Are electric cars a real contender for petrol and diesel?

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The theory seems good on paper, and the idea of an electric car certainly isn’t a new one. But as a plausible alternative to petrol and diesel cars, the electric car has only recently gained ground. Perhaps due to the rising global concern for the environment, as well as cost concerns, the electric car is finally having its day.

Volkswagen Up! and e-Up! stockists Lookers Volkswagen are here to investigate how electric cards have progressed, and how recent improvements to the vehicle could make it a viable choice against the standard petrol or diesel car.

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The past of electric vehicles

Battery-powered vehicles were first created by keen minds from Hungary, the United States, and the Netherlands back in the 1800s. They created small-scale electric cars, but it took until the second half of the 19th century before French and English inventors produced the first practical electric vehicles.

With a quiet engine and ease of use, the public became fond of electric cars for short city trips. Thomas Edison worked to develop better batteries for electric vehicles and in 1901, the world’s first hybrid electric car was invented.

But in 1920 when crude oil prices became cheaper, the demand for electric vehicles reduced too. Fast forward to the 1990s and environmental regulations brought renewed interest to the models. With a green future becoming a main objective amongst the world’s leaders, it’s anticipated that by 2040 electric cars will account for a third of global sales. In the UK, ministers have been informed that most new cars would need to be electric by 2030 and, with fully autonomous cars due to be rolled out in the coming years, the industry is well on its way to hitting this target, especially as motoring giants are producing more and more electric versions of their fleet.

Improvements to electric cars

With electric cars already making an impact and winning public popularity, all that needed to be done was to make the car competitive in price and performance. The world is realising that we have to move away from a fossil fuel-driven economy towards one that is more sustainable as we attempt to bring a halt to climate change. Transportation can, and is, one area that must be focused on. In 2017, more than half of cars sold in Norway were electric, while China continues to lead the way in a market that keeps growing. In fact, with sales of electric cars rising each month, Volkswagen has announced a $10 billion investment in the country to develop relevant technology and has set out plans to manufacture 1.5 million electric vehicles by 2025.

A key area of improvement for electric cars is, of course, the battery life. Lithium-sulphur and solid state devices are in development to continue the improvement in the car’s battery life. Also, the number of charging points available in the UK is on the rise, quickly increasing by over 5,000 between 2016 and 2017. It’s these two developments that are leading the way in the electric car revolution.

These improvements aren’t just reserved for domestic vehicles too. Spectators at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed were treated to a record-breaking run as the VW ID R, fresh from breaking the record for the fastest run up the Pikes Peak international Hill Climb, smashed the official hill climb record for electric vehicles by 3.5 seconds. This, on top of the rise of the enthralling Formula E series, shows just how far these automobiles are coming.

Do they hold up against petrol cars?

Electric cars are still the pricier option, but we are seeing prices fall. Thanks to rules that are being introduced to limit the kind of vehicles allowed into major cities, electric cars are becoming more mainstream.

With very few moving parts, an electric car should encounter fewer potential issues. This means that on the whole, servicing your electric car should be cheaper than a petrol or diesel car. However, the range you achieve from an electric car, although increasing as batteries improve, isn’t as good as what you’d receive from a full tank of petrol or diesel.

The type of driving you do, along with environmental concerns, will likely spur a choice between electric or petrol. However, given time and with constant technological advancements you can expect the power and range of electric cars to improve, meaning the rise of the electric vehicle in the 21st century is one that looks like gaining even greater moment over the coming years.


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