It seemed apt that the week that the Government formally confirmed its 2030 ban on the sale of all new petrol and diesel-powered cars coincided with me having an MG ZS EV on test for my day job on Parkers. My own feelings on the ban are pretty well recorded in that opinion piece, but for those who choose to buy (and more probably finance) a new car, going electric shouldn’t seem to spark the same fears as it once did. If you don’t, you’ll still be able to run your internal combustion-engined car for the foreseeable, even if running and taxing it might become increasingly expensive.
However, EVs are evolving fast, and once again it’s worth dusting off the AROnline time machine. Rewinding to nine years ago once again is definitely a good way of showing you how close this 2030 deadline really is – and also how far away it could be. In June 2011, I spent some time in a Nissan Leaf and found the experience enlightening, seeing the potential benefits of turning your weekly commute into a plug-in one, and saving the weekend for having fun in something petrol-powered.
I vividly remember going to the 2011 BMC/BL Rally at Peterborough in the Leaf. The round trip isn’t a particularly challenging one and comes in at 50.6 miles. From where I lived in darkest Northamptonshire and on a full battery, by the time I’d made it to Ferry Meadows, the battery level meter was showing just a little over half way. And on the journey home I was genuinely experiencing range anxiety, getting back to my garage with one bar left on the gauge and ten miles showing on the range – then it would need to be plugged in to a three-pin socket for about ten hours to be topped up.
Back then, this was a cutting-edge EV, with its 24kWh battery and 107hp maximum power, and for anyone looking for a short-range commuter vehicle, the Leaf looked quite convincing. At the time, I concluded: ‘does your work life and home circumstance fit in with a Leaf? Is your commute less than, say, 80 miles per day, and you’re able to charge it overnight? If so, going electric seems like a viable alternative. And no more miserable fill-ups for your commuter car…’
Compare that with our humble MG ZS EV and the pace of progress during the subsequent nine years is brought sharply into view. Its battery is rated with a capacity of 44.5kWh and it has a maximum power output of 140bhp – so, in layman’s terms, it has not far off double the capacity and more than 33% extra power.
Now before you choke on your coffee, and say that this isn’t a massive leap forward, it’s worth bearing in mind that the ZS EV is one of the cheapest electric cars you can buy at the moment, coming in at £28,495 (that drops to £25,495 after the Government’s Plug-in Car Grant), and is easily the most family-friendly at that price point. You can get a decent lease or PCP deal on one these days, as resale values of electric cars in general start to firm up.
As a usable family car, the ZS EV is bordering on affordable, and its range of a real world 130 miles will make it viable for many – especially considering how cheap it is to fuel up compared with a typical petrol or diesel car. But it’s still £10k more expensive than the ICE-engined MG ZS, so on a cost-based comparison, there are still many holes in the argument. The ZS EV’s far from front running in terms of range, also, where 200-plus miles is rapidly becoming more commonplace, and we’re looking at 300-plus for the real front-runners. That said, at this price point, it’s up against superminis or city cars that are much, much smaller.
And just to add even more fuel to the fire, the ZS EV feels pretty well screwed together, drives as well as it needs to, has all the equipment you’d expect and, for most average family car buyers, will do everything that’s asked for it. If you clicked on the link to my review, you’ll already know that I quite rate it.
Remember that the Nissan Leaf in 2011 was priced around where the entry-level Tesla Model 3 (with 254-mile range) is now and you can see why I think that EVs will become increasingly more popular than the naysayers are currently predicting. The pace of change will continue as it is now, if not more quickly and, that being the case, we should expect 250-plus miles and 200bhp from the ZS EV’s entry-level equivalent in 2030. Given that a Hyundai Kona or Kia e-Niro will already do 280-plus miles for considerably less than £40,000 and you can see the direction of travel.
Where we need the big change to happen is in the cash prices of EVs. I probably need a motor industry executive to tell me why an EV costs around £10,000 more than its petrol or diesel equivalent, and to confirm that as volumes increase, prices will correspondingly fall. At the moment, they are expensive (sorry, but they are) and, although finance and offset fuel costs can go a long way to alleviating this, they can’t go all the way. Get the pricing right, make home charging more universal, and hopefully all those 2030-onwards new car buyers will ease into the transition to battery power nice and smoothly.