Electric vehicles in the UK: what's the deal?
Robert Llewellyn, famous for his appearances in the sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf and the hit TV series “Scrapheap challenge”, is now founder and host of Fully Charged - a youtube show all about electric vehicles. Robert spoke with Chris Smith, and started off by telling us what he drives...
Robert - I drive, well, my wife and I share two cars. We have a Hyundai Kona, which is a fully electric car and a Tesla Model 3.
Chris - So you've gone really very much down the electric track. Hence the YouTube show.
Robert - Yes. I think I sold my last combustion engine vehicle, which was a Land Rover, which was highly inappropriate for what I do now, in I think 2012. So I haven't had a combustion car in my life since then.
Chris - What's your average sort of day to day vehicle movement, though? How much of a reliance do you place on having a car to do what you do?
Robert - Well, I live in a remote, rural area, so I'm entirely reliant on it even to go to the shops. I mean, I did last summer, during the lockdown, I cycled to the shops three times, just to sort of see what it was like. It's nine miles on very hilly roads, but I have an electric bike, but with a rucksack for the shopping, it's still quite a challenge. So yes, we drive. We have to drive, even if we're going nowhere, we will drive to the shops locally. The two shops I use that are local to me now both have free chargers in the car park, which is very handy. So if I time it right, I can end up back at home with more miles in the range than when I left home, which is always a result.
Chris - Yes. Assuming of course, that you can get on one of those chargers, they Robert. Cause that's the point, isn't it. It's are they free those chargers? If you're that remote, I suppose they probably are. You're probably the only person with two electric cars in the district, but that's an issue, isn't it?
Robert - It's a fear that is certainly very popularised by the sort of popular press. I have once been to our local supermarket. And I was really thrilled to see all four chargers being used because there are actually a lot more electric cars and the kind of concept of people going, "Oh, well, we might be changing to electric cars in the next 10 years". It's happening now. The sales of electric cars are off the scale. The increase is in the hundreds of percent. It is. So there are so many more electric cars around now than they were even a year ago. It's gone from 2% about 18 months ago to 12% of new car sales. That is a massive increase. I still think it's tiny. And it proves the fact that there are still people today who think, "Oh, I know what I'll do. I'll buy a brand new combustion engine car" with all the disadvantages and the costs and the hidden costs of doing that. There's still people doing it. So there's an enormous distance to go, an enormous educational journey we still have to go on.
Chris - So what do you think has driven that very big increase that you've just highlighted? Why are people switching to electric cars?
Robert - I think it's word of mouth. So, someone you know up the road, down the road, next door, family member, they drive an electric car and they go, it's alright. It's just a car, which it is. It's just a car. You still gotta park it. You still gotta, you know, all the other things you have to do with cars, sit in traffic jams: electric cars don't remove you from that. But it's so much easier to drive. It's so much easier to look after. It's so much cheaper to fuel. That that information, when it is passed from someone you know and someone who you know about - your brother, your sister, your dad, your mum, you know, anyone - you then start to consider it in a different way. And I think that's what's happening. And because there's so many more people have got them now that's spreading faster and faster. At the very base level, it's a better technology than an internal combustion engine. There's no argument about that. And no one will argue about that. Even proper, full on petrol heads that have ever been near an electric car, they go, "No, it is better. I admit that, but I love the sound of my V8 or whatever other excuse they have".
Chris - I'll buy the point about the energy costs, I'll buy that. But I'll sort of flip it around and say to you, but what about the huge upfront capital cost? Because an electric car is a lot more expensive to buy in the first place. And therefore, when you actually take that into account and the fact that when you charge it and discharge it, you are clapping out the battery and the batteries weigh a ton in the average car, literally a ton. So they are not trivial to replace. Once you factor that in, is it still price competitive?
Robert - How many - let's go with a particular brand - Mercedes high-class petrol engine limousines do 500,000 miles without having to have a new engine, gearbox, transmission, system, clutch? None. How many Teslas are there? There are dozens now. Tesla Model S: same size car, similar cost to buy, that have done over half a million miles as limousines between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Electric cars last longer. The batteries outlast the cars.a The nonsense concept of tossing away a battery is one of the most profound and brilliantly planted lies of the fossil fuel industry. It is not true. Electric cars last longer. The batteries last longer in 2009, Jeremy Clarkson drove a Nissan Leaf on Top Gear and said, the problem is you'll have to throw the battery away after three years. He said that. There's recordings of him saying that. The same car he drove, not the same model, the actual car that he drove on that show is in use today by a medical health worker who lives in south London, who uses it every day. The battery is fine. That is now 12 years later.