Not that they’re cheap to buy right now, but once bought they are currently cheap to operate. Which isn’t going to continue. Nope, not a chance:
It’s not my Enyaq: it has been loaned to me by Škoda. This one costs £34,495 to buy, including a £2,500 government grant. Still a fair old whack, but EVs are expensive: even a little Renault Zoe costs £27,500. The cheapest Tesla is more than 40 grand.
EVs are much cheaper to run than other cars, though. Research by the price comparison website Uswitch found that, if you charge at home, you can squeeze 2,380 miles (3,830km) out of a Nissan Leaf E+ for £50. Compare that with only 443 miles for a similar-sized VW Golf. Edmund King, the president of the AA, says that service costs should be lower, too, because EVs are simpler. “The main things are tyres and brakes – there’s very little else in the vehicle. Initially, insurance was expensive, but that seems to be coming down. You don’t pay Vehicle Excise Duty, London congestion charge is free [until December 2025], some authorities give you incentives to park.”
Duty, free parking, no congestion charge – those will go as soon as they are making any significant dent in revenues. But rather more important:
Although electric cars do not have anything like the adverse environmental consequences that petrol and diesel cars do, they still contribute to congestion and congestion wastes time. At the personal level, it brings frustration, stress and anger. For businesses, it drives up costs. And the uncertainty about how long a journey is going to take brings added losses.
By contrast, if motorists faced a charge per mile, varied according to the level of congestion, time of day and other factors, then drivers could be incentivised to change their journey times and/or routes or even, at the margin, to decide not to make a journey at all or to share it with others. The result would be less congestion, shorter and more predictable journey times and a much more efficient use of our road network.
A comprehensive system of charging for road usage could also potentially be a major money spinner for the Government, as it either collected the pay-as-you-go revenues from road usage or banked a large lump sum gleaned from selling off the right to collect such revenues.
As others have also pointed out. Government currently gains some £30 to £40 billion from fuel duty. It is not possible that they’ll just shrug and stop spending so much. They will insist on replacing that revenue.
At which point some sort of per mile charge to replace fuel duty becomes inevitable.
The biggest effect of which is going to be to entirely wipe out whatever price advantage electric cars might have. They are, currently at least, an inherently more expensive technology than ICE. How much of that is just timescales, how long significant attention has been paid to technological development is currently unknown. But there are plenty out there who insist there’s no great breakthrough in battery tech a’comin’.
At which point electric plus tax will be much more expensive than ICE plus tax – because both are going to be taxed the same amount. Some will welcome this – the idea that the proles should be mobile and thus free grates – but the populace might well not take it nicely…..