Quentin Willson is an award-winning motoring journalist and presenter of the classic car show. He fronted Top Gear for a decade and writes for numerous national publications, while campaigning tirelessly on behalf of Britain’s motorists.
We were fortunate enough to interview Quentin, who kindly took time out to answer some EV charging related questions after having his new home EV charger installed by our team. We talked about the future of electric car charging, as well as his personal experience.
Q. Do you believe electric car charging will keep evolving in the market place?
A. Electric vehicles will carry on improving. Every car maker is now taking electrifications very seriously and spending bundles on R&D. We’ve passed the point where these were just ‘compliance cars’ – to reduce the CO2 of car maker’s model ranges – and they’re now seeing EVs and PHEVs as a growing market in its own right. Just look at the new Tesla Roadster. The range and performance are twice the numbers of the original first-gen Roadster.
Q. Have you seen a cost benefit on changing to Nissan Leaf?
A. I’ve been running electric vehicles for seven years, so I know what the cost benefits are. I reckon my 24kw Leaf saves me around £2,000 in fuel, maintenance and VED over a year – so the savings are very solid.
Q. Why have you chosen Elmtronics as an installer for your EV charger?
A. I chose Elmtronics because they don’t muck about. They were quick, efficient, well-priced and (here’s the important bit) I was able to speak to someone on the phone rather than do it all online like some electric car charging providers do. I didn’t want online chat but expert verbal advice on where to mount the wall unit, length of cable, charge times, costs and suitability. Elmtronics were brilliant.
Q. What do you think needs to happen to drive further demand for EV’s?
A. The demand for electric vehicle charging needs to be encouraged by public trust drive events and greater accessibility for mainstream consumers. But the most important driver towards mass electrification will be longer battery ranges. The 100 to 150 mile average at the moment isn’t really enough for consumers to consider them as their main car. Once we get the Lithium Ion battery on affordable EVs to average 250 miles to one charge, plus a bigger rapid charging infrastructure, we’ll see greater take up.
Q. How do you see the market developing over the next few years?
A. Over the next few years we’ll see Mercedes, JLR, Honda, Ford and GM roll out their own electric vehicles. Battery development will improve with things like Lithium Sulphur and possibly Graphene as a new battery material. Hopefully we’ll see ranges on PHEVs improve, as they only average around 30 to 40 miles on battery alone. We will also see the arrival of public EV charging hubs rather than individual on-street chargers, where as many as 20 EVs can charge at any one time. They’re unlikely to be at conventional fuel stations because there isn’t the forecourt space, so we’ll see them as standalone EV centres in prime site locations. These will be a major, and high visibility, reassurance to consumers that a 21st century EV charging infrastructure is being developed.
Educating consumers is a major part of driving the future forward
Q. Is technology improving fast enough to give end user confidence in EVs?
A. The pace of technology isn’t fast enough, and politicians are over-promising. Few MPs or Ministers I’ve met have driven an electric vehicle for longer than a few miles and they really need to understand the realities of living with and charging up an EV on a daily basis. Expecting consumers to suddenly give up their petrol and diesel cars and switch to battery only EVs while ranges are so limited is causing confusion and market instability. Managing consumer expectations is very important. If we disappoint mainstream EV buyers by over-hyping EVs, we’ll set the whole transport revolution back. This needs to be carefully managed.
Q. Could the government do more to help the industry?
A. The government is doing (and has done) a lot to support the UK electric vehicle charging industry. But the most important thing is to roll out a huge EV charging network that helps reduce range anxiety. The more charging hubs we have and the less distance between them means that anxious fear of running out of charge will be reduced. But, we need this network to be country-wide and the final bill will be measured in many billions. I’m not quite sure Westminster understand just how expensive all that infrastructure will be. The private sector is the key to all this and there are lots of companies working on EV charging networks now.
Q. Do you think more education will improve consumers’ confidence in EV?
A. Educating consumers about the electric vehicle charging industry is a major part of driving the future forward. This can’t be done with print or TV ads – we need them to actually drive electric vehicles and experience the ’transformational moment’. In the spring I’ll be hosting a major test drive event across the UK, but we need EV test drives available in supermarkets, shopping centres and in as many public spaces as possible. The more test drives we have – the more conversions we get. Consumers won’t do this at dealerships; they want to do it somewhere neutral and convenient.