Institute for Transport Studies (ITS)

2017 - the year of the electric car?

New research suggests that we might be driving electric vehicles sooner than we think.

The study conducted by Dr Stephen Hall, Professor Simon Shepherd and Dr Zia Wadud explores the potential for new technologies and engineering innovations to help address climate change, air pollution and develop the green economy.

In The Innovation Interface report the authors examine how previously isolated sectors can be linked through e-mobility business models. The auto industry, energy systems and transport infrastructure are combined through ten business models, each offering different benefits. The report’s appraisal of these business models points to innovations that could help quickly bring electric cars to the mass market.

Electric cars charging

In a related article for The Conversation, Dr Hall presents 5 reasons why we might be using electric vehicles in the near future:

1. Electric fuel costs could go down
It is already much cheaper per mile to drive electric than diesel or petrol and most people will also do their charging at night, when the price of electricity is much lower than during the day.   So long as consumers set the car to charge after 9pm, they could hit prices under 2p per mile. Watch out for electricity suppliers offering special deals to electric vehicle customers.

2. Electric cars can be clean and green
Low-price electricity is often the greenest electricity. Some electric cars can already be switched on and off charge remotely – and there is no reason they cannot be programmed to charge when electricity is cheapest or greenest.  Look out for new apps and programs to link car charging with renewable energy by remote scheduling charge cycles.

3. Mobility for the price of a coffee
For 97% of the time, we are not behind the wheel of our cars. This has led to a host of non-ownership models where people take short-term rental of cars, buying “mobility as a service”.  Mobility as a service could be linked with the energy system to offer low-carbon vehicle access to everyone – whether they want to actually own a car or not.

4. No driveway, no problem
Throughout 2017, UK cities have been investigating new rapid charger provision that can fully charge a normal electric vehicle in the time it takes to drink a coffee and check emails.  These rapid charger points are available in motorway service stations, but they are set to appear in cities, too – so not having a driveway won’t stop you buying an electric vehicle if you live anywhere close to one of these “filling stations of the future”.

5. Buy one for the price of a used Ford
In the past, linking up your brand new electric car with your home would have set you back at least £35,000 for the price of a car, some solar panels and some smart conversion kit. But now as the first generation of electric cars are arriving on the secondhand market, anyone can get a bargain. Anyone who takes a look will see a good quality used example can cost about the same as a conventionally powered car in the same class. Expect to see a growing market for used electric cars and extended warranties on batteries and charging kit.

Overall, this research showed us that new partnerships between car makers, energy utilities and cities will offer many more options for us to take our first ride in a purely electric car. We need smart ways of charging so we don’t overload our existing electricity grids – and we might need to get used to seeing a lot more electric vehicle-only parking – but 2017 is looking like a critical year for electric mobility.  It makes a lot of sense to link all these innovations so that new electric cars can get the cheapest, greenest power possible – and we can finally feel less guilty about driving when we could have walked.

Read more via The Innovation Interface report.