The UK is set to ban the production of all petrol and diesel cars by 2030. That’s one year after James Cameron’s The Terminator takes place. Assuming the target isn’t shelved, and we aren’t by then enslaved by Skynet, the question we should be asking about electric cars is when rather than if.
When we think electric car, we think Tesla. The words have become synonymous. Elon Musk’s car company is the biggest manufacturer of electric vehicles on the planet, and as of November 2022 boasts a market cap of over $700 billion. Here are their runners and riders to replace your petrol or diesel car.
Tesla Model 3
Starting at £40,490 this is the cheapest car on offer. Auto Express awarded the Model 3 four and a half stars out of five in their review. The fact they mentioned the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as a prominent con suggests there isn’t a lot to complain about. Tesla claims the Standard Plus (one of three variants available in the UK) can travel up to 254 miles before needing to recharge. It’s worth noting though that the electric vehicle database records the real range as low as 155 miles in cold conditions.
Tesla Model S
This pricier model starts at £79,980. For almost double the price you get double the mileage – Tesla claims the Model S can travel as many as 424 miles on a single charge. Like the Model 3, the S earns four and a half stars from Auto Express, who praise its impressive range, but brand it a “geeky toy for early adopters “.
Tesla Model X
The Model X marks another step up in price, starting at £82,980. Which Magazine’s Oliver Trebilcock describes it as “an unusual crossbreed” with “unique ‘falcon wing’ rear doors”. Those doors though are slammed as annoying by Auto Express who broke the habit of a lifetime to award the Model X just three and a half stars.
While Tesla might be the biggest, it’s not the only game in town. What Car? magazine claims MG and Renault are set to shake up the electric car market as they bid to beat the Cupra Born – and have conducted a comprehensive comparison between the three cars.
Renault Megane E-Tech
Coming in third place in what is described as a “far from clear-cut” contest is Renault’s offering. The French company was one of the first to enter the electric car market – but has floundered since. The E-Tech is praised for its strong performance, comfy ride, and for having the biggest boot. But it is described as having nervous handling and grabby brakes.
The MG 4 places second, though What Car insists it’s the best electric car on offer at the £30k price point. It comes in for praise for its cheery price, strong resale values and the abundance of rear-seat headroom. It falls short for high levels of wind noise, its offset driving position and the bounciness of the ride. However, for its faults, the Chinese-made car is, unsurprisingly, the cheapest of the three.
In first place is the Cupra – landing the top spot for its long driving range and strong safety rating. Echoing the sentiment of Auto Express’s review of the Model 3 the car comes under fire for its clunky infotainment and tricky controls – quibbles that don’t hold the car back from earning a five-star rating.
A sure thing?
For electric cars to go from exceptional to ubiquitous requires sustained and long-term investment in and delivery of infrastructure, as well as the securing of key materials and the supply chains needed to transport them. This will include the mining of lithium, the largest deposits of which are stored under Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, charging points in public and at the domestic level, the construction of gigafactories, and the extraction of cobalt and nickel.
In the best of times, a complex transition of this type couldn’t be guaranteed to meet a deadline, let alone one looming so short as 2030. Recently UK battery firm Britishvolt narrowly avoided collapse after the government refused to allow the company to prematurely draw on a third of £100 million of public money that had been pledged to them. The firm has secured new funding, with the BBC reporting the identity of the new backers is to remain unknown.
Britishvolt’s £3.8 billion plan to build a gigafactory in Northumberland is set to employ 3000 workers and serve as a vital piece of infrastructure that will pave the way for the rollout of electric cars. The project has suffered several delays, and is now set to begin production in 2025, with the BBC reporting that the firm cited “difficult external economic headwinds for the setbacks.“.
The near-death of Britishvolt is just one example of the difficulties involved in a transformation as radical and costly as the transition from the petrol engine to the electric car battery. As Dark Helmet remarked in Mel Brook’s Spaceballs, “Even in the future nothing works “. But whether the 2030 deadline stands or not, electric cars are getting better, and cheaper. With charging infrastructure sprouting up at every drive-thru and service station, they’re getting easier to run, too. And if you’re inclined to take the pricier, but more eco-friendly option, there’s a suite of options to choose from. The initial hit to the pocket is increasingly offset by the long-term savings in running costs. With EV batteries lasting between ten and twenty years, it might be better to switch to electric before China hoovers up the world’s lithium supply.