Electric Cars – they’re all the range 😉!

In December 2022, a third of all new cars sold in the UK were electric vehicles (EVs) – a staggering increase from just three years earlier when the equivalent figure was less than 2%.  The reasons for this are pretty obvious:  the unprecedented fuel price increases triggered by the tragic Ukraine conflict have tipped the cost-benefit analysis decisively in favour of low carbon vehicles.

Globally, transport accounts for around 25% of carbon emissions and road vehicles account for almost three quarters of this total.  In the UK and US, the transport sector is now responsible for emitting more greenhouse gases than any other sector, with the average petrol car in the UK producing 180g of carbon every kilometre. And let’s also not forget the serious impact of combustion engine vehicles on air quality. 

Figures on vehicle numbers and mileage across the social care sector are hard to come by.  The majority of services will have at least one vehicle for transporting those in their care to appointments, visits, etc.  So that’s probably something like 20,000 vehicles.  With an average UK annual car distance of 7,400 miles, that’s something like 43,000 metric tonnes of carbon emitted each year.  

But that is just from vehicles for residential homes.  The Home Care Association recently suggested that UK homecare workers travel more than four million miles per day; that equates to a further 423,000 metric tonnes of carbon emitted each year! 

You’d have to plant almost 2.8 million trees every year to offset the impact on the environment of car miles in social care!  And we haven’t even yet looked at the impact of the hundreds of thousands of care professionals’ commuting to work every day by car…! 

The case for change is overwhelming.  So, what’s holding us back? 

The first issue is, inevitably, cost.  The up-front costs of EVs are still significantly higher than combustion engine equivalents.  The average pre-tax price of a medium-sized electric car was £29,000 in 2022, compared with £16,500 for a petrol car.  Given the financial challenges of the social care sector, who can argue with those figures?  Well, I can!  When you look at the whole-life costs, the latest research shows that EVs are now slightly cheaper to run than their petrol equivalents.  That is certainly what we found at CareTech; when we factored in lower maintenance, fuel, road tax, congestion charges, etc, we found that transitioning our fleet to EVs will save us money over a pretty short timeframe!

Secondly, many people still suffer from ‘EV range anxiety’.  I was told recently that EVs were fine if you only want to do up to 80 miles a day.  But nearly 99% of all driven journeys are under 100 miles and every EV on the market is capable of handling this distance on a limited charge.  Today’s EVs have an average battery range of 257 miles compared with 74 miles in 2011, with predictions that 400 miles will soon be the norm.  Whilst there is undoubtedly investment required in the public charging infrastructure, the number of charging stations is increasing exponentially – and the time taken to charge is reducing too thanks to new technology.  For all but a tiny minority, range anxiety is simply unjustified.

It wouldn’t be a social care article unless we mentioned recruitment and retention!  Taking advantage of new EV salary sacrifice schemes can play a really useful part of your benefits package.  At no cost to the organisation – indeed, most will actually save money – providers can offer their staff access to EV leased cars that, thanks to their tax efficiency, can instantly make EV ownership a reality for many staff.  Most of us lease our cars these days so why not provide your staff with this option to get an EV car, reducing their fuel bills significantly as well as their carbon impact?

There are some great examples of social care providers already seizing the initiative, such as Northern Ireland’s domiciliary care provider Connected Health that has introduced a fleet of electric cars – and electric bicycles! – as part of its Carbon Neutral Care initiative. 

Transition to EV cars is critical to becoming net zero and the Government will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030.  But, why wait?  Surely, it’s time to join the EV party?!

First published in Caring Times