More electric cars come to the UK

Although they’ve been much discussed and anticipated, the number of practical EVs on the road has been fairly small. And with good reason, as the problems around finding a place to charge the EV battery, the range limitations and the lack of power and performance meant that the average driver might have liked the idealistic idea of owning an EV, but found the practicality not appealing enough.

Another problem thus far has been the expense. EVs don’t come cheap, but the prices are now set to come down quite a bit. The £5000 grant offered by the UK government to new owners of EVs or plug-in hybrid cars is one of the most appealing new car offers around, but even with that included, EVs are still expensive.

This year, Renault is introducing two EVs to the UK. The Renault Fluence will be available soon and will retail at £17,000 after the government credit. The Fluence will be far cheaper than two of its peers, the Nissan Leaf (£26,000) and the new Vauxhall Ampera (otherwise known as the Chevvy Volt in the States), which will cost around £30,000 after the government credit.

Renault has made the considerable price reduction possible by changing the model of ownership for the Fluence. Instead of buying the battery with the car, owners will instead lease the battery from a kind of swap shop scheme. When the battery needs replacing, they will simply exchange it for a new one. The cost of leasing the battery will be approximately £1,000 a year, according to mileage. The residual value of the car will be improved as the battery – one of the most expensive components in an EV – will never need to be replaced by any of its owners.

The other EV that Renault will introduce this year is the Zoe. This is a supermini that will go on sale in the autumn at £13,650. It has a 130 mile range – longer than any other EV on the road in the UK. Obviously, it’s not the most economical choice for a supermini, but considering it ticks the environmental box, it’s not a bad price.

So, 2012 may be the first year that we start to see a real increase in EV ownership in the UK.