Is EV adoption realistic for the average modern household?

By Sammie Eastwood
Want to save the planet? Buy an electric vehicle! Except, it's not as easy as that. We examine how feasible EV adoption really is for the average household

Opinion piece provided by Samme Eastwood, Guest Editor. 

During Sustainability LIVE London 2022, hosted at the Business Design Centre, the final panel Racing towards EV provided some enlightening insight into the state of the electric vehicle (EV) industry. The session, bringing together Formula E Chief of Staff, Hannah Brown, and EV Dynamics CEO, Miguel Valldecabres Polop, discussed whether or not more comprehensive EV infrastructure would help convince the public to make the switch from internal combustion (ICE) vehicles.

I was particularly struck by a statement made by Valldecabres Polop, in which he said, “There is no reluctance or anxiety, it’s excuses, people are excusing themselves. When people tell me 20 excuses of why not to buy an electric car, I say are you not conscious with your own planet? Okay, everything with the range, it’s more expensive, you have a list, but we only have one planet. Don’t make excuses, buy an electric car.”

While I agree that we do only have one planet, things aren’t as simple as that. In the current economic climate, more and more people are struggling with the choice of whether to heat their homes this winter or feed their families. In February, it was estimated that more than 66,000 britains are expected to become homeless by 2024, a number that is likely to increase due to record inflation. People do care about the planet, but they also care about keeping a roof over their heads. 

There seems to be an ever-present expectation put on consumers that if they ‘want to save the planet’ then they’ll do as they’re told. It’s a common tactic used by the ‘Powers That Be’ to whip the public into taking responsibility for environmental impact, while ignoring Big Business greenwashing without actually doing anything to help the situation. So, let’s examine the costs of an EV and find out if owning one is a realistic option for the average household.

How much does an EV really cost to own?

The average cost of a new EV in the UK is around £47K, or between £8-£10K (but as much as £30K) when bought second hand. This is significantly more expensive than a moderately priced ICE vehicle. However, the argument is that EVs in general have far lower running costs. So let’s really examine this. 

Home charging is considered to be cheaper than fossil fuels at around £0.34 per kWh as of November 2022. However, only 83% of UK citizens live in a house, as opposed to a flat, and a third of those houses don’t have access to a private driveway. This means only 55% of people have the potential to access home charging facilities in the UK.

The average rate for the top three public charging providers is £0.46 per kWh, and while the cheapest Gridserve doesn’t include a subscription model, BP Pulse and Source London on average charge an additional £5.93 per month. The average capacity for an EV battery is 40kWh, so if charged to 80% that will cost approximately £14.72 every time you use a fast charger. 

75% of commuting journeys are less than 10 miles, which is around 100 miles per week, and say the average person does an additional 20 miles of social driving per week, that becomes 120 miles per week. An EV averages 3.5 miles per kWh, so that’s 112 miles for an 80% charge on a 40kWh battery, although since other functions drain power more quickly, we’ll round that down to 100 miles of power. This means you will need to recharge your vehicle every 5.6 days. 

Over a year that equates to £956.80, plus any subscription fees. To put that into context, that is only £83 cheaper than my Vauxhall Corsa, which costs me about £1,040 per year in fuel. My reg and model of car is available second hand for around £3,000. So, if you factor in the upfront cost of a new or second hand EV, plus the charging costs, (particularly for those without access to home charging facilities), the costs quickly rack up. Add to this the fact that 80% of UK households have two or more cars, that’s a pretty big chunk per month.

There is the option to lease an EV, and spread the cost over a few years, with some of the cheapest options starting at £275 per month, but this is for a car with a range of 81 miles. The average household income, after tax, is estimated to be £31,383, or £2,615.25 per month, with the estimated monthly expenditure being £2,907 per month, putting the majority of UK households at a deficit every month. Not many people are going to be willing to add an additional £300+ per month car lease onto that cost.

Until electric cars become more affordable, and infrastructure becomes more available (and above all cheaper!), it doesn’t look like the average household will be able to afford an EV any time soon.


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