy capacity actually are still really useful for providing charging and grid services. So, if you give the batteries a second life that’s clearly quite helpful. Of course, fundamentally, it is really important that you will be able to recycle them as cost-effectively as possible.”

Subsidies
Despite his pro-EV stance, Harper describes himself as “subsidy-allergic” regarding various governments doling out hand-outs to EV purchasers. He concluded: “We’ve been through the subsidy era in solar power and it was exciting. We got a lot done that wouldn’t have been done but it was completely unsustainable and it was very difficult to build strong business in that space as a result. If there is a subsidy of some form or other, it’s an additional bonus. What’s needed from the UK government is clear direction, which it is already providing. For example, by 2030, 50% to 70% of new vehicles will have to be zero-emissions. That’s very clear guidance.”


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