All you need to know about electric cars in 5 minutes

The past, present and exciting new future of electric cars

Electric vehicles are the future of motoring. Governments across Europe are pledging to support the manufacturing of ultra-low-emission vehicles while car brands from Mazda to Maserati have either built electric cars or have plans to do so.

But electric cars are also part of the past and their legacy goes further back than you’d think. The first electric car was built in 1837 in Aberdeen, Scotland and the technology enjoyed such success that electric battery-powered taxis were even introduced to the streets of London and New York late in the 19th century. 

Sadly, their popularity didn’t last. And with the price of oil decreasing it was petrol and diesel cars that dominated the roads. Until now.

Electric cars are once again the future. With technology developing rapidly, designs becoming more eye-catching and the world becoming more environmentally conscious, a new era of electric vehicles has been born.

Back in 2008 the Tesla Roadster reached a range of 350 km and provided inspiration for mainstream car manufacturers to enter the space themselves. Now, companies like Volvo are announcing that every car it produces from 2019 will be partially or completely battery powered and a recent report by ING claims that as early as 2035 all new cars sold in Europe will be electric.

“We are determined to deliver a green revolution in transport. We want nearly every car and van on UK roads to be zero emission by 2050.” 

                        Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport in the UK

How do electric vehicles work?

Instead of a fuel tank, an electric vehicle has an on-board battery that gets charged through an electricity supply and then stores and uses that energy to power an electric motor and set the wheels in motion. It means the cars have no need for a clutch and gearbox or an exhaust pipe and it makes them much quieter and, many say, smoother to drive.

On a full charge, a standard electric car can now run more than 400km before needing to be recharged. That might not be as far as you could get on one tank of petrol, but most journeys could still easily be accomplished in an electric car. For instance, in the UK 94% of all car journeys are under 25 miles in length, with 56% less than five miles.  

2 million – In June 2017 the number of electric cars in the world exceeded 2 million for the first time. 

What are the benefits of buying an electric car?

There are plenty of reasons why someone would want to buy an electric car. One of the most prominent is the environment. While electric cars are still only as green as the electricity used to power it, they are still far better for the planet than conventional cars. They generate fewer emissions and are more efficient – 95% of the energy generated by an electric car is put into motion, whereas the internal combustion engine is only 30% efficient – the rest of the energy being lost as heat or noise.

But there are other benefits too. There are lower operating costs as a full charge costs significantly less than a tank of gasoline. Fewer movable parts means that maintenance costs are lower as well.

Remember though, electric cars are – at least for the time being – more expensive to buy up front than a conventional car. However, there are various incentives and government grants that can counter this. Grants of around €4,000 are available across Europe for those thinking of making the move.

"We will not stop until every car on the road is electric"

Elon Musk, Chief Executive, Tesla

What are the different types of electric cars?

There are generally three types of cars that are considered ‘electric’.

  1. Conventional Hybrids like the Toyota Prius that require a petrol tank but also have an electric motor powered by a battery that charges when the vehicle brakes.
  2. Plug-in Hybrids which also have both petrol engines and electric motors but can be plugged-in to charge and can generally run for a short period on electric power before the battery is drained.
  3. Battery Electric Vehicles which are the ones you probably think of most when thinking electric cars. These run only on electricity. Many major car manufacturers offer one of these, from traditional names like Renault to specialist manufacturers like Tesla. A quick internet search throws up lots of results.

The five best selling battery electric vehicles across Europe between January and March 2017:

  1. Renault Zoe
  2. Nissan Leaf
  3. BMW i3
  4. Tesla Model S
  5. Tesla Model X 

How do you charge an electric car?

Whilst it might seem very different at first, charging an electric car will soon become second nature for motorists. We’ll charge our cars just like we charge our mobile phones before we go to bed.

Drivers charge the on-board battery of an electric car using electricity, either from a dedicated charging point or a simple wall socket – the same sockets you use to power your television or hairdryer.

The speed of a charge depends on the type of car you have and the type of power supply you’re connected to. But as a rule there are three types of charging speeds – slow charging which takes about 5 hours for a full charge, fast charging which takes about an hour, and rapid charging where you can charge your car in just 20 minutes. These rapid charge points are often the ones you find close to major roads or at motorway service stations. 

€20 billion+

Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker, has pledged to invest this much in zero-emission vehicles by 2030.

Electric vehicles across Europe The European countries with the most passenger electric vehicles as of July 2017

  1. Norway
  2. UK
  3. Germany
  4. France
  5. Sweden

The future of electric cars

It’s clear that we’re entering a new age of electric vehicles. The infrastructure to support them, the cost to build them and the speed to charge them all look set to improve dramatically in the next few years. Driving an electric car will become the norm for many in the coming years and governments and energy companies are setting big goals to help that happen.  

In Germany, the German government is actively looking at a complete move from diesel and gasoline to electric in the not too distant future.

France and the UK already plan to ban all sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

Denmark now has more electric car charging docks than petrol stations.

Italy has exempted electric vehicles from the annual circulation tax or ownership tax for five years from the date of their first registration.  

How E.ON is playing a part

E.ON already has a network of charging points throughout Europe. Our customers have access to more than 2,000 charging points in Denmark alone. In Nottingham in the UK we support the city’s entire electric bus infrastructure with 60 bus charging points installed. In 2017 we’re launching special fast-charging stations on autobahns in Germany that can fully charge an electric car within 20 minutes.

We want to make the entire process of building and charging electric cars cleaner, using greener energy every step of the way. We’re looking at making charging quicker and more efficient, and we’re working hard to empower individuals and businesses so that they can fully enjoy the benefits of this exciting new era. 

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