Ever since we clapped eyes on the gawky G-Wiz in 2001 selling electric cars has been as easy as picking up spilt mercury with your fingers. Newspapers, car magazines and even the BBC ripped into them with a vicious zeal. Clarkson loathed them a special hatred. A wall of anti-EV rhetoric built up and you had to be very passionate indeed to go against the astonishing bile for cars whose only crime was to be powered by batteries. Thousands of us queued all night for a new iPhone but only a handful would ever be seen driving an EV. Things have changed a lot and the mountain of myths piled up by the EV-haters has slowly fallen away. Those brave early adopters who swam against the tide have shown that EVs not only work well for the majority of urban commutes but they’ve also proved to be reliable and long-lived.
While they’re not in the mainstream yet the take up and recognition of EVs has risen dramatically and cars like the Leaf, Zoe, Tesla Model S and BMW i3 are now familiar sights in most European cities. And that’s where we really need them most. Air pollution from diesel emissions is at record levels. Experts say the tiny particulates and soot from diesels are a major cause of asthma and premature deaths and we urgently need to clean our urban air. EVs have genuinely zero tailpipe emissions with no exhaust gases or toxins and are the best technology we’ve got to reduce smog from city traffic. The more electric cars we have the cleaner the air in our cities will be. It’s as simple as that.
Reducing our dependence on oil is another big benefit of EVs. The wild swings in the price of oil effects our economy, interest rates and inflation. High transport costs reduce business profits and consumer spending power and the Great Recession of 2008 was partly caused by the oil price hitting an unprecedented $1.47 a barrel. The less demand there is for oil the more the price falls and goods and services become more affordable. The role of EVs as a geopolitical constraint on rising oil prices has been underplayed but the more we have on our roads the less influence oil prices will have on the economic well-being of the wider economy and the prosperity of families and businesses. Being economically controlled by oil speculators and their market manipulation is something we need to change. Not to mention the fact that oil is a widely used commodity for financing terrorism.
And there are personal benefits too like lower running costs. EVs cost around 2p a mile to run with smaller servicing bills (ten time fewer moving parts than conventional cars) and a potential yearly fuel saving of up to £2,000. Some cities offer free on street and council parking for EVs, London offers an exemption to the Congestion Charge and road tax is free. Soon we may see insurance premiums come down as data shows EV drivers have fewer accidents as they’re constantly trying to save energy by driving carefully to increase their battery range.
Until hydrogen cars become an affordable production reality – and that’s still years away - the new wave of pollution-free EVs are our greatest hope for a cleaner transport future. Electric cars aren’t an unknown quantity any more and we’ve had a decade and millions of miles of real-world driving to prove how well they work. The silent EV revolution may have started with the clunky 50mph G-Wiz but just 15 years later we’re now at a place where a top-line Tesla can now out-accelerate Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Electric cars are good for us all and happily they’re here to stay.