Electric vehicle drivers enjoy low cost ‘refuelling’ and increased car confidence

Electric vehicle trials
Electric vehicle trials

8th October 2010

The latest research from the UK’s largest study into long-term low carbon vehicle use reveals:

  •  an increase in driver confidence

  • the first real-world analysis on the cost of ‘refuelling’

  • fresh information on charging trends

Six months into a year-long trial, CABLED (Coventry and Birmingham Low Emission Demonstrators) drivers are travelling more miles, more frequently and are making longer journeys1 - indicating increased confidence and notably reduced range anxiety.

Cost conscious prospective EV drivers may also be interested to learn that the cost for those recharging at home has been on average between just 25p and £1 per day.

CABLED is the largest of eight public trials taking place in the UK as part of The Technology Strategy Board’s £25m Ultra Low Carbon demonstrator programme, with the West Midlands consortium contributing 110 of the 350 vehicles trialled on the UKs roads.

The data2, analysed by Aston University combines and compares the behaviour patterns of 25 Mitsubishi i-MiEV drivers over two consecutive quarters. Brian Price, Aston University comments: “Collecting real-world usage of electric vehicles (EV) through our satellite mapping and analysis has been essential in understanding actual demands and requirements of EV vehicles for consumers. The journey data gathered is already showing that the current generation of ultra-low carbon vehicles are cheap to run as well as being comparable to petrol & diesel vehicles for speed, ease of use and daily journey distance; using less than 30% of total charge in typical daily use. The next phase of the study will allow us to map out an optimal charging point network to further extend range and improve the convenience of electric cars.

Project Leader Neil Butcher from the co-ordinating partner Arup explains the data presents a positive outlook for the mass take-up of EVs. “The phenomenon known as ‘range anxiety’ - concern about battery life when undertaking long journeys - is falling as drivers become more familiar with their vehicles. The low costs of ‘refuelling’ in relatively short periods of time reinforce this. While there are technical challenges ahead - extending vehicle range and preparing for increased demands on the national grid - our results show that even current vehicles are more than capable of meeting users’ day-to-day needs3.”

CABLED is one of several Government measures designed to increase the number of low carbon vehicles on Britain’s roads. Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, recently reiterated the current government’s commitment to this work by investing an additional £24 million in to further developing the UK's low carbon vehicle capability.

Reflecting on the findings and the implications for vehicle manufacturers, Mitsubishi Motors’ managing director Lance Bradley added: “Finding that drivers quickly adapt to electric vehicles is good news for the car industry, which is currently investing heavily in the development of low carbon vehicle technologies.

“The findings indicate that drivers habitually charge their vehicles, whether the battery is half full or nearly empty, in much the same way as a laptop or mobile phone, which will influence the next generation of battery technology that is incorporated into these vehicles.”

The CABLED results show that the average charge time per charge is just less than two hours, with a typical energy transfer of 4-8kWh costing between 40p and £1 depending on the tariff and providing sufficient charge for 20-40 miles of travel. Averaged out across a week, daily use is roughly the equivalent of doing one load of washing in a washer dryer.

Charging data such as this helps inform the development of energy infrastructure and Smart Grid technology, in-line with driver needs, as Charles Bradshaw-Smith, head of group E-Mobility R&D at E.ON, says: “Meters installed at each user’s home are giving us invaluable information on behavioural trends.

“The most popular time to charge vehicles is overnight but, since most journeys are relatively short, five average length journeys can be completed on one charge.  This is evidence to support the need for intelligent charging technology that will allow EVs to interact with the distribution grid – an area in which E.ON is researching into.

“The goal is to allow drivers to take advantage of low cost energy whilst enabling EVs to both draw and feed into the grid in order to smooth demand peaks and troughs.”

In summary Arup’s Neil Butcher said: “We learn more with each fresh set of data and as the rest of the 110 CABLED drivers take to the roads in coming months, our findings will form part of the largest study of low carbon vehicle use ever compiled. Indications of driver confidence will also be a lot clearer following the publication of the third and fourth quarter results, which will allow us to look at the influence of seasonal changes on driver behaviour.” 

Further details on the CABLED project can be found at www.cabled.org.uk



A full copy of the research for both quarters is available on request. For further details, please contact Stuart Haynes or Stuart Humphreys at Grayling on 0121 265 2760 or email stuart.haynes@grayling.com or stuart.humphreys@grayling.com  


1. The percentage of journeys exceeding 45 miles grew from 3% to 5% between quarter 1 and 2 of 2010. Over the same period the average daily miles recorded increased by more than 2 miles and the maximum daily mileage recorded increased from 100.53 to 124.42 miles

2. Data collection and analysis

Each vehicle in the CABLED trial is fitted with GPS and data logger, designed and installed by Coventry based RDM Automotive. These record the usage, location and charging habits of each vehicle. From this data the following information can be analysed: 

  •  Frequency of individual journeys 

  •  Length and duration of journeys

  • Date & time of journeys

  • Energy used per journey

  • Duration and amount of energy transferred during charge

  • External temperature

  • Location of charging/parking, i.e. home, work, public etc.

  • Average speed


3.     The Department for Transport’s 2008 National Travel Survey shows that the average length of car journeys is just seven miles - with drivers spending on average an hour a day travelling.

About the CABLED consortium

The West Midlands consortium, called CABLED - short for Coventry and Birmingham Low Emission Demonstrators – is made up of 13 organisations, led by Arup, a company with experience that crosses all areas that touch this project, from vehicle design to planning to infrastructure and energy. Part funding for the project came from the regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands.

Each of the six vehicle manufacturers – Jaguar/Land Rover, Mitsubishi/Colt, Mercedes Benz/smart, Tata Motors, LTI and Microcab Industries – are contributing their own vehicles towards the low carbon scheme, which includes a mix of fully electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell cars.

Electricity providers E.ON are delivering charging points for the trial with assistance from the city councils of Birmingham and Coventry.

Three of the Midland’s leading universities play a major role in the scheme with Coventry University undertaking the selection process of drivers, Aston University analysing vehicle usage data and the University of Birmingham contributing access and expertise gained from its hydrogen fuelling station, which is currently one of the very few of its kind in UK. A new hydrogen station is planned for Coventry University.

The Technology Board’s Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Demonstrator Competition

As part of the Low Carbon Vehicles Innovation Platform, £25 million has been allocated to eight highly innovative, industry-led collaborative research projects in the field of ultra low carbon vehicle development and demonstration. The competition, which culminated in June 2009 with the announcement of successful applicants, focused on encouraging the development of industry-led consortia that can deliver in bringing significant numbers of vehicles onto roads quickly.

The journey towards low carbon transport will not be easy but the demonstrator programme is a major step in the right direction. With over 340 cars being trialled in several regions across the UK, and with the involvement of large and small manufacturers, RDAs, local authorities, universities and infrastructure companies, it is the biggest project of its kind to date.