I think the 2008 Tesla Roadster will go down in the annals of history as a landmark vehicle: at least as significant as any other vehicle built since the turn of the century. If the terrific Renault Twizy suited me, I’d be all over one. (If I thought I could hack a range extender onto one, I’d give it serious consideration already.) And I’m about to buy an electric bicycle for m’laddio to ride to school on.
So in case there’s any doubt, I said it: I like electric vehicles.
Some people think I don’t, because earlier this month in Autocar's print magazine I voiced concern about the ability of Britain to deal with the ‘Road To Zero’ plan, which would need electric charge points installed at the rate of more than 2200 every day for the next 30 years, if the number of charge points is to keep pace with electric cars.
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But because I had the temerity to doubt that there would be a viable number of public chargers for the near half of the population who can’t charge at home, or a fair system for fuel duty, in place by 2040 – 18,000 haven’t been built since I did the calculations, so we’re behind the curve on that score already – I got told I was “trolling the electric vehicle community”.
My inbox rippled with anecdotes about how great EVs are – which is true – and how easy to use they are – which is also true, if you’ve chosen one because it suits your lifestyle, rather than you being told you have to have it.
Anecdotes, though, I’ve heard a few. If the stories of evangelising early adopters, who charge overnight at home and never have an anxious moment, count as evidence, let me give you another.
Friends of the family call in to my house in their Tesla Model S, on their way to tramp around a nearby field. I’m a big fan of the Model S. So is its owner, even though the range dips to 90 miles in winter.
Thing is, he’s forgotten to bring any boots, so I lend him a pair of mine. Happy days. They go, have a good time, then, two minutes after I hear they’ve set off for home, I think: his trainers are in the porch, so has he still got my size-eight clompers on his feet? We phone him: yes, he has.
“Couldn’t just drop them back, could you?”
“Ah,” he says. “The car’s got 16 miles of range left and the Oxford Services Supercharger is 16 miles away, so if I come back, I won’t make it. Don’t suppose you could come and get them from where I am, if I wait here?”
So, look: I want an emissions-free future just as much as anyone else. I love the power delivery, the cleanliness, the quiet, the efficiency and the fact that you can package an EV much more flexibly than an internally combusted vehicle.
But at the moment, that the sales success of EVs across different countries directly correlates to how incentivised people are to buy them suggests I’m not alone in thinking that the transitional road will not be perfectly smooth. Don’t just tell us we have to have them: find ways of making all, not just the enlightened few, want them.