Thought Leadership

Heading for an electric car

By Colin Walls

A while ago, I wrote about my thoughts about the future and said that my next car would be electric. 18 months have passed since then. Over that time, I have not progressed the matter in any concrete manner, but I have given it a lot of thought. Also, the market has progressed and I know that it will continue to do so. But I cannot sit around an wait for it to mature. The time for action is approaching …

I have a number of motivations, which are not necessarily in conflict, but do make the decision of how to go forward a little complex. I want to do the right thing for myself financially, of course. I also want to do the best thing for the environment. And, lastly, I want my stake in the future – I do not want to be left behind by progress. Last time I had this mindset was about a decade ago, when I was planning to get an iPad. I had no clear idea what I would use to for, but I had a feeling that the technology might change the world and I wanted part of that. As it turned out, I am now on my third iPad and it gets used every single day.

In considering the environmental impact of a vehicle, I get confused. Clearly, an all-electric car is emissions free. However, there are two other factors. How clean was the energy used to charge the battery? This is a matter that, in the UK and many other countries, is getting better by the day, as renewable energy sources are increasingly deployed. The other matter is the environmental impact of the manufacture of the car; in particular, how “dirty” are the batteries? I have not been able to find a really reliable answer to this question.

My financial decision has environment facets. On the surface, it would seem sensible to get rid of my ageing, dirty diesel car by doing a part exchange for an EV. However, I maintain the car well, which minimizes its environmental impact. If I disposed of it, the new owner is likely to be someone who is after a cheap car and would not spend any money keeping it “clean”. So it is better to keep my car going for a while, at least.

Another aspect of the finance is associated with the longer term residual value of vehicles. My car is worth very little and that is not going to change. Libby’s car – a 6-year old Fiat 500 – still has a fair value. I believe that, over the next small number of years, electric cars will become more viable for more drivers. The effect will be to depress the value of fossil fueled cars. So, perhaps we should bale out and trade in Libby’s car against the EV.

My next step is to visit a couple of dealers and talk with EV specialists. To me, there seem to be 2 or 3 front runners in EVs for my kind of budget. Yes, I would like a Tesla, but their ticket is a little high for me. Whether I buy new or used is an open issue. The only thing, that is quite clear in my mind, is my intention to purchase a pure EV; I am of the opinion that, although hybrids are amazing bits of technology, they are overly complex and I am averse to complexity. At its heart, a pure EV is a very simple machine.

A first step is being taken as I write: an electrician is refurbishing the power point outside my kitchen door …

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at