Over the course of a two and a half year EV trial, 349 drivers across the UK learned what we already know: unless you look under the hood, EVs are pretty similar to "regular" cars.

The Technology Strategy Board - the UK's innovation agency - launched the Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle (ULCV) Demonstrator program in 2008 in order to investigate how EVs perform in real-world conditions, as well as drivers' perceptions and attitudes towards them. 349 vehicles - almost all EVs, with a few plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles - were delivered to drivers in several cities across the UK for up to a year. Data related to driving patterns, charging, and drivers' attitudes toward their vehicle were collected.

A recent report authored by Oxford Brookes University and Cenex - a UK Centre of Excellence for low carbon and fuel cell technologies - reveals the results of the EV trial. Overall, the test drivers found the vehicles easy to use and not that different from a "normal" car.

One respondent noted:

“It has felt like just driving a normal car. If say I’d driven it and nobody had told me it was electric, you wouldn’t have thought any different, which is good. So it just felt like a normal automatic.”

By 3 months into the trial:

A Ford Focus from the trial

A Ford Focus from the trial

  • 90% agreed that their EV was as easy to use as their normal car
  • 37% indicated that their EV performed better than their regular car
  • 72% said that the range was sufficient for their daily needs
  • 68% said that they knew how much range they had left while driving
  • 86% agreed that their EV would get them to their destination reliably
  • 11% worried that adapting to charging would be difficult
  • 89% thought that EVs are as safe as ICE cars
  • 91% would recommend EVs to others
Interestingly, corporate users admitted to being more worried about reaching their destination (90%) compared to private users (66%). A possible explanation given for this in the report was that corporate users took more frequent but shorter trips, and had no opportunity to test the range of the vehicles.

The report notes that only those drivers who challenged the range (about 30%) experienced what they call secondary adaptation: "being aware of the inter-connected nature of driving style, regenerative braking, route selection, state of charge, and the information fed back from the displays."

This Jedi-like state of awareness allows drivers to maximize the potential of their vehicle.

Perhaps one of the more interesting results of the trial was that 80% of the non-corporate users could imagine replacing one of their existing vehicles with an EV, and 50% intended to purchase one after the trial.

So maybe we're not crazy after all...

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