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The electric revolution: One in five of all new cars will have zero emissions by the end of 2023 –  but there are big issues waiting down the road

There’s a real buzz right now about electric cars. As we head into the latest six-monthly ‘72’ plate for new vehicles, which began yesterday, next Friday September 9 has been nominated ‘World EV Day’ to celebrate the boom in zero-emissions motors.

Maverick entrepreneur Elon Musk’s pioneering Tesla may have led the way, but mainstream manufacturers — from Audi and BMW through Hyundai and Nissan to Volkswagen, Vauxhall and Volvo — have been quick to take up the challenge and accelerate swiftly down the electric vehicle route.

It’s an exciting time for car buyers and fans, however there are warning signs flashing that Government ministers in particular should ignore at their peril.

Future retro: Volkswagen's ID Buzz, which goes on sale officially next week and is set to be a firm favourite with families and those who enjoy active lifestyles and camping trips Future retro: Volkswagen's ID Buzz, which goes on sale officially next week and is set to be a firm favourite with families and those who enjoy active lifestyles and camping trips

Future retro: Volkswagen’s ID Buzz, which goes on sale officially next week and is set to be a firm favourite with families and those who enjoy active lifestyles and camping trips

Among those helping to create the excitement is Volkswagen’s new and aptly named ID Buzz, which goes on sale officially next week and is set to be a firm favourite with families and those who enjoy active lifestyles and camping trips.

A 21st-century zero-emissions incarnation of the classic VW Campervan, it shows just how far battery vehicles have come.

A s does the sheer breadth of electric cars on offer — from practical people carriers and SUVs to 200 mph supercars and luxury limousines such as Rolls-Royce’s new all-electric Spectre.

I had an exclusive early drive of the fun-filled ID Buzz on the roads around VW’s British HQ in Milton Keynes and it really does feel sprightly and nippy around town, particularly on roundabouts.

There’s plenty of poke when you put your foot down and it’s quiet too. No engine noise to worry about. And an excellent turning circle. There are three variants, starting at £57,115 for Life, from £61,915 for Style, and 1st Edition from £62,995.

A commercial ID Buzz Cargo van costs from £38,125.

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With its smart-casual and colourfully contemporary interior, each Buzz features a 77 kWh lithium-ion battery, supplying power to a 150 kW (204 PS) electric motor on the rear axle, with an all-electric driving range of up to 258 miles.

It also has a high-tech digital cockpit, two-tone paint options, and voice control.

Two rear sliding doors — one each side — make for easy entry and exit.

There’s plenty of space for luggage (1,121 litres) and even more if you put down the rear seats. All of which can be creatively used for the practical campervan version. 

Roomy: The ID Buzz offers plenty of space for luggage (1,121 litres) and even more if you put down the rear seats Roomy: The ID Buzz offers plenty of space for luggage (1,121 litres) and even more if you put down the rear seats

Roomy: The ID Buzz offers plenty of space for luggage (1,121 litres) and even more if you put down the rear seats

Comforts: The Buzz is a 21st-century zero-emissions incarnation of the classic VW Campervan, and shows just how far battery vehicles have come Comforts: The Buzz is a 21st-century zero-emissions incarnation of the classic VW Campervan, and shows just how far battery vehicles have come

Comforts: The Buzz is a 21st-century zero-emissions incarnation of the classic VW Campervan, and shows just how far battery vehicles have come

Meanwhile the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says there’s now a choice of more than 140 electric plug-in vehicles — a 15-fold increase since 2011 — with more in the pipeline.

But waiting lists can stretch from four months to two years, depending on models.

Although new car sales overall are forecast at 1.6 million this year — a 2.8 per cent drop fuelled by a global microchip shortage, fall-out from the Ukraine war and concerns about the worldwide economy — sales of pure electric cars are expected to rise by nearly a third (32 per cent) to 252,000 vehicles. 

This gives a market share of 15.7 per cent, or about one in every six of new car sales.

That’s set to rise in 2023 by a further 48.4 per cent to a market share of 19.8 per cent, or about one in five of all new cars sold, says the SMMT.

DVLA data show the number of electric cars on the road has nearly quadrupled in two years — from 114,470 in the first quarter of 2020 to 447,586 in the first three months of this year.

But it’s still a drop in the ocean compared to the 33 million cars on the road. Research by Volkswagen Financial Services UK in its latest electric vehicle tracker report shows that nearly a third (31 per cent) of motorists are ‘seriously considering’ buying an EV for the first time due to the rise in petrol and diesel prices.

But although 56 per cent of consumers believe electric vehicles are better for the environment, fewer than a quarter (24 per cent) are ‘confident’ public charging infrastructure is sufficient to support EVs, it reveals.

Significantly, 58 per cent feel the cost of a vehicle is more important than how green it is, with nearly three-quarters finding electric and hybrid cars ‘too expensive’.

Five more star electric vehicles 

Genesis GV60: A beautifully styled, super-smart and lightning-fast electric crossover from the upmarket Korean car firm (and Kia sibling), priced from £47,005 Genesis GV60: A beautifully styled, super-smart and lightning-fast electric crossover from the upmarket Korean car firm (and Kia sibling), priced from £47,005

Genesis GV60: A beautifully styled, super-smart and lightning-fast electric crossover from the upmarket Korean car firm (and Kia sibling), priced from £47,005

Tesla Model 3: Line up the letters in the Tesla range and it almost spells SEXY. But Ford owned the ‘E’ so mercurial owner Elon Musk had to settle for Model 3 instead — priced from £48,480 with a range of 305 miles, 0-60mph in 5.8 secs and top speed of 140mph Tesla Model 3: Line up the letters in the Tesla range and it almost spells SEXY. But Ford owned the ‘E’ so mercurial owner Elon Musk had to settle for Model 3 instead — priced from £48,480 with a range of 305 miles, 0-60mph in 5.8 secs and top speed of 140mph

Tesla Model 3: Line up the letters in the Tesla range and it almost spells SEXY. But Ford owned the ‘E’ so mercurial owner Elon Musk had to settle for Model 3 instead — priced from £48,480 with a range of 305 miles, 0-60mph in 5.8 secs and top speed of 140mph

Nissan Ariya: Built in Japan, engineered in Britain, priced from £43,845 and with a range of up to 329 miles. It scooped top prize in the prestigious Auto Express Car Of The Year 2022 awards Nissan Ariya: Built in Japan, engineered in Britain, priced from £43,845 and with a range of up to 329 miles. It scooped top prize in the prestigious Auto Express Car Of The Year 2022 awards

Nissan Ariya: Built in Japan, engineered in Britain, priced from £43,845 and with a range of up to 329 miles. It scooped top prize in the prestigious Auto Express Car Of The Year 2022 awards

Ford Mustang Mach-e: The clever and brave electric Ford SUV crossover that put Mustang muscle into battery power, the Mach-e range is priced from £50,030 Ford Mustang Mach-e: The clever and brave electric Ford SUV crossover that put Mustang muscle into battery power, the Mach-e range is priced from £50,030

Ford Mustang Mach-e: The clever and brave electric Ford SUV crossover that put Mustang muscle into battery power, the Mach-e range is priced from £50,030

Kia EV6: European Car Of The Year and costing from £44,195, the Kia EV6 GT (from £61,595) sprints from 0-62mph in just 3.5 seconds Kia EV6: European Car Of The Year and costing from £44,195, the Kia EV6 GT (from £61,595) sprints from 0-62mph in just 3.5 seconds

Kia EV6: European Car Of The Year and costing from £44,195, the Kia EV6 GT (from £61,595) sprints from 0-62mph in just 3.5 seconds

Mike Todd, Volkswagen Financial Services UK chief executive, said: ‘As household budgets come under pressure, other priorities may prevail which could potentially affect EV sales impetus.’

Thankfully, more affordable electric cars are arriving, such as the MG4 costing from £29,540 — a ‘People’s Tesla’.

Ministers may have ruled that, from 2030, the sale of pure petrol and diesel cars will be outlawed, and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) by 2035, but I’ll wager that as we get closer to those key dates, global events and a reality-check will cause that timetable to slip, though many of the politicians who set it won’t be around for the embarrassing U-turn.

Charging, for example, still remains a huge issue — with too few chargers to cope with rising demand, and too many broken down.

Provision of public charging points has grown by more than a third (35 per cent) to 33,281 over the last year.

But it is failing to keep pace with electric vehicle sales, a study by financial information firm Experian and electric charge-point mapping service Zap-Map reveals.

It says: ‘The UK’s burgeoning electric vehicle market will only continue to grow if the right infrastructure is in place to meet demand.’

Electric vehicle drivers charging at home should also offset soaring electricity prices by switching to an off-peak energy tariff — or face paying six times more, says smart-charging firm Ohme.

Skoda’s big green family machine 

This week Skoda unveiled its forthcoming flagship electric seven-seater, family-friendly SUV.

The Skoda Vision 7S — which also launches a fresh style and logo for the Czech car firm — is powered by a 89 kWh battery and has a promised range of more than 370 miles.

It is one of three new electric models, which Skoda says will be on sale from 2026. 

Green giant: Skoda forthcoming Vision 7S is an electric seven-seater, family-friendly SUV Green giant: Skoda forthcoming Vision 7S is an electric seven-seater, family-friendly SUV

Green giant: Skoda forthcoming Vision 7S is an electric seven-seater, family-friendly SUV

The other two are a supermini and a compact SUV. Seven in ten of its European car sales are expected to be all-electric by 2030.

Riding on 22in wheels, the Vision 7S has two new paint choices, emerald and electric green, ‘which represent ecology, sustainability and electro-mobility’. 

It has a flatter and wider grille, robust bumpers with air intakes made of recycled tyres and traditional chrome accents have been replaced with matt paint for the first time.

It has a minimalistic, leather-free interior and a floor and boot made from scratch-resistant and easy-to-clean recycled tyre veneer. 

Fabric for the door panel and other areas is made of 100 per cent recycled polyester yarns

Roomy: The Skoda has a minimalistic, leather-free interior and a floor and boot made from scratch-resistant and easy-to-clean recycled tyre veneer Roomy: The Skoda has a minimalistic, leather-free interior and a floor and boot made from scratch-resistant and easy-to-clean recycled tyre veneer

Roomy: The Skoda has a minimalistic, leather-free interior and a floor and boot made from scratch-resistant and easy-to-clean recycled tyre veneer

Practical: The Vision 7S  is powered by a 89 kWh battery and has a promised range of more than 370 miles Practical: The Vision 7S  is powered by a 89 kWh battery and has a promised range of more than 370 miles

Practical: The Vision 7S  is powered by a 89 kWh battery and has a promised range of more than 370 miles

It has a central 14.6in touchscreen, 8.8in digital instrument display, head-up display, a panoramic glass roof, and a redesigned steering wheel.

The child seat is in the safest place — centrally in front of the second row of seats. An optional camera can stream video of the child to the dashboard.

For family days out, the Vision 7S also has removable back packs that attach magnetically to the seat backrests.

Skoda says during the ‘transition’ to electric, it will continue with new petrol and diesel cars such as a latest-generation Superb and Kodiaq late next year, with a refreshed Octavia in 2024.

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