Tag: electric cars

When did you last think about buying a new car? If not recently, then you may be in for a surprise next time you shop around for car deals. First, you will realise that the range of hybrid cars (i.e. cars that combine conventional combustion and electric engines) has widened significantly. The days when you only had a choice of Toyota Prius and another two or three hybrids are long gone! A quick search on the web returned 10 different models (although five of them belong to the Toyota Prius family), including Chevrolet Malibu, VW Jetta and Ford Fusion. And these are only the cars that are currently available in the UK market.

But the biggest surprise of all may be the number of purely (plug-) electric cars that are available to UK buyers these days. The table below provides a summary of total registrations of light-duty plug-electric cars by model in the UK, between 2010 and June 2016.

Registration of light-duty highway legal plug-electric cars by model in the UK between 2010 and June 2016

Model

Total registered at the end of(1)

Registrations by year between 2010 and December 2013

2Q 2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV

21 708

16 100

5 273

 

 

 

 

Nissan Leaf

12 837

11 219

6 838

1 812

699

635

 

BMW i3

4 457

3 574

1 534

NA

 

 

 

Renault Zoe

4 339

3 327

1 356

378

 

 

 

Mercedes-Benz C350 e

3 337

628

0

 

 

 

 

Tesla Model S

3 312

2 087

698

 

 

 

 

Volkswagen Golf GTE

2 657

1 359

0

 

 

 

 

Toyota Prius PHV

1 655

1 580

1 324

509

470

 

 

Audi A3 e-tron

1 634

1 218

66

 

 

 

 

Nissan e-NV200

1 487

1 047

399

 

 

 

 

BMW 330e iPerformance

1 479

 

 

 

 

 

 

BMW i8

1 307

1 022

279

 

 

 

 

Vauxhall Ampera

1 267

1 272

1 169

175

455

4

 

Volvo XC90 T8

813

38

 

 

 

 

 

Renault Kangoo Z.E

785

740

663

 

 

 

 

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid

475

395

241

 

 

 

 

Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid

410

337

232

 

 

 

 

Peugeot iOn

405

374

368

26(2)

251

124

 

Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive

303

162

0

 

 

 

 

Mitsubishi i MiEV

252

251

266

1(2)

107

125

27

Smart electric drive

215

212

205

3(2)

13

 

63

Citroën C-Zero

213

167

202

45(2)

110

46

 

Kia Soul EV

193

145

20

 

 

 

 

BMW 225xe

163

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volkswagen e-Up!

154

142

118

 

 

 

 

Mercedes-Benz S500 PHEV

125

157

14

 

 

 

 

Volkswagen e-Golf

123

114

47

 

 

 

 

Chevrolet Volt

119

122

124

23(2)

67

 

 

Renault Fluence Z.E.

79

70

73

7(2)

67

 

 

Ford Focus Electric

22

19

19

 

 

 

 

Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell

22

23

23

 

 

 

 

Mia electric

15

15

14

 

 

 

 

Volkswagen Passat GTE

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

BYD e6

0

0

0

50(2)

 

 

 

Total registrations

66 374

47 920

21 504

3 586

2 254

1 082

138

Notes: NA: not available. Registrations figures seldom correspond to same sales figure.

(1) Registrations at the end of a period are cumulative figures. (2) CYTD through June 2013.

Source: Wikipedia, “Plug-in electric vehicles in the United Kingdom”

In 2010 there were nly 138 electric vehicles in total registered in the UK. They were indeed an unusual sight at that time – and good luck to you if you had one and you happened to run out of power in the middle of a journey. In 2011 this (small) number increased sevenfold – an increase that was driven mostly by the successful introduction of Nissan Leaf (635 electric Nissans were registered in the UK that year). And since then the number of electric vehicles registered in the country has increased with spectacular speed, at an average rate of 252% per year.

There is clearly strong interest in electric vehicles – an interest likely to increase as their price becomes more competitive. However, they are still very expensive items to buy, especially when compared with their conventional fuel-engine counterparts. What makes electric cars expensive? One thing is the cost of purchasing and maintaining a battery that can deliver a reasonable range. But the cost of batteries is falling, as more and more companies realise the potential of this new market and join the R&D race. As mentioned in a special report that was published recently in the FT:

The cost of lithium-ion batteries has fallen by 75 per cent over the past eight years, measured per kilowatt hour of output. Every time battery production doubles, costs fall by another 5 per cent to 8 per cent, according to analysts at Wood Mackenzie.

There is no doubt that more research will result in more efficient batteries, and will increase the interest in electric cars not only by consumers but also by producers, who already see the opportunity of this new global market. Does this mean that prices will necessarily fall further? You might think so, but then you have to take into consideration the availability and cost of mining further raw materials to make these batteries (such as cobalt, which is one of the materials used in the making of lithium-ion batteries and nearly half of which is currently sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo). This may lead to bottlenecks in the production of new battery units. In which case, the price of batteries (and, by extension, the price of electric cars) may not fall much further until some new innovation happens that changes either the material or its efficiency.

The good news is that a lot of researchers are currently looking into these questions, and innovation will do what it always does: give solutions to problems that previously appeared insurmountable. They had better be fast because, according to estimates by Wood Mackenzie, the number of electric vehicles globally is expected to rise by over 50 times – from 2 million (in 2017) to over 125 million by 2035.

How many economists does it take to charge an electric car? I guess we are going to find out!

Articles

Information

Questions

  1. Using a demand and supply diagram, explain the relationship between the price of a battery and the market (equilibrium) price of a plug-in electric vehicle.
  2. List all non-price factors that influence demand for plug-in electric vehicles. Briefly explain each.
  3. Should the government subsidise the development and production of electric car batteries? Explain the advantages and disadvantages of such intervention and take a position.

The Office for Budget Responsibility has said that the UK Treasury will face a shortfall of £13bn in motoring taxes within a decade. Although car usage continues to rise putting increasing pressure on the road infrastructure, the greener and more fuel efficient cars being produced are driving down the tax revenues generated from motoring.

A report by the IFS has put forward the case for replacing the existing system of taxes on cars and fuel by a new road charging system. If no such change occurs, the IFS has forecast that with more electric cars and hence lower revenues raised from fuel and vehicle excise duties, the shortfall facing the Treasury would require an increase in fuel duty of some 50%. Instead of this, the solution could be to charge individuals for every mile of road they use, with the ‘price’ varying depending on the degree of congestion. For example, at peak times the price would be higher, where as for those in the countryside where roads are traditionally much quieter, charges would be lower. The IFS said:

‘Such a move would generate substantial economic efficiency gains from reduced congestion, reduce the tax levied on the majority of miles driven, leave many (particularly rural) motorists better off, and provide a stable long-term footing for motoring taxes without necessarily raising net additional revenue from drivers.’

Government policy across the world has been increasingly focused on climate change, with targets for emissions reductions being somewhat ambitious. However, many car manufactures who were told to reduce emissions significantly are on the way to meeting these targets and this success is a key factor contributing towards this new road ‘crisis’ that could soon be facing the government. The following articles consider the possibility of a road charging scheme.

Report
The road ahead for motoring taxes? Institute of Fiscal Studies (link to full report at the bottom of the page) (May 2012)

Articles
Compelling case for UK road charging, IFS study says BBC News (15/5/12)
Fears tax shortfall may lead to road tolls Sky News (15/5/12)
Who’s going to pay to update Britain’s infrastructure? Guardian Business Blog (15/5/12)
Motoring taxes: a future headache for the Chancellor Channel 4 News (15/5/12)
For whom the toll bills – less traffic hurts M6 toll road owner Guardian, Ian Griffiths and Dan Milmo (14/5/12)
Charge motorists per mile, says IFS Independent, Nigel Morris (15/5/12)
Green cars to drive down tax receipts Financial Times, Mark Odell and John Reed (15/5/12)

Questions

  1. Illustrate the effect of a tax being imposed on petrol. What happens to the equilibrium price and quantity?
  2. Despite fuel duty pushing up the price of petrol, why has there been such a small decline in the quantity of petrol individuals use?
  3. Evaluate the case for and against a road charging scheme.
  4. Why are tax revenues from motoring expected to decline over the next decade?
  5. Climate change has become an increasingly important focus of government policy. To what extent is the current road ‘crisis’ a positive sign that policies to tackle climate change are working?
  6. If a road charging scheme went ahead and prices were varied depending on traffic, time etc, what name would you give to this strategy?
  7. Why would it be possible to charge a higher price at peak times and a lower price for cars using country roads?
  8. Is there an argument for privatising the road network? Is it even possible?

Market failure occurs when the free market fails to deliver an efficient allocation of resources. Pollution by cars is a prime example of a negative externality or an external cost. We pay road tax and face high tax rates on petrol, but another form of government intervention is due to come into effect. From the 1st January 2011, nine models of electric car will be eligible for grants of up to £5000 (although only three models will be immediately available). By subsidising certain electric cars, the government is aiming to give people an incentive to switch to these so-called more environmentally friendly cars, as they will now be cheaper.

There are concerns, however, that generating the electricity to charge these cars still emits carbon dioxide. The Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, said:

There’s no point in switching the car fleet to running on electricity if the electricity emits vast amounts of carbon dioxide.

So is the electric car the car of the future?

Nine electric cars will be eligible for subsidies BBC News (14/120/10)
Cash grants for environmentally friendly cars announced Telegraph (14/12/10)
£850,000 to kickstart use of electric cars in NI BBC News (14/12/10)
UK names nine electric cars eligible for subsidy Reuters (14/20/10)

Questions

  1. What is the purpose of a subsidy? Using a diagram explain how it will work and what the impact should be.
  2. Why is pollution an example of a market failure? Illustrate this on a diagram.
  3. Why could electric cars also be an example of a market failure? Illustrate this on a diagram.
  4. How will the subsidy aim to encourage more firms to produce electric cars and also more consumers to buy them?
  5. Is there an argument for increased investment in technology to produce electric cars more cheaply and more effectively?
  6. Why is there such a high demand for car usage?