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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Smart EV Trial Shows That Electric Vehicles Outperform Public Expectations

Cenex has announced the results of a six month trial of electric passenger cars, run in the North East of England. One of the trial's key findings was that 72% of the 264 participants stated after the trial that they would be happy to use an electric vehicle as their regular car. This is one of the most comprehensive trials yet undertaken in the UK on driver attitudes to electric vehicles.

The trial's main objective was to study the integration of electric vehicles into fleets, with an emphasis on the efficiency and performance of the vehicles. Ten organisations took part, integrating one to four electric two-seater passenger cars into their fleets and allowing qualitative and quantitative data to be collected.

Key findings from the trial include:

72% of drivers stated they would use an electric vehicle as their regular car compared to 47% before the trial
88% of fleet managers felt more positive about incorporating electric vehicles into fleets, despite a lack of public charging infrastructure
58% of fleet users felt generally more positive about electric vehicles after the trial
'Range anxiety' meant that 93% of journeys started with over 50% battery charge and that maximum journey length was only 25% of the typical vehicle range capability
Test drivers and fleet users in the 20-30 age group experienced the highest opinion shift in favour of electric vehicle ownership

The trial has shown that strong potential exists for fleet operators to be early adopters of electric vehicles, having gained confidence that EVs can realistically form part of their transport fleet. Due to the return-to‐base operation of fleets, the lack of a public recharging infrastructure is not seen as a barrier to the integration of EVs. But, organisations with dedicated recharging infrastructure rated the charging experience even higher than those without.

Fleet managers highlighted the main barriers to EV integration as purchase price and limited range, although the quantitative data from the vehicle telemetry showed that users were over-cautious when planning journeys.

"The fact that the EVs outperformed expectations on all criteria shows that public awareness of the advances in electric vehicle technology in recent years is low," said Chris Walsh, Head of Consultancy and Technical Support at Cenex. "Even so, drivers tended to be over-cautious when planning journeys and seemed unwilling to push the vehicles to anything approaching their limits. This highlights the need for more public education about the capabilities of modern EVs and more sophisticated range prediction aids onboard to increase driver confidence."

The average range achievable from the 2 seater electric vehicles was 72.4 km emitting the equivalent of 81.4 g CO2/km when recharged with UK average grid mix electricity. If charged with lower carbon sources of electricity, the vehicles achieve average equivalent emissions of 45.0 g CO2/km from Combined Heat and Power generation, and 0g CO2/km from renewable electricity generation.

"We predict that Government incentives to decarbonise the electricity network will coincide with the mass market introduction of electric vehicles, which offers an inherently low carbon future for EVs," added Walsh.

Cenex intends to undertake additional EV trials throughout 2010 and beyond, thereby increasing the quantity and diversity of vehicle technology and types assessed. These trials will build on the Smart Move Trial work and further assist organisations to decarbonise fleets while making informed choices about the most operationally suitable vehicles available.

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