Britain’s EV drivers – needs and experiences

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Buying, charging and driving electric vehicles (EVs) presents numerous challenges to users in Britain, new research from Ofgem has found.

With the ban on the sales of new internal combustion engine vehicles in 2030 in Britain, large numbers of drivers will be expected to start shifting to EVs as that date looms just a few years away.

Recent research from the regulator Ofgem found that currently only around one in four consumers are planning to buy an EV or plug-in hybrid in the next five years. However, over one-third said they were unlikely to switch in that time with key barriers perceived being high cost, short range and limited charge points.

Now additional research by Ofgem among current EV drivers has identified no less than 29 ‘user needs’ around buying, driving and charging EVs, which will need to be addressed by the industry to smoothen the user experience and accelerate the uptake.

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Key pain points identified pertained to an absence of clear and reliable information on vehicles and their performances, the full costs involved for purchasing and running an EV including for example a home rewiring to instal a charge point and the availability of public charging infrastructure.

For example, some users commented on an information overload, while others mentioned a lower than expected real world range.

Another issue highlighted was the different experiences in Scotland with a single public charge point operator compared with the multiple operators in England with different business models, pricing, standards and modes of operation. Likewise, vehicle interoperability emerged as an issue for home charge points.

Both EV dealers and charge point installers also came in for criticism over lack of wider knowledge of vehicles and charge point set ups.

Ofgem says that of particular interest was how purchasing an EV has influenced consumers’ wider energy usage in the home.

Most said they charge their car as soon as they get in to ensure it is available when they need it or for an emergency use. Some participants had adopted a time-of-use tariff and were charging in line with it to save on bills, but most were unaware of smart charging and most also had not made any changes to their energy use.

Ofgem anticipates that the findings should feed into the design of new services to support EV uptake, saying that fulfilling the identified user needs falls on no single organisation but will require a whole industry effort.

The government’s Climate Change Committee estimates that there should be 17.8 million electric vehicles on Britain’s roads by 2030, of which 14.5 million will be battery electric vehicles.