Cost overtakes green concerns in electric car debate

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Media captionLondon's mayor originally wanted 25,000 recharging points but it was scaled back to 1,300 by 2013

I've had my first go in one of the new generation of mass produced electric cars.

I sped round the M25 at 70mph, recharged at South Mimms service station and then returned the car.

For a first experience I have to say it was great and I was very impressed. The car was quick off the mark and fun to drive.

It has made me realise electric motoring is actually very achievable but the initial outlay is high - new cars cost around £20,000.

It seems the debate, though, is now being framed around cost and convenience and not necessarily the environment.

Zero emissions and some green credentials are clearly a benefit but the drivers I spoke to were mainly interested in the day to day cost savings.

One driver said it cost him £1 a day to do 35 miles.

While the perception is that we need cars to drive long distances on the "open road", how often do we really do that?

'Range anxiety?'

Erik Fairbairn, CEO of the electric vehicle charging company POD Point, said: "The motor industry has sold us a vision of unlimited motoring on an open road, but this does not reflect the reality of motoring in Britain.

"The biggest slice of car use is made up of small journeys and average daily motoring is just over 23 miles per car.

"Average trip lengths, for the most common routine journeys, is commuting at 8.8 miles, business trips at 19.4 miles, the school run at 2.3 miles, shopping at 4.3 miles, visiting friends at 8.7 miles and entertainment at 7.3 miles."

An interesting bit of research has emerged from London Metropolitan University.

Researchers gave 340 motorists electric cars and the results were overwhelmingly positive.

Psychology lecturer Dr Louise Bunce said: "Despite initial scepticism, drivers quickly adapted to the vehicles and were extremely positive about aspects of its performance, including its acceleration and speed.

"Drivers soon discovered that recharging their vehicle was more convenient than having to stop en route to refuel at a petrol station.

"Not to mention, it costs around a mere £2 to go 100 miles. There are zero tail-pipe emissions for the health-conscious and people felt environmentally and socially responsible while at the wheel."

But there are still hurdles.

Range anxiety still haunts some drivers and there could be more charging points in the capital - remember the Mayor once talked about the dream of having 25,000 charging points?

Funding cuts meant Transport for London's (TfL) contribution was scaled back from 2,500 charging points to 1,300 due by 2013.

At the moment there are 790, mostly in Westminster, so it is obviously not a mayoral priority.

But with petrol prices only going one way, and when new cheaper models appear on the market, it is hard not to see more and more Londoners buying electric cars.

That will also force the issue up the political agenda.

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