UK Utilities Compete for Electric Car Charging Market
Image credit: npower
Bonnie already reported on London's aggressive plan to expand electric vehicle charging, and Robert Llewellyn did a show on solar electric vehicle charging out in the countryside. As the push for more electric vehicles on the streets of Britain continues, the electricity companies are stepping up their marketing campaigns and product offerings to corner what could be a lucrative new market for them. The Guardian reports that three of Britain's biggest electricity companies all have plans for home car charging services, and they are moving fast to differentiate their products from their competitors. While initial uptake of electric cars has not been huge—only 500 people took advantage of GB£5,000 purchase grants in the first quarter of the year—analysts predict that as more cars become available, as charging becomes more accessible, and as people begin to see successful use of electric cars by friends and neighbors, those figures could rise considerably. (Some predictions say as many as 80,000 electric vehicles could be operating in Britain by 2020.)
According to The Guardian there are already seven models of purely electric cars to choose from, and thirteen more on the way, making the British market for electric cars look a lot more promising than many. And that's why electricity companies are vying for a piece of the action that has previously been the soul reserve of the gas, ahem, petrol station. Crucially, the big players are touting both renewable energy, and efficient use of low rate off peak electricity, to maximize both the infrastructural and environmental benefits of electric cars. Here's more from The Guardian on npower's Juice-e electric vehicle charging program:
Crucially, the homeowner will be able to take advantage of significantly cheaper off-peak power - similar to the old Economy 7 tariff that would charge up storage heaters at night. The company says it will charge its juice-e customers around 6p/kWh to recharge their vehicles - about half the standard electricity price, typically saving about £150 a year in lower recharge costs. It will also supply 100% green energy on the tariff by matching the electricity used by car owners with that produced by its offshore North Hoyle wind farm.
For those still wary of jumping in to the electric vehicle market, The Guardian crunched some numbers on the finances—and concluded that with the generous government subsidies, and the already high price of fuel in the UK, most car owners are unlikely to lose money. (Drivers in London stand to gain more if they would otherwise regularly pay the capitol's congestion charge.)
As with Google's predictions for clean energy breakthroughs, if vehicle prices fall as economies of scale kick in and battery technology continues to improve, and if gas prices continue to rise, then the economics could move from "not bad" to decidedly favorable. It will be that point when the utilities start to make serious inroads into the market—but the early pioneers will no doubt have a jump on their competitors.
More on Electric Cars and Electric Car Charging
a href="http://www.treehugger.com/files/2011/05/london-expands-electric-charging.php">London Expands Electric Car Charging
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Electric Cars Top Google's Wishlist for Clean Energy Breakthroughs