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On this week’s Mobility Moments, we talk to Fiona Howarth, CEO Octopus Electric Vehicles, to discuss the electric vehicle revolution. 

Fiona and her team only work with 100% electric vehicles, helping pair these with a charger and renewable energy from its sister company, Octopus Energy, to provide consumers with all the information needed to see how EV’s can fit into their lifestyle in a simple and cost-effective way, all whilst reducing our carbon footprint.

Electric vehicles have been around for years but have only seen a spike in demand recently. Why is this?

Worldwide climate protests, led by Greta Thunberg, have brought attention to the need to cut our carbon emissions. The global climate movement has put pressure on governments, businesses and individuals to make future sustainability a priority. With transport accounting for 33% of the UK’s carbon emissions in 2018, the switch to electric is an essential part of reducing our individual carbon footprints and making a true impact on climate change globally.

Tesla shook things up and ignited the -auto industry into making revolutionary, iconic and practical EVs. With most manufacturers launching their second or even third EV’s, the cars have increased in range, affordability and efficiency. And consumers are showing their new found appreciation for electric with EV sales registrations already up by 175% so far this year.

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With a wider offering on the market, more drivers seeing the savings and environmental benefits of going green, it’s no wonder the number of EVs on the road is soaring.

EVs are quite expensive in comparison to petrol and diesel alternatives. Is this the main barrier of entry when it comes to EVs? 

The truth is, the price of new models is coming down rapidly due to advances in EV technology, and that’s without even mentioning the current Government incentives to go electric – such as the £3,000 plug-in grant. However, more important is the lifetime cost of EVs which are continuing to outcompete fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

Running costs as low as 1.2p per mile, and savings to be made on road tax, congestion charges and more- mean that EVs are already cheaper to run on average than petrol or diesel cars.

What’s more, employers can now make owning an EV even cheaper. In April this year, the government cut Benefit in Kind tax for EVs to 0% for tax year 2020-21. This means that you will pay little if any tax when you lease an EV through an employee salary sacrifice scheme – the same scheme used for pension contributions and cycle to work incentives. This can typically save drivers 30-40% on monthly car costs, sometimes even more. This coupled with the fuel, on the road and environmental savings it is a great way to start your journey to electric.

Virtually every major manufacturer now offers a top of the range EV: Renault, Vauxhall, Hyundai, Tesla, Mini, Peugeot, BMW, Volkswagen, Honda, Ford, Nissan – you name it. With a wider choice on the market and more coming each quarter, there really is an EV to suit everyone.

From a consumers’ perspective, why should they choose an EV over an ICE vehicle – and how will the experience change?

This boils down to three simple things – cost, convenience, and fun.

One of the first things I noticed when switching to an EV was the incredible savings I was making on the everyday running cost. With driving into the office a lot more due to the current situation, not only do I save on fuel, tax and maintenance I have also noticed the huge savings on congestion charge with this now being £15 per day. This all makes the total cost of ownership throughout the life of the lease become extremely low comparatively. Most EV drivers are saving 90% on their fuel costs alone.

Something we hear a lot and I was hesitant about initially, was completely overhauling the way I fuel my car but soon I came to realise how convenient EV’s actually are. I am able to plug my car in at home overnight, and as the average driver does less than 22 miles a day, I am able to replace the miles in just a couple of hours whilst I sleep. What’s even better is the ability to schedule charging when energy prices are at their lowest costing just 1.2p per mile. And, of course, this is all contact-free and on my doorstep, literally.

When I am on the road and drive those occasional longer journeys, I can make full use of the numerous public chargers. There are actually now more public chargers than petrol stations in the UK, and growing in number each day. The rate of charge at these public stations is just increasing, and some can top you up 10 miles in just a minute. All of this has allowed me to enjoy clean green driving all whilst still being able to juggle life as a working mum.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the fun. The driving experience of EVs is also far superior to traditional internal combustion engines, with great handling and weight distribution due to the battery placement. Speak to anyone who drives electric, they will tell you that EVs are a thrill ride, and full of cutting-edge tech – the fast acceleration and Netflix on the big screen being the most popular features in my family. With more EVs on the road and the ability to join test drive events like the ones at Octopus Electric Vehicles, there is no better way to try them out than for yourself.

2020 has been a year of uncertainty, with a global pandemic changing the way consumers move and businesses operate. How will COVID-19 affect the automotive and, more specifically, the EV market going forward?

Since lockdown began in March, public transport usage has plummeted as many of us stayed at home or turned to the relative safety of using private cars. Even after lockdown eases, the number of people using public transport in Britain’s cities could stay at around 20% lower than normal, leading to an extra million cars on UK roads compared to earlier in the yearn.

At the same time, sales of combustion vehicles have declined – down by more than 40% so far this year compared to 2019. EV registrations on the other hand have skyrocketed – up 175% so far this year, indicating a rise in demand even during these uncertain times.

With COVID-19 bringing the air quality debate to the fore once again, pollution and its impact on health and wellbeing could be an important driver behind the trend towards EVs. Air pollution is responsible for 40,000 premature deaths in the UK every year, costing the NHS an estimated £20bn. At Octopus Electric Vehicles, we don’t pretend that EVs are a silver bullet to fix this problem and we should all aim to walk and cycle wherever we can. But if you’re going to drive, make it electric – it makes financial and environmental sense.

When do you expect EVs to take the lion’s share of the passenger car market?

The EV market is growing at breakneck speed, with more than 136,600 pure-electric cars on UK roads at the end of July 2020. A wider variety on the market, paired with great ways to finance these EV’s like personal, business and salary sacrifice and the savings to be made on the road I only see this trend accelerating.

In countries such as Norway, EVs already make up over 50% of new registrations and it won’t be long until we see this in the UK. With new combustion engine vehicles being banned from 2035 – potentially sooner – I wouldn’t be surprised to see EVs taking the lion’s share of sales well before then.

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