The term ‘early adopter’ gets uttered almost religiously amid today’s technological breakthroughs. In some individuals, the words alone are enough to trigger cringe-inducing mental images of sleep-deprived groupies outside the Apple store. The role of an early adopter, however, takes a more serious tone once we step onto the global arena, where transportation is responsible for 24% of direct CO2 emissions from fuel combustion, and road vehicles account for nearly 75% of these emissions.
Sustainable technology too needs its advocates, and the switch to electric cars must happen now. Early adopters can be the ones to lead the change and pave the way for the undecided, but will rising temperatures alone be enough to convince them to buy an electric car?
Range anxiety: when you don’t know where to charge your car
After EVs became widespread, owners started experiencing something called 'range anxiety'. Due to the limited number of electric car charging points and the time needed to see the EV battery at 100% again, drivers had to keep checking whether they can get to their destination and then find an EV charger, to be able to make it back. EV owners often said that a flat battery while on the road was one of their greatest fears.
This, of course, significantly reduced the joy of driving a fully electric car. The solution to that should come with the onset of the internet of things. It is easy to think of electric vehicles that will be able to assess the current range of an EV and direct the driver to the nearest, fastest and not currently occupied charging station. More efficient batteries and a bigger network of charging points, as well as Level 2 electric car charging at home is another way to solve this problem.
*Based on the total number of EV charging stations per country
Types of electric car charging stations
When your electric car needs 'juice', you have to plug it in to a charging station with a special cable. How long does it take to charge an electric car? Well, that depends on the level of charging station used. There are currently three main types of those.
A simple home socket. Such EV charging stations are widely available, but it takes a lot of time, about 6-8 hours, for the battery to be full again. This option is ideal for those who can leave their EV plugged to car charging points inside their garage overnight.
Power outlet we can find on commercial charging stations, such as Polar Charging. Much faster than level 1, they 'fill up' the EV within 3-4 hours. This kind of an electric car charger is also available to homeowners but requires expensive installation by a specialised technician.
Level 3/DC Fast Charger
These electric vehicle charging stations use direct current (DC) to charge your car in less than an hour. They are expensive, require specialised equipment to operate, and it is unlikely to see them in private homes anytime soon. Also, not all EV batteries can be charged that way.
Types of electric cars
Short for battery electric vehicles, BEVs are fully electric cars that run on chemical energy stored in rechargeable batteries. Rather than using the traditional internal combustion engine, these vehicles rely on an electric motor as their only source of propulsion.
Short for fuel cell electric vehicles, FCEVs use fuel cells to generate electric power from oxygen and compressed hydrogen gas. The fuel cell acts as an energy converter to transform the chemical elements into electricity to power the electric motor.
Short for hybrid electric vehicles, HEVs combine the traditional internal combustion engine with an electric powertrain. The kinetic energy generated by the vehicle is converted into electricity and stored in a battery or supercapacitor to then power the electric motor.
Short for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, PHEVs are rechargeable hybrids. While an HEV is unable to travel prolonged distances on electric power alone due to the limited size of its battery, a PHEV can be charged from an external source to improve fuel economy.
Short for extended-range electric vehicles, the term EREV refers to a battery electric vehicle equipped with a fuel-based supplementary power unit that acts as a range extender. The power unit propels an electric generator to recharge the battery inside the car.
EV incentives: the solution for a hefty price tag
So good it doesn’t need subsidies; Norway is the poster child for environmental awareness. Indeed, the progressive nation has the ingenious benefits to make the ownership of an electric car worth your while – including a purchase tax deduction of over 10,000 EUR depending on CO2 emissions – and the right infrastructure in place to support their bold policies. But did you know that Norway is not the only EV haven in the Nordics?
Iceland’s rich geography and high urbanisation rate are a perfect match for the electric car. Much like Norway, nearly all of the island’s energy comes from renewable sources. What is more, thanks to its compact size, most destinations are within the range of an electric battery. In fact, Icelandic drivers travel just 38km a day on average. Combine that with the nation’s shockingly cheap low-carbon electricity – at least 20% lower than the prices in mainland Europe – and suddenly owning an electric car seems like the natural choice.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Romania. The Eastern European nation boasts one of the most generous purchase schemes around – up to 10,000 EUR for an electric car – albeit not without an asterisk. The grant blazes through its allocated funds, and having come nowhere near the goal of 20,000 charging stations by 2020, the nation continues to suffer from lack of infrastructure to support the scheme. The passenger plug-in EV market share in Romania sits at 1.2% of total registrations as of the first half of this year, compared to the 43.5% in Iceland.
Eastern Europe is not alone in its struggle of getting electric cars on the road. In spite of the considerable purchase subsidy of up to 6,000 EUR – among many other incentives coming their way – most Italians still lean towards the internal combustion engine. To encourage its citizens to buy electric and fulfill environmental obligations, the Italian government is planning to increase the subsidised amount to 10,000 EUR. Can short-term monetary gain turn the nation in favour of the electric motor?
The way forward
While the pandemic outbreak undoubtedly had some influence over the data, we find the results to be consistent and conclusive against past and current trends. Rewarding infrastructure with diverse tax benefits and prevalent charging stations proves to be the most alluring factor to prospective and current EV owners.
As it turns out, drivers prioritise the long-term implications of their investment over the immediate issues addressed by the purchase subsidy. Without the infrastructure to tackle the concerns associated with long-term ownership, new drivers could see diminishing returns on their electric cars as soon as the first year of purchase. As the old saying goes, ‘give a man a fish…’
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