Published 25/01/2021

Published 25/01/2021

In recent years, we have seen the development of electric car technology excel, with companies like Tesla leading the way not just in the EV (electric vehicle) market, but in the automobile sector as a whole. Exploring three of the main areas of technological advancement surrounding electric cars, this article looks at how EV technology has advanced over time.

When looking at a brief history of electric cars, it’s clear that the modern-day thrust towards clean living and reduced carbon emissions has placed impetus on the development of EV technology. Electric cars are now becoming more and more commonplace on our roads and soon, thanks to the 2030 petrol and diesel ban, it’s likely that a large proportion of car owners in the UK will drive electric vehicles. This article explores how three significant areas of EV technology: Batteries and Range, Charging and Charging Stations and Driving Experience, have developed over time and, what the future holds for electric car technology.

Batteries and Range

One of the most predominant parts of EV technology is batteries and, in turn, possible range. In fact, the term ‘range anxiety’ has been coined to describe the fear electric car drivers might have of running out of juice between charging stations. Back in the day, range anxiety would have made sense, but now electric vehicles are able to go a long way on a single charge.

Looking at one of the earliest examples of electric cars, Car and Driver explains: “Robert Davidson of Aberdeen, built a prototype electric locomotive in 1837. A bigger, better version, demonstrated in 1841, could go 1.5 miles at 4 mph towing six tons. Then it needed new batteries.”

But technology has come a long way. Today, the average range for an electric car is 193 miles in the UK according to Nimble Fins. So, whether you are a city driver who only needs short-range and can opt for something like the BMW i3, or you are looking for a car that can go for miles like the Renault Zoe, there are some great options available.

Charging and Charging Stations

Range anxiety exists not only because of battery size but also because of the distance between charging stations. After all, a lower range would be less of an issue for long-distance drivers if they had peace of mind that charging stations are available en route.

This is an area where, since electric vehicles started to become ‘mainstream’ in 2011, there has been plenty of growth. Zap-Map reports: “There has been strong growth in the number of rapid chargers in the UK from just over 30 CHAdeMO connectors in 2011 to over 9,000 rapid connectors across CHAdeMO, CCS, Tesla and Type 2 Rapid chargers by the end of 2020.”

And, as the government continues to create the infrastructure for an electric-fuelled UK, they uncovered that as of 2020 there were “18,265 public electric vehicle charging devices available in the UK.” This is 5x more than they reported were available in 2015. 

Driving Experience

When you are asked to think of a powerful car, the chances are images of Formula 1 cars or supercars may come to mind, however, EVs are certainly towards the top of the pack when it comes to overall driving experience.

On it is explained how early electric cars couldn’t keep up with their fossil-fuel-powered counterparts: “The vehicles developed and produced in the 1970s still suffered from drawbacks compared to gasoline-powered cars. Electric vehicles during this time had limited performance -- usually topping at speeds of 45 miles per hour -- and their typical range was limited to 40 miles before needing to be recharged.”

In fact, on the topic of driving performance, Tesla co-creator Martin Eberhard had this to say in 2006: “My observation is that most electric cars were designed by and for people who fundamentally don’t think we should drive.”

But Tesla would be the market-leader in bucking that trend. In the same article, Eberhard explains: “For gasoline, bigger equals less efficient – there’s no way around it. Amazingly, the opposite is true for electric motors: the bigger the electric motor the more efficient it is. So, by making a powerful electric car, we are also making a highly-efficient car.”

Now, it’s not just the likes of Tesla that offer EVs with some serious bite, for the most part, the main difference people will notice between an electric car and its ‘normal’ equivalent is the sound. In a review of the e-Golf, The Car Expert discovers: “Out on the road, the e-Golf basically feels just like a normal car but quieter. Underneath, however, the mechanics involved are very different, which means that there some real differences in how it performs.”

One of the major benefits of driving an electric vehicle is the instant torque that they can produce. Measured in Newton Metres (Nm), torque is the turning or rotational power of the engine. You may have also heard it described as a car’s ‘pulling power’. 

The more torque a car can produce, the quicker it accelerates and reaches top speed. The amount of torque a car can produce is often one of its top-selling points, with many manufacturers ranking it alongside top speeds and brake horsepower in terms of importance.

EVs have been renowned for their ability to create instant torque, something that is not possible with an internal combustion engine (ICE).

Close-up image of Tesla Electric Vehicle charging point

The Future of Electric Car Technology

Better-ranged batteries with faster charging

Although the range of electric vehicles is improving, something that will break the range anxiety taboo altogether is the introduction of better-ranged batteries with faster charging, something Tesla owner Elon Musk has set his mind to creating. The Verge announces that not only will these so-called ‘tabless’ batteries improve both range and charging time (an essential development for EVs), but “Elon Musk predicts will help dramatically reduce costs and allow the company to eventually sell electric vehicles for the same price as gasoline-powered ones.”

Creating a stronger charging infrastructure in the UK

Aside from the creation and distribution of new batteries, another way to eliminate range anxiety and make EVs more accessible to all is by creating a stronger charging infrastructure around the UK. Although there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of charging points around the UK since 2015, this infrastructure still pails in comparison to that of petrol stations. International Law Firm Ashurst explains: “The issue is described as the chicken or egg conundrum: the case for investing in charging infrastructure relies heavily on the level of EV uptake, and EV uptake is dependent on the prevalence of charging infrastructure.”

But a new consultation paper released by the UK Government in March 2020 “pledged £2.5 billion of grants and funding for charging infrastructure at homes, residential streets and workplaces and across the wider road network.” A promising step, and one that seems to be making good on already, as Ashurst describe: “More recently, as part of the UK Government's "Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution" announced in November 2020, a £2.8 billion support package commits £1.3 billion to accelerating the rollout of charging infrastructure in homes and on streets and motorways.”

Wireless charging possibilities

Another advancement that has the potential to take-off is that of wireless charging. Currently, electric cars have to be plugged into a charging station to fuel up but, imagine if all you had to do was park your vehicle up in the right place for it to charge up? Not only would that make EV charging much easier but compared to fuelling a car with petrol or diesel it would be a walk in the park.

And this future isn’t as far away as you may think. In 2020, “the city of Nottingham has won a £3.4 million government grant to trial wireless car charging for its taxis” Car Magazine reports. The technology is there and ready to go, and, if it proves fruitful, we are sure that wireless charging is likely to be something that improves the popularity of EVs ten-fold.

More accessibility with models and car types

Something else we are seeing more of every year, that is bound to accelerate in the future, is just how accessible electric cars are. Just 10 years ago if you were looking for an EV, you wouldn’t have had a large range of options, but today, whether you want something that’ll stand out from the crowd or you are just looking for something to do the school run in, there is a model for you. You are just as likely to find electric vehicles in Ford leasing options as you are in more traditionally electric manufacturers. It just goes to show that you don’t need to adapt to the electric market, it is adapting to suit you.

Interested in trying an electric vehicle for yourself? Use our electric car lease comparison to find the perfect model for you.