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Economics, not the environment alone, to drive the switch to electric vehicles?

• UK motorists feeling the pinch after the three-year high fuel price hike in May

• Cost, not carbon policy, set to be the driving force behind the mass move to electric vehicles


With the rising cost of fuel and motorists now feeling the pinch of filling up the family car more than ever before, the case for sustainable mobility options like electric vehicles is only getting stronger. Could this be what fuels their mass adoption sooner rather than later?

Pumped up prices

It has been a terrible month for UK motorists. According to RAC, the month of May saw a three-year high fuel price hike due to the punitive combination of higher crude oil prices and a weaker pound. This whopping 6p petrol and diesel increase is also said to be the biggest monthly rise in the UK since RAC started recording 18 years ago, and it is set to hit consumers where it hurts.

These figures reveal that the upward pressure on prices is most definitely still with us. “For many people, there is little alternative to the car for the majority of journeys they have to make, so it is therefore very difficult to avoid feeling the pinch of rising prices,” says RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams. Add to this the increase in other living costs such as higher energy bills, the pressure on consumers’ wallets is immense.

Economics vs. Environment

With no definitive end in sight for the rising cost of fuel, motorists are being forced to reassess their options and look for alternative, cheaper transport solutions, if only for economic reasons. In terms of running costs, electric cars are now the cheapest options for many buyers in the UK, making the decision to switch easier than ever before, especially for those driving higher mileage and feeling the impact of the fuel hikes the most. This cost-effective solution is now far more enticing, regardless of the environmental benefits that come along with it.

Using January's fuel prices, we did a fuel cost comparison between a very efficient diesel Ford Focus and a pure electric Nissan Leaf, both driven 10 000 miles per year for a period of 5 years. The comparison showed that the fuel costs for the Focus came to 8.32 pence per mile, while the Leaf was almost half that, costing just 4.18 pence per mile. Ultimately, this means that Leaf drivers would save around £414 on fuel each year, and £2 067 over a 5-year period, compared to drivers of the diesel-powered Focus. And today, after taking May's fuel price hike into account, figures show that the annual fuel bill for the Leaf would come to £418, with fuel savings of £2 305 over 5 years, while the Focus will cost drivers more than double with an annual fuel bill of £879.

The switch to electic vehicles is more often than not viewed as a result of efforts to reduce CO2 and emissions impacting air quality, but in this current economic climate, cost, not carbon and air quality policy, may be the driving force behind the mass moved to electric.




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