The simple EV switchEthical Transport News & Features
This article first appeared in our autumn ’18 issue of MyGreenPod Magazine, The Consumer Revolution, distributed with the Guardian on 16 Nov 2018. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
Green number plates signalling ultra-low emission status. Zero Emissions Zone trials. Grants for any employer installing EV charge points. Ideas and initiatives for boosting the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) have accelerated recently, in an effort to make electric vehicles the norm rather than the exception on UK roads.
In September, Theresa May announced further support for the industry at the very first Zero Emission Vehicle Summit. She outlined a plan to ensure Britain ‘leads from the front’ in the widespread adoption of EVs, committing £106m in funding for research and development for electric vehicle technology.
Theresa May also elaborated on the 2040 target to make all manufactured cars emission-free, saying that this should be reflected in all cars on the road just 10 years later.
The government’s stated commitment to electric vehicles is being matched by a rise in interest from drivers, as the perceived hurdles – including the initial cost of switching to an electric car and the mile range compared with traditional petrol and diesel cars – are being cleared.
Last month, EVs accounted for one in every 14 new cars purchased in the UK. Explanations include the availability of a range of cars that do at least 150 miles on a single charge, the falling cost of the electric vehicles themselves, 90% reductions in fuel spend for EV drivers and a rise in the number – and the visibility – of charge points.
There’s also been more conclusive research into the environmental impact of EVs; a recent European Climate Foundation-commissioned report found that an EV emits half the CO2 emissions of a petrol or diesel car through the course of its lifetime. An electric vehicle’s overall impact has now been demonstrated to be positive.
A new breed of EV
One company is on a mission to help drive the adoption of electric vehicles. Octopus Electric Vehicles is pioneering an ‘EV bundle’ that will give drivers everything they need to make the switch, for one monthly price.
The innovation has come from energy supplier Octopus Energy, which is driven by a mission ‘to make buying energy as easy as buying cornflakes’. Similarly, the team at Octopus EV wants to help to make the switch to an electric vehicle as easy as possible, for as many people as possible.
‘For us, the EV journey begins long before we start talking about leasing options and charge point installation’, says Fiona Howarth, CEO of Octopus EV. ‘There’s a big education job to do – many people still believe that they’ll need to stop every few miles to recharge and that the range of models is limited. Our Drive Day roadshow has proved enormously popular, touring the country to let people come and see the cars for themselves and question EV experts about exactly how it all works.’
Click here to find out how much you could save by switching to Octopus Energy’s green energy tariff
As well as demonstrating the massive leap the industry has made over the last few years, these events have given people a chance to test drive the latest models. From the sporty BMW i3 to the family-friendly Nissan LEAF, the EVs have been carefully selected: they’re considered the best on the market, with each offering at least 150 miles per charge.
‘We’ve found that people are often surprised by what an electric car can do’, Fiona tells us. ‘I think there’s a general misconception that the technology and the pricing have stayed largely the same since EVs came to market a few years ago. In fact, today’s electric car is almost unrecognisable from its older incarnation, and a hell of a lot cheaper. Battery chargers came down 80% in six years, unlocking a better range of EVs for a fraction of the cost.’
An all-in-one EV solution
After education, the challenge has been how best to help customers with the changes needed to go electric – and this is where Octopus Electric Vehicle’s ‘EV bundle’ comes in. ‘We’re offering the electric vehicle equivalent of Finland’s famous baby box, giving the driver everything they need to make the switch’, says Fiona. As well as the monthly lease of an electric vehicle, Octopus EV organises the installation of a home charge point and smart meter. The monthly lease cost also includes insurance, service and maintenance, as well as help and support for the duration of the contract.
There’s even a bespoke electricity tariff, designed specifically with EV drivers in mind. Octopus Go offers electricity for just 5p/kWh between the hours of 00.30 and 04.30, allowing people to charge their cars for a fraction of the daytime cost – and 70% less than a standard variable tariff from a Big Six supplier.
Octopus EV has also partnered with myenergi to offer the innovative zappi charge point, which automates charging to take advantage of these prices. Octopus can arrange the installation of the zappi via trusted installers who can help unlock the £500 home charge point grant from the government.
This world-first tariff is possible thanks to Octopus EV’s relationship with Octopus Energy. The supplier is already taking advantage of the potential of smart meters with the Agile Octopus tariff, which lets customers see fluctuations in wholesale energy prices and adjust their usage accordingly. This is just a taste of how the company intends to use smart meter technology to offer cheaper electricity.
Fiona believes this will be a landmark year for the UK’s adoption of EVs. ‘Where Tesla set the bar, other companies are now meeting and even surpassing it’, she says. ‘If the government can deliver on its EV plans, and we think it can, the car park of tomorrow is going to look very different from the gas-guzzling lot of today.’