What's stopping the 'electric vehicle revolution'?

20 September 2017 | OVO Energy

Our electric vehicle (EV) survey reveals all.

The ‘electric vehicle revolution’ – the transition from powering cars with fossil fuels to electricity – is happening. But not fast enough (for our liking, anyway).

Electric vehicles now account for a record 4.2% of new vehicle registrations, beating a previous high of 3.6% in November last year. However, that’s a drop in the ocean when 90% of vehicles in the UK are expected to be electrically powered by 20501.

As an energy company with a plan (EV Everywhere) dedicated to these lean, green driving machines, we wanted to find out what’s stopping people from swapping the pump for the plug sooner – so we asked 2000 Brits to share their thoughts.

Our findings

It turns out that most people would actually love an EV. 87% said they “would”, or “definitely would”, buy one, which makes sense since 79% told us they were “concerned”, or “very concerned”, about their environmental footprint. 38% even went as far as saying that EVs will be the most popular home technology in the future.

Google has also seen a spike in interest online, so it was really interesting to hear why so many people were stuck at the red light when it came to buying.

Read more about all things electric vs hybrid vs petrol, with our bumper guide no pun intended) to the pros and cons of electric, hybrid and conventional cars.

Top 10 reasons

#1 Lack of charging points – 56%

#2 Expense – 49%

#3 Being out of range from charging points (range anxiety) – 45%

#4 Time taken to charge – 43%

#5 Cost – 38%

#6 Concern over safety – 16%

#7 Unattractive design – 12%

#8 Nothing would put me off buying an electric vehicle – 9%

#9 City parking  – 8%

#10 Crashing the grid - 6%

So this is what the nation thinks. Are they right? We dug a little deeper to find out, and separated the fact from the fiction.

#1 Lack of charging points

“There probably aren’t enough places to charge up.”

Brits thought that the UK has, on average, 2,812 electric charging points. Over half of people also said that a lack of charging points would put them off buying an electric vehicle. But is there really cause for concern?

The reality

“There are thousands of charging points in the UK.”

There are, in fact, 13,629  charging points across 4,760 places in the UK2, and that number is shooting up fast, as the UK’s largest charging network (Chargemaster) is adding roughly 600 new points every month.

It is, however, a completely different story for fuel stations. There were only 8,472 traditional fuel stations left in the UK at the end of last year – that’s 29,067 fewer than in 19703. This steady decline marks the end of an era for fossil fuels – and the beginning of a new, very exciting one for electricity. It’s even expected that electric charging points will outnumber petrol stations by 20203.

What’s more, if you have our EV Everywhere plan, you get POLAR Plus membership (worth £188 over 2 years). This gives you free membership to charge up on the UK’s biggest charging network.

#2 Expense

“Electric vehicles are expensive.”

Over half of people aged 55 and over – and 43% aged 16 to 24 – said expenses would put them off. So what does an EV really cost?

The reality

“Prices start at about £14,000.”

Electric vehicles do cost more than their petrol or diesel equivalents, but [they’re much cheaper to run] once you’ve bought one (see #5).

The cheapest you’ll pay is roughly £14,0004 for a Renault Zoe hatchback (a nippy car that’s popular with city drivers), but prices can go over £100,000 for a top-of-the-range Tesla5. However, the best-selling one since 20116 is the Nissan Leaf, which falls somewhere in the middle of the price spectrum – starting at £21,0007

#3 Being out of range from charging points

“The battery in an EV might run out quickly.”

The nation, on average, thinks a fully charged electric vehicle would take them on a 91-mile journey – that’s roughly a one-way trip from Bristol to Northampton. Is that far enough to appease range anxiety?

The reality

“An EV battery can last between 90 and 335 miles.”

They were almost spot-on for cars with smaller batteries, but way off for the more powerful models, as they can go more than 3 times that distance.

Take a look at 3 of the most well-known electric cars – from the sporty Tesla to the Renault Zoe hatchback – to see how far their battery will take you.

VehicleBattery size  (kWh)Miles per  chargeWhere could it take you?
Tesla S  100d100335Bristol to Newcastle (and a bit  further)
Nissan Leaf30107Bristol to London (and a bit further)
Renault Zoe41180Bristol to Northampton

Range anxiety doesn’t ever need to be a problem, though, because there’s a huge network of charging points around the UK – take your pick from any one of the 13,6291.

#4 Time taken to charge

“The battery will take a long time to charge.”

On average, people spend 4 hours a day recharging their phones, laptops, tablets and the like. But 91% said, “I don’t mind charging these items, it’s just a part of my routine”. Yet, when it came to EVs, charging the battery was their 4th biggest concern.

So, how quickly can you charge an electric vehicle?

The reality

“A EV battery can take as little as 30 mins to charge.”

Charging times all depend on your car and the charging point. If it’s at Rapid AC or DC charging station (known as a ‘fast charger’) on the side of the motorway or near a main road, it can take as little as 30 minutes.

Take one of the smaller pure electric cars, a Nissan Leaf hatchback, to see how fast it would charge from empty...

Nissan Leaf Hatchback

Public Rapid AC or DC charging station (80% charged only)30 mins
A dedicated home 'wall box'4-8 hours
An ordinary plug socket at home12-15 hours

If you’re interested in a different make or model, you’ll be able to get information on charge times from the manufacturer. You can also learn more about charging an electric car here.

#5 Cost

“EVs cost a lot of money to run.”

Brits think that electric vehicles could cost a lot of money to run. But since they’re spending £19 a week, on average, on petrol or diesel, we were keen to see how the prices weighed up.

The reality

“EVs are 4 times cheaper to drive.”

Once you’ve bought your EV, the savings really stack up over time. Not just because electricity is cheaper than petrol and diesel, but also because there are extra perks and government grants designed to get more green cars on the road.

EV owners can look forward to:

#6 Concern over safety

“Maybe they’re not as safe.”

A small number of people (20% of women and 11% of men) flagged safety as a concern. But are EVs any more dangerous than a standard car?

The reality

“They’re just as safe as a standard car.”

Standard cars are dangerous, especially as they contain a tank of fuel, which can catch fire and explode – but we all accept the risks in order to be mobile.

EVs don’t contain fuel. Instead, they have a li-ion battery, which is a larger version of what you have in your phone and laptop. Yet these batteries can catch light. EV manufacturers are very aware of the danger and are installing a mountain of precautionary devices, like fuses and circuit breakers, to disconnect the battery if there’s a collision. Keeping the battery cool is essential, too, so Tesla and Ford (in its new Focus Electric model) circulate coolant throughout the battery pack while the car is running. The Nissan LEAF is also using an air-cooling system.

The downside for pedestrians, however, is that EVs are so quiet that it’s hard to hear them coming. So the public must learn to be more savvy on roads, and remember to both listen – and look.

#7 Unattractive designs

“They’re not that stylish.”

Like many health foods, eco fashion or ‘wholesome’ alternatives, there’s often an assumption that you lose something – maybe the deliciousness, style or je ne sais quoi – in favour of being green. But does that ring true for EVs? Can they be both sexy – and green?

The reality

“They’re super sexy!”

If anyone is under the impression that EVs are a bit boring or ugly, it’s time to think again. The ultimate in style is, of course, Tesla – and in particular the Tesla S, which is now the world’s fastest car! It’s mind-blowing to think that it’s feistier than a Ferrari. However, this leading brand may soon have some serious competition, as the designs and specs just keep on getting better. Even the new 2018 Nissan Leaf could start giving it a run for its money.

#8 Nothing would put me off buying an electric vehicle

“They’re great.”

9% couldn’t think of anything that would put them off buying.

The reality

“They’re the future.”

We we asked both electric and non-electric vehicle drivers, so it's not surprising that the trend-setters are not put off. Especially since some are already reaping the rewards.

#9 City parking

“Parking an EV in the city could be tricky.”

Interestingly, 8% of people said car parking in the city would put them of buying. So what’s the deal for EVs?

The reality

“Say hello to free EV parking spots”

EVs make parking a dream everywhere – not just in the city.

You can, of course, park in all the same spaces as a petrol or diesel car. But, even better, you also have access to free spaces and free charging points at some car parks all over the country.

#10 Crashing the grid

“There might not be enough electricity to go round.”

Some people were worried that the grid might crash if everyone were to charge their cars from it. Could that ever happen?

The reality

There’s a real concern among network operators that as EVs rise in popularity, they will begin to threaten the grid. But there’s no reason to fear a ‘grid collapse’, as we’re developing [vehicle-to-grid technology (V2G)]

V2G is vital for the UK’s energy system of the future. It essentially turns EVs into mobile batteries, allowing their stored energy to be fed back to the grid whenever demand is high. This cleverly balances supply and demand, so there’s always enough to go round.

For EV drivers, this also means that they’ll be able to manage and sell their energy back to the grid, and eventually become self-sufficient.

To buy or not to buy?

Now you know the facts, hopefully more of you will feel confident about exploring the possibilities of owning your very own EV.

Electric vehicles are the future – there’s no question about that. And over the next few years, you’ll start to see more and more on our roads. But whether you take the leap now and buy one, or wait until you’re pushed by the petrol and diesel ban, is totally up to you.


2 September 2017 figures from







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