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The Cleantech Threshold

28 September 2011 No Comment

Here at buyacar we have written before about the point at which new electric vehicles become a serious proposition to the new car buyer. And we have written about the fact that this will not necessarily be contingent on some sort of environmental consciousness suddenly grabbing hold. Rather this will be contingent on the economic facts becoming clearer, and the economic arguments for owning an electric car becoming ever more compelling.

A useful analogy was drawn this week by Businessweek, who compare the fortunes of the electric vehicle to that of the e-book reader. This analogy is based on the e-book reader taking fifteen years to establish itself, up against a product firmly rooted in the way that we understand ourselves.

Basically you need to have a compelling product at an attractive price. And now that the Nissan Leaf and the Vauxhall Ampera move to expand beyond their test markets, serious cars from serious manufacturers look set to change the way we look at the electric vehicle.

Figures based on the cost of a new car over five years of ownership –this is a calculation increasingly popular with consumer price watchers – suggest that new EVs may not be such a bad deal after all. Despite concerns about high start-up costs and depreciation, Businessweek’s figures confirm what we must all understand: that the higher the price of petrol, the more sense an electric car begins to make.

In short, electric vehicles should be seen as the solution to the rising price of petrol. In fact these sort of petrol prices can lead to a threshold of new consumer behaviour. According to Businessweek, ‘We have been conditioned to believe that clean-tech is unattractive because of the cost.’

Pointing the way towards where our infrastructure might be a few years from now, US energy provider NRG are offering to install 240-volt charging stations in consumer garages for free. This deal is part of a three-year package especially tailored to EV drivers, who would pay less than one hundred dollars per month for unlimited charging.
Who’d have thought we’d be looking to the States for advice on how to run electric cars?

And despite those who doubt the capacity of renewable energies to contribute helpfully to our power economy, the UK grid is getting ever cleaner. Strong September winds meant more wind power was contributed than ever before. And with the National Grid looking to revamp the aging UK grid infrastructure to the tune of £2.2 billion over the next ten years, we may get somewhere near the 12% renewable target at least some point soon.

And this will only bring energy prices down too, as competition and volume increases. In Germany, where they are of course better equipped, power prices go negative at times of high wind and low demand.

Which means you could be powering your car for less than nothing. Now there’s a thought with petrol and diesel prices hovering around at £1.40 a litre.