Powering the electrification of the nation – 30 minutes with Philip Valarino, EDF Energy’s resident EV lead
Electric vehicles (EVs) are big news. And they’re only going to get bigger now the government’s announced plans to ban the sale of new petrol or diesel vehicles from 2040. But there are a lot of misconceptions around EVs, and many businesses aren’t aware of the benefits of switching to electric. So we sat down with Philip Valarino, the EV lead at EDF Energy, to get the lowdown and find out what the future holds for this exciting technology.
Can you give us a bit of background on EVs?
Electric Vehicle (EV) technology’s been around a lot longer than most of us realise. Electric cars were around when Henry Ford was making cars affordable for the masses with the Model T but his automation of the production line for combustion engines led to the combustion engine becoming significantly cheaper– not because the electric technology wasn’t available. If he’d gone the other way we’d be in a very different place today. Interestingly Ford’s wife continued to drive an electric car due to their reliability despite her husband’s efforts!
How do they work?
It’s actually pretty simple. EVs are powered by an electric motor, rather than an internal combustion engine. Energy is stored in batteries which you charge from the mains electricity supply using a dedicated charging station. Different chargers take different amounts of time – so to charge your car you’re looking at anything from 30 minutes with a rapid charger to overnight for a slower one.
What are the advantages of EVs?
Obviously the most important one is environmental. EVs produce zero emissions in use. So changing your internal combustion vehicles for EVs will immediately reduce your business’s carbon footprint. You’ll also be cutting down on pollution in your own neighbourhood – so you’ll be contributing to a greener planet overall, and making a difference right outside your own front door. And combining this with a low-carbon electricity tariff from EDF Energy will reduce that footprint even more. That’ll definitely give you a warm fuzzy feeling!
At the moment an EV will set you back more than a petrol or diesel car when you initially buy it. But the running costs are much cheaper. You’re looking at around 4p a mile, while petrol and diesel cars typically cost between 6.5p and 11.5p a mile. Maintenance costs are lower too. EVs have fewer moving parts which means fewer things to replace as they wear out. You won’t lose anything in performance either – the latest electric supercars can do 0–60mph in less than three seconds and even the affordable ones tend to outperform their combustion engine alternatives.
There are other financial benefits as well. You don’t pay road tax, fuel duty and lower rates of company car tax. And EVs are exempt from congestion charges which could be a significant saving if you regularly go through central London. If you are buying your vehicle new the plug in car grant will contribute £3,500 to pure electric vehicles and up to £8,000 for electric vans There are also various government grants available for businesses who want to install EV charging points at their premises, plus the opportunity for extra revenue from employees and visitors using them.
Lastly, people want to work for and with businesses who can show they’re doing their bit to be greener. So adding some EVs to your fleet could definitely bolster your brand.
Where are we in the UK with EVs at the moment?
At the moment we’re very much at the early adoption stage. There are around 178,000 EVs on the road which is only a small percentage of the UK’s 35.5m passenger and goods vehicles. But the number of electric and plug-in hybrid models on the market is going up all the time. Charging infrastructure is increasing quickly too.
What’s the government doing to encourage us to buy EVs?
Not long ago the government was telling us we should all be driving diesel cars, which we now know wasn’t the best advice. So there’s an element of caution around the guidance they’re giving us on EVs. The 2040 target is obviously a step in the right direction, but it’s not clear what it means for plug-in hybrids – will we still be able to buy these, or will it only be purely electric cars? The fact that they’ve recently scrapped the plug-in car grant for anything other than purely electric vehicles is a blow for hybrids, however they have also said that plug-ins will not be included in the sales ban.
Ministers have also put £400m towards developing a national charging network, on top of making £100m-worth of grants available for plug-in-hybrids and £40m for research into EV charging technology. They’re also running the Faraday Challenge, a series of competitions designed to boost R&D into battery technology.
So what’s stopping businesses buying more EVs?
One of the main issues is the distance you can go – EVs need charging every 100 to 150 miles. But studies show that 80% of Europeans drive less than 63 miles a day and the average UK driver only travels 25 miles. So this should be more than enough for most people. The technology’s also coming on in leaps and bounds, and it won’t be long before EVs can go much further on a single charge. The latest high-power systems charge at 350kW – in everyday terms that’s around 190 miles of driving from a 20-minute charge.
There’s also only a relatively small pool of vehicle types available at the moment. Again, this is changing quickly though – loads of top manufacturers now have EVs in their ranges. People also worry we don’t have the charging infrastructure in this country to cope with large amounts of EVs, which just isn’t true. In the UK it’s growing at a rate of 44% a year.
What do you think the future hold for EVs?
Electric is here to stay – but it won’t suit everybody quite yet. The good news is that as the technology evolves we’ll see more vehicle types and longer ranges, and the price of EVs themselves is bound to come down. I think that by the late 2020s sales of EVs will make up 30 to 40% of all car sales in this country. We’re going to see more ambitious government targets too – at the moment the UK isn’t really in a leadership position despite the efforts to state that we are, unlike some other countries who’ve really committed to electric. Denmark has banned petrol and diesel cars ten years earlier than the UK and in Norway around 40% of new vehicles sold are electric due to a green taxation shift so that electric vehicles cost the same as their petrol and diesel equivalents to buy new.
Finally, what advice would you give to businesses that are interested in EVs but aren’t sure where to start?
Come and talk to us. We’re really excited about EVs and always happy to chat about them to anyone who’ll listen! To show how serious we are, we’ve partnered with three organisations: vehicle leasing firm Arval, and charging technology experts The Phoenix Works and ChargePoint Services. This means we can offer the whole package – from consultation right through to ordering your cars and installing charging points.
You don’t have to jump in with both feet straightaway. In fact, we encourage people to start small – for example if you have a fleet of vehicles, adding three or four EVs is a great place to begin. We can help you decide where to start and then when and how to expand. And if you’re not already getting your energy from us, we can talk you through our low-carbon tariffs. So you can make your EVs even more environmentally friendly.
EDF Energy’s EV charging offers
Our experts are on hand to provide information on all aspects of making the switch to EV fleets, including vehicles, leasing, charging and energy supply. To help businesses take their first step towards electrification, we’re currently offering a range of fixed price charge point offers. To find out more visit: https://www.edfenergy.com/electric-cars/business