Car-share club snubs electric vehicles over sound of silence

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They have been hailed as the future of motoring, the emission-free alternative to diesel and petrol cars that will rule the roads within years.

However, the head of Scotland’s biggest car-sharing club has made the surprising admission that its members don’t like electric vehicles.

Nissan LEAF models, which only have a range of 70 to 80 miles, were the least popular with Enterprise Car Club. Photograph: Ian Rutherford

Nissan LEAF models, which only have a range of 70 to 80 miles, were the least popular with Enterprise Car Club. Photograph: Ian Rutherford

Diane Mulholland, Scotland general manager of Enterprise Holdings, said they were put off by the vehicles’ limited range, charging time – and even their silence.

Enterprise Car Club offers an undisclosed number of electric models among its hundreds of cars in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Falkirk and Inverness.

But Mulholland told a transport forum last week: “Electric vehicles (EVs) are used least. People do not like it that they make no noise.”

She later told Scotland on Sunday: “They don’t know if the car is on or not.”

Mulholland said hybrid electric-petrol cars were more popular because drivers could hear the engine.

She said motorists were used to “start-stop” technology, which automatically stopped the engine at traffic lights, which the driver heard again when it restarted.

Mulholland said electric cars were also disliked because drivers were worried how far they could go before running out of power.

She said: “They have range anxiety. With hybrids you have that safety net. And also that you have to stop to charge. People just stress.”

Mulholland said the car club’s Nissan LEAF models, which only have a range of 70 to 80 miles, were the least popular. She said they were “not used”.

However, she remained optimistic drivers would eventually be won over to EVs. She said: “People will get there, but it’s a journey.”

Motoring group IAM RoadSmart said drivers’ misgivings about electric cars had been exacerbated by cuts in UK government grants to reduce their price.

Neil Greig, its Scotland-based policy and research director, said: “It’s disappointing that consumers who have the choice of an electric car still don’t seem to like them.

“Given we are almost at the end of 2018, we would have hoped the way ahead for zero-emission cars would have been much clearer. But the old anxieties about range, noise, cold weather performance and frequency of charging stations seem to be persisting.

“Throw in their continued high cost and uncertainties over tax and subsidies and it’s no wonder consumers remain reluctant.

“When the Westminster Government recently cut subsidies on hybrids and full electrics, it was hybrid sales that peaked, which shows where drivers’ loyalties still lie.”

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which represents the UK industry, said its latest forecast showed EVs and plug-in hybrids were expected to account for only around 4 per cent of the market by 2020 – at the lower end of the UK Government’s target of 3 to 7 per cent.

It said: “Cuts to the grant are further undermining the industry’s ability to deliver this ambition.”

The Electric Vehicle Association Scotland said there were some 6,000 EVs north of the Border.

Chairman Alister Hamilton said: “Switching to EVs is not a big bang. It is a process. Different people make the switch at different times based on their own evaluation of when it makes sense for them to do so.

“What is clear is that as the price of EVs continues to fall, and as the battery range continues to rise, more and more people switch.

“It will not be long before the discussion people have is which EV to buy, not whether to buy on.”

A spokesperson for Enterprise Holdings, which also runs Alamo, Enterprise and National car rental, said: “While we track utilisation figures, we do not have data on consumer attitudes to electric vehicles.

“There is a growing number of consumers who would opt for an EV over any other type of vehicle and specifically request one.

“However, we also have anecdotal feedback to suggest that some customers are reluctant to use EVs.

“We will continue to support the adoption of EVs through our network.

“We believe that we play an essential role in giving consumers the opportunity to experience alternative fuel vehicles for themselves.”

BIG NUMBERS

800

Number of electric vehicle chargers in Scotland

130

Typical electric car range in miles

£2-£4

Charging cost

56,000

Forecast UK new electric car sales this year

2.4m

Forecast UK new car sales this year

2032

Date by which Scottish ministers want to phase out the need for petrol and diesel vehicles