- At the start of this year, I bought an electric car. It's now one of the 255,000 electric vehicles, or EVs, on the road in the UK. We've been leasing a small EV, a Renault Zoe for six months. And before that, we'd had a trial of a bigger EV, a Kia E Niro for a YouTube project. So when the lease was up and we returned to my problematic 2015 petrol-fueled Ford Fiesta, I'd already decided that I wanted to move from an internal combustion engine, an I-C-E or ICE, to an electric motor.

I settled on a Tesla Model 3 for one big reason that I'll explain later. And I'd wanted to switch not just because of how fun it is to drive an electric car and the perks you get buying it through your business, but mainly because I wanted to do my bit for the planet. Returning to my gas guzzling Fiesta after leasing those zero emission EVs, I'd become acutely aware that I was filling my car up with a non-renewable fossil fuel and belching out greenhouse gases as I drove.

So when I pulled up a mate's house feeling rather proud of my new ride, and I started waxing lyrical about the benefits of charging with electricity, my scientist buddy surprised me slightly when she said this.

- Great, Greg, but where do you think the electricity comes from to charge it? And what about all the rare elements that were dug up to make the battery? I'm not too sure that going electric is really as green as you think.

- Thank you to my Which? colleague who's kindly voiced that quote and managed to perfectly capture my mate's tone there. I'm not going to lie. What she said stung a little bit. But they felt like fair questions, and I've been doing a load of research to try to find out whether I was right to go electric and buy a new EV or whether I should, perhaps, have instead gone for a new more efficient internal combustion engine instead.

With the UK government set to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by the year 2030 as part of what the PM has called a Green industrial Revolution, I'm going to share with you what I've discovered. Plus, if you are considering the switch to electric, I'm going to put some of the most common EV questions to our panel of experts. I'm Greg Foot, and today's Which? investigation asks, how green really is an electric car?

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Which? Investigates is a new podcast from the UK's consumer champion. We work to make life simpler fairer and safer for everyone. And our mission for this podcast is simple, find out the facts and see who's actually delivering on the promises we see on packaging, in the press, or shared on social media. Our first season is focusing on claims of sustainability, from plant-based to plastic-free, eco-travel to electric cars, I'll be figuring out what genuinely reduces our environmental footprint and what is simply greenwashing.

Coming up, I read a shocking statistic.

- The CO2 emissions from the production of an electric vehicle are about 60% higher than the level of an internal combustion engine vehicle.

- And learn how the impact of EV production may reach further than we originally imagined.

- People are also now starting to investigate whether we can get these kinds of metals from places on the ocean floor. Now, if that goes ahead we need to understand a lot more about what the environmental impacts are going to be.

- I discuss the realities of charging.

- What you don't want to be doing is sort of pulling up at some time at night and it's raining and you're trying to download an app to try to fit to your car and just hoping that this particular charger works.

- And hear the exciting developments just around the corner.

- A state of public charging infrastructure in the UK needs to be robust. They need to be easy to find. They need to be easy to use. And they need to be reliable.

- Now, up until a few days ago, Rob, my co-producer on these podcasts, had never been in an electric car. He'd also never considered switching to one. He's quite happy in his diesel. So I thought I'd take him for a road trip to somewhere I was quite excited to go and charge my car. Yeah, I don't get out much.

- Morning.

- Morning.

- The front's the sexiest view.

- It's got like a little sporty nose.

- Yeah, it's got a sporty nose. A sporty nose that likes to catch flies.

- And, as you mentioned to me over email, your green registration number.

- Yeah. Hello.

- I thought you would be a private number plates kind of guy.

- What? As if. All right. Shall we go for a drive?

- Yeah, let's do it.

- OK. Let me put in the destination. I'm really excited because this place is the UK's first bespoke electric forecourt. Right now, I've stopped off at service stations that have banks of superchargers or whatever, but this, this place is special. This is this is my chance to know that I'm actually charging my car with 100% renewable energy, and that's kind of cool.

- It's just so smooth.

- So smooth, so quiet. If you drive a long way in a petrol car, especially on the motorway, you've just got that noise all the time. But in this, you don't get that constant ear bombardment which is so lovely. All right, let's go on this A road.

- Oh!

- You all right, Rob?

- So you're not going really fast, but it feels so fast.

- The acceleration in an electric car is just incredible.

- First off, we turn this A road into a little runway. It's so immediate.

- I'd just like to say I was under 70 the whole way.

More from our road trip later as we arrive at the UK's first fully electric forecourt. Actually, what do I call these now they're not petrol stations? Are they are they electric stations? Charging hubs? e-Garages? I don't know. Someone's going have to come up with a little catchy name. Anyway, back to the focus of my investigation, how green really is an electric car?

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Hi there, Tim.

- Good morning. My name is Tim Schwanen. I am professor of Transport Studies in Geography at the University of Oxford.

- I wanted to start by getting a sense of the problem than and EV is purported to solve.

- Transport is the largest source of CO2 emissions in the UK. It's about a quarter depending on how you measure it of all emissions.

- It's not just CO2, carbon dioxide, coming out of the back of the ICE, the internal combustion engine. You've also got various nitrogen oxides. Plus, if the combustion isn't complete, there'll be carbon monoxide and a whole bunch of other stuff, too. This heady mix of fumes goes up into the atmosphere where the greenhouse gases help trap the Earth's escaping heat, warming the planet and contributing to the human cause rapid climate change that's causing the current environmental crisis we find ourselves in.

And that's not all. Some of those fumes also contribute to rising levels of air pollution that is affecting the natural world. And according to a report from the Royal College of Physicians in 2016, the cause of 40,000 premature deaths a year here in the UK. Recent Which? tests did find that newer cars have a significant decrease in emissions that harm human health, but the same quote "cleaner cars" are actually producing more CO2, so harm the planet more.

Oh, and I do want to say, me spelling out the impact of what comes out of a petrol or a diesel engine isn't me being all self-righteous now that I've got an electric car. I only switched a few months ago, which means I've been contributing my fair share of all this for 20 years.

- The best thing about electric vehicles is that they have no tailpipe emissions.

- Indeed, because as Rob noticed when he was inspecting my EV--

- There's no exhaust.

- Funny that. There's no engine. It's just a motor.

In Bloomberg New Energy Finance's Electric Vehicle Outlook report last year, they predicted how electrification would impact road transport. They said that across all segments. EVs are already displacing one million barrels of oil demand per day. The UK government says they're aiming for the country to be net zero by 2050, meaning we intend to be taking the same amount of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere as we put in.

To do that, we are going to need to hugely reduce emissions and a big part of that plan is the decarbonization of transport, slashing the carbon footprint of making and using our vehicles. And that is why there's been such a big push for what are sometimes called zero carbon EVs. However. Tim pointed out something about that term zero carbon.

- It's a really misleading strapline because a lot of emissions are involved in the production of the vehicle and in the production of the battery. And when the vehicle and the battery come towards the end of their lives, then they have to be disposed of in a way that will also generate all sorts of emissions.

- Yes, EVs or as they're also sometimes called BEVs for battery electric vehicles, are not zero carbon. They may have zero emissions, but as my mate pointed out making them and disposing of them does have a significant carbon footprint. Plus running them isn't necessarily zero carbon either.

- EVs can only be as clean as the energy that you put in. So if we were to use coal to generate the electricity, then we use a very dirty fuel to generate electricity. And what you do is effectively displacing a lot of the emissions from the tailpipe to the source of electricity generation.

- Can EV owners. When they're plugging their car into a on-street charger or a home charger or whatever, know where their energy has come from, how clean their energy has been sourced?

- That's a good question. It's much easier if you charge at home because you, as a consumer, have a degree of agency in choosing the kind of electricity and how green that electricity is. But if you charge on a public installation, you just have to hope for the best.

- OK. I just want to pause here to discuss green energy suppliers because it is super, super interesting. Well, for me it is.

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If you're fortunate enough to have solar panels or a wind turbine at home that generates electricity, you can store that via a power bank and put it straight into your electric vehicle. That means you're charging your car with 100% renewable green energy. However, if you're not doing that, no matter whether you've got a green in speech marks energy supplier or tariff, you don't know exactly how the electricity that comes into your house has been generated.

You get a mix courtesy of the National Grid which according to the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategies' latest fuel mix figures is, on average, 38% from renewable sources. But your mix will depend on where you live and how much renewable generation is happening across the country at the time that you're charging. However, there are green energy suppliers that do generate renewable electricity themselves and then send as much renewable electricity into the grid as their customers are taking out.

And there are suppliers and tariffs that buy directly from renewable generators. So unless you have your own renewable source at home, the electricity you're charging your electric car with isn't zero carbon. But if it's being matched with renewable supply in this way, it could very well be net zero carbon.

- Fortunately, the UK energy mix is rapidly becoming cleaner with wind energy and hydro energy that is cleaning up the electricity generation that will drive our cars forward.

- In fact, last year, 2020 was the first time renewables generated more electricity than fossil fuels. Windy conditions last spring meant that renewable generation reached record levels and contributed almost 43% of electricity generation compared to under 40% coming from fossil fuels. That's a great step forwards, but this is the first reason why EVs are likely not as green as you think. It's likely that some of the electricity used to power them will have been generated using some carbon emitting sources.

- We call this or the institute calls it well-to-wheel CO2.

- This is Adrian from Which?

- My name is Adrian Porter. I am a team manager here at Which, which probably means very little, but I'm also a principal researcher and writer looking at cars within the product testing team.

- I had a lovely long chat with Adrian about the questions that you may have if you're considering getting an EV, and I'll play you a bit of that later.

- Electric cars will have a well-to-wheel CO2 figure, so that says the CO2 cost of generating the fuel and how efficiently the car uses that fuel. And that allows us to compare cars whether they run on petrol, diesel, or electricity or even hydrogen against each other to look at the universal impact. We published all these figures in every car review on Which? within the tech specs. People can type in their car. And if we've tested it, we'll show you every engine or motor, in the cases of electric cars, and how much tailpipe or well-to-wheel CO2 there is.

- And this is why I was excited about the destination of our road trip. The electricity that the electric forecourts supplies is the cleanest and greenest I've ever been able to use. In fact, I was under the impression it would actually be zero carbon. But more on that very soon.

It looks like I was arriving at an airport. There are two long kind of banks, I guess. I mean you won't know this, mate, but normally, you're in a supermarket car park in the corner or around the corner from someone's house in a residential street. So this is epic.

- And they've got green bays, as well, that you pull into which is a nice touch.

- Just to remind you you're doing your thing for the environment.

- We haven't just driven here to charge, I also had an interview scheduled with a man responsible for this unique location.

- My name is Toddington Harper, and I'm the CEO of GRIDSERVE Sustainable Energy.

- Where does the energy come from to provide the electricity at GRIDSERVE?

- Instead of oil wells, we have solar farms. There's a canopy here that's got a couple hundred kilowatts of solar power. That's enough energy to roughly drive 800,000 miles a year in an electric car. So that energy is zero carbon because it comes from your panels directly into your vehicle.

- This is what I'd been excited about. The possibility to charge my car from a source that I knew was zero carbon. However, as I explored this a little further with Toddington, I discovered that as usual, the setup was a bit more complicated. Yes, the electricity that came from the solar canopy could go straight into my car and that would be zero carbon. But if there was a run of cloudy days or if lots of cars turned up at once, there wouldn't be enough supply.

- This project is twinned with a 10-megawatt solar farm which produces enough energy for 5,000 electric cars. So every kilowatt hour we take off the grid here that we don't produce on site, we net it off with a zero carbon kilowatt hour that we put it into the grid.

- The majority of the electricity for the forecourt actually comes from the grid, which means we're back to the same issues of not actually knowing how green that electricity is. However--

- It's 100% net zero. The electrons we take off the grid, we don't know if it came from a solar panel, a wind farm, or a gas plant or whatever, but what you can be absolutely certain for here is that it's net zero, i.e. every kilowatt hour that we take off the grid here that we don't produce on site, we will net it off against an actual zero carbon kilowatt hour of additional energy that we put onto the grid.

- Just like with the discussion about some green energy suppliers and tariffs earlier, technically, it might not be zero carbon, but it is net zero.

However, we got planning permission recently for another electric forecourt in Uckfield, and that's pretty exciting because there's a five-megawatt solar farm we're building in the field next door at the same time. The actual physical electrons that we harvest from the sun will be stored in big batteries and then go directly into cars. So you'll be able to say unequivocally that the energy that you're using is absolutely, those electrons are zero carbon.

- Which? Means that my dream of being able to have access to electricity with zero carbon footprint is just around the corner, literally. That deals with the first point my mate raised.

- But where do you think the electricity comes from to charge it?

- So now it's time to tackle the second.

- What about all the rare elements that were dug up to make the battery?

- Well, spoiler alert, this blows any sense of zero carbon or even net zero carbon out of the water. In all my reading, there was one paragraph from one paper that really stood out. It was published in the Journal Energy Procedure in May 2017. And in the conclusion, the authors write--

- In this study, lifecycle CO2 emissions from the production of a standard mid-sized passenger EV and ICE- with conventional material in China are estimated from the component point of view the results reveal that the CO2 emissions from the production of an SUV are about 59% to 60% higher than the level of an ICEV.

- Yes, you heard that right. The CO2 emissions from the production of an EV in China are around 60% higher than the production of an ICEV. And they go on to say--

- The lithium ion battery and additional components, such as the traction motor and electronic controller in an EV, are the major reasons.

- It's the rechargeable battery again, just like when we were looking at our smartphones in episode two.

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Last year, the International Environment Agency published their global EV Outlook 2020 which estimated the material demand for the batteries of the electric vehicles sold worldwide in 2019. 19 kilotons of cobalt, 17 of lithium, 22 of manganese, and 65 of nickel. Now, one kiloton is one million kilogrammes, and these are huge amounts, almost impossible to imagine. But it shows that the most use element for batteries is nickel then manganese then lithium and then cobalt.

In 2019, the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney shared their findings of the impacts of mining these elements.

- Nickel, damage to fresh water and marine ecosystems has been observed in Canada, Russia, Australia, Philippines, Indonesia, and New Caledonia. Lithium, the major concern over lithium mining is water contamination and shortages in the lithium triangle of Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. Cobalt, heavy metal contamination of air, water, and soil has led to severe health impacts for miners and surrounding communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And the cobalt mining area is one of the top 10 most polluted places in the world. Miners work in dangerous conditions, and there is an extensive child labour.

- As we discussed in episode two, it's very clear that mining these elements creates not only a significant environmental footprint but also a significant ethical one, too. And the shadow of that is still very much present in the batteries inside shiny new electric vehicles. And the thirst for these elements isn't abating. That same study said that the current production rate of EVs and storage could lead to the demand for lithium exceeding supply next year. And that the demand for cobalt and nickel could exceed current production rates by around 2030.

President Joe Biden issued an executive order on that in February of this year directing the Secretary of Energy to identify quote risk in the supply chain for high capacity batteries including electric vehicle batteries and policy recommendations to address these risks. And it gets worse as there's a worry that there's increasing demand could lead us to stop mining these elements somewhere very different but with an equally catastrophic environmental impact.

Hi, Jon.

- How are you doing?

- Good. How are you?

- Yeah, not too bad. I'm Jon Copely, and I'm Associate Professor of Ocean Exploration at the University of South Hampton. There are deposits of these kinds of minerals on the ocean floor in lots of different places. So there are underwater mountains. There are more than 39,000 of them that are more than a kilometre tall poking up out of the ocean floor around them all over the world. And they have crusts of cobalt-rich minerals around them that people are wondering whether that's a deposit that could be mined in the future.

Then there are these amazing things called manganese nodules, which are sort of new potato-sized little nuggets. They form very, very slowly, over thousands and thousands of years. And they are very rich in manganese and nickel and cobalt and other rare Earth elements as well. And they're scattered over large areas of about four and 1/2 million square kilometres of the Eastern Pacific.

- Jon, I've heard that there are sources of cobalt and manganese down on the ocean floor. Are people starting to mine those?

- There hasn't yet been any mining of these what we call cobalt crusts on underwater mountains or these manganese nodules yet on the seafloor. A lot of this is taking place in what we might think of as international waters. It's out there in the ocean beyond boundaries of national territories. So all of this is being overseen by the United Nations International Seabed Authority. And they're trying to balance a way of helping us develop towards a greener future, but at the same time ensuring that there is stringent environmental protection for many of the impacts of mining down there on deep-sea ecosystems.

- Are you worried that as takeoff of EVs continues that that may lead to a significant impact on the ocean floor?

- Several car manufacturers have said that, for the immediate future, they will not use any metals that come from future deep sea mining until further research has been carried out to really understand what the environmental impacts are going to be.

- This is, of course, good news. And Jon told me that there's also hope that future EV batteries will have a reduced reliance on some of these particularly environmentally and ethically impactful elements.

- A lot of the car manufacturers also are now looking towards the next generation of batteries that they're going to have in their vehicles. They are still going to depend heavily on lithium but less so on the things like cobalt and nickel.

- As well as modifying the composition of EV batteries and ensuring that we're responsibly sourcing the elements we need for them, there's a lot more that we could be doing to increase recycling rates.

- We may be able to get some of the metals that we need for EV batteries by recycling what's already out there.

- The Institute for Sustainable Futures report suggests that recycling rates for aluminium, cobalt, and nickel are high but that some of the so-called rare Earth elements like neodymium and dysprosium that are essential in EVs aren't currently recycled. However, it may be possible to substitute them in future designs.

- But a recent study suggests that probably even if we create a really good circular economy to do that and we get very good actually getting the metals out of the things, it's probably going to supply something like 25%, maybe a little bit more than that, of the expected demand as we move towards a greener future.

- I could also talk about the potential problems of battery disposal in the future. But there are more ideas around that with some companies coming up with great ways of giving the batteries a second life as storage solutions for energy generated from wind or solar and to hold and provide electricity in factories, too, including those making new EVs. The environmental and ethical impact of producing new batteries is clear though, and I asked Tim Schwanen at the University of Oxford whether he thought if consumers knew this, would they may be opt to not buy an EV.

- Perhaps. Perhaps, I'm a little bit hesitant because most studies tell that environmental considerations are not the most important in people's decision making about what car to take. First of all, it's about convenience and cost. Those come first. And environmental considerations come lower down the priority list. It depends a little bit on what's being asked and what study you look at.

- The good news then, although I do find it hard to treat everything I've just told you so far as simply a weight on one side of a set of scales balancing out the impacts of EVs versus ICE vehicles in order to measure out which creates the least overall impact, but yes, I mentioned earlier that the footprint of an EVs production is around 60% higher than an ICEV. However, when you look beyond production to include all the time you drive it, that shifts the scales.

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This is the payback period. How long you have to use your EV for compared to an ICEV before it's zero emission driving offsets those initial production emissions. The phrase cradle to grave comes up a lot when assessing the impact of these vehicles. And a new report named exactly that, Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave, the American researchers concluded that, quote despite their initial footprint, the impacts of lithium ion batteries when compared to conventional cars is offset within six to 16 months of average driving in the US or two years in the EU.

Why those difference in time frames? Well, our American friends do many more miles in a year, simple as that.

- You really need to look at lifecycle emissions, so from cradle to grave. And if you do that whole comparison, then electric vehicles are cleaner than internal combustion engines because in their use they are cleaner. And electric vehicles tend to have a longer life than internal combustion engines.

- The UK government's Road to Zero report, which came out in 2018, estimated that an EV in the UK has lifetime emissions 66% lower than a petrol car and 60% lower than a diesel car. And a new study published last year by Eindhoven University of Technology found that lifetime carbon emissions of electric cars are actually even lower than previously suggested. Factoring in emissions from both manufacturing and driving, the study found that, in Europe, carbon dioxide emissions for a Volkswagen e-Golf were 54% less than a Toyota Prius. And that is one of the most fuel efficient cars with an internal combustion engine.

So how green really is an electric car? Well, when it's driving down the road, an EV does indeed have zero emissions, and that is great because it's not contributing to what is, quite frankly, deadly air pollution caused, in part, from years of internal combustion engine cars. However, as my mate pointed out, an EV is perhaps not as green as you may think. It is not zero carbon. The electricity used to charge it has been generated, in part, using carbon emitting sources, but the green proportion of those is increasing.

And in the future, it looks like there might be opportunities to indeed charge in even greener ways. Also, the production of the car, the mining of the metal for the battery, et cetera, that comes with a heavy cost. But when you look at the lifetime emissions of an EV, those are significantly lower than an equivalent petrol car, making a new EV the greener option over a new ICEV.

Now, if my mate had asked if it would have been better for the planet for me to have stuck with my old gas guzzler for a while before I bought a new EV, then, well, yeah, we know from previous episodes that repair and reuse creates less impact than buying new. So in the short term, that would have been the more sustainable option. But if you really do want to reduce your impacts, the biggest thing you could do is to travel less. And when you do need to, use a sustainable form of public transport as possible.

However, with the 2030 deadline looming, my old car feeling like it was on its last legs and more and more people considering going electric, I decided to focus on which new car would be the most green option. If you have been pondering buying an EV, but you are yet to make the switch, it's likely you've got some reservations. And it's likely that they include those top two considerations that Tim mentioned earlier, how easy and convenient is it to charge an EV and what are the costs involved? Those are what I'm going to spend the last chunk of the podcast looking at.

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Earlier, you heard from Adrian in Which's car testing team.

- We've been testing electric cars since they first came out, so 2010, 2011, recording how far they can travel on a single charge as well as how they are to live with, how they are to handle, the performance and whatnot. So one of the first questions is, what if I don't have a driveway that I can park my car and charge the car or a garage that I can put it into? What if I don't have any charging stations near me? Can I still own an electric car? Is it really feasible for me to buy an electric car? And also, don't they cost so much more? And you know what help is out there to help with this?

- We'll answer a couple of these here, but there's loads more advice over on the Which? website for you. I also want to introduce you to Jill Nowell.

- I've worked in and around electric cars since 2012 when I worked on a number of EV grid integration projects. So that's what really sparked my passion for electric cars. Had my first test drive in a Nissan Leaf back in 2012, fell in love with it. I've just been for a run. I was running down a country lane and an Amazon all electric van drove past so I took a photo. And I thought as a runner, that's brilliant because it's so much nicer than being consumed by diesel fumes, so it's good.

- Isn't it? I haven't seen one of those yet.

- Oh, they are everywhere here.

- Let's start with how easy it is to charge. As I mentioned, I'm fortunate enough to have off-street parking and a home charger, so when I get home I can plug the car in. However, many people don't have that and they use an on-the-street charger or a destination charger in a car park somewhere.

- We need to acknowledge the challenge of people who don't have access to off-street parking absolutely, and that's about 40% of the UK population at the moment. The good news, though, I think, Greg, is that if we go back to basics, we know that 99% of trips are less than 100 miles. Most electric cars now drive for over 200 miles on a single charge. And actually, most drivers cover 28 miles or less per day. So that tells us that we don't need to charge our car every day.

- Even if you do have a home charger, if you're away for a long trip, you'll likely need to use a public charger.

- We surveyed over 1,000 electric car drivers on the state of public EV charging infrastructure and fed that into government consultation. We found actually that 92% of drivers do use public chargers despite being able to charge at home. It just confirms that the state of public charging infrastructure in the UK needs to be robust. They need to be easy to find. They need to be easy to use. And they need to be reliable.

- And the truth is that the charging network, at the moment, is not always all those things.

- At the moment, there over 30 major charging networks across the UK. And if you're going to do any sort of long distance, you'll end up sort of planning ahead like where can I charge? Do I need to sign up to it? Do I need an RFID card? Do I need to phone app pre-downloaded? What you don't want to be doing is sort of pulling up at some time at night and it's raining and you're trying to download an app to try and fit to your car and just hoping that this particular charger works.

- I've been there. Yeah. And even though there are apps that report whether charge points are active or inactive or there are issues with them, you get there and often, oh, it says it's working, but it's not or it's busy and you have to sit there for 45 minutes and wait for someone to charge their car. And it's always a different provider that you haven't logged onto their app and given them prepaid credit.

So that's actually what drove me to get the Tesla because, for me, having that designated supercharger network around the UK where I just knew I could turn up, plug it in, and you know it starts charging, that ease was, absolutely for me, worth proportioning only a small amount of extra initial investment.

- That's what we want to see reflected across the rest of the network. We want universal access or roaming interoperability. You shouldn't have to carry round a glove box full of RFID cards and a phone full of apps. We're having meetings, we're working with people in the industry, and we're publishing our research. And what we want to see is universal access. You shouldn't have to plan ahead in order to use a charging station.

- Chatting to Toddington from GRIDSERVE, I was really encouraged to hear what he and many others are doing to try to improve the state of the charging infrastructure.

- The bit that we are really trying to do is to put all the odds in favour of people wanting to transition to an electric vehicle as quickly as possible. So not wait till 2030. That's quite a long way away. The vehicles are absolutely outstanding, but charging isn't great at the moment. And what we're trying to do is to make it awesome. And if we can make charging incredibly easy as well with no anxiety, then that's going to help.

So to do that, we are delivering a network. We are calling it the GRIDSERVE Electric Highway that comprises electric forecourts, like this one at Braintree. And we're planning on delivering more than 100 hundreds of these over the next five years across the UK. And in addition to all of that, we're replacing all of the charges on the motorway network.

If they can do that and tick those boxes of easy to use and reliable, then that will be game changing for EVs. And there are plenty of public charges that are reliable. And when you've set up your payment method, they're easy to use. But to have the potential of a nationwide network where every charger is like that for any EV, that is really exciting.

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Finally, briefly touching on cost then, an EV may sound great, but are they actually affordable? Electric cars are more expensive to buy compared to their fossil fuel equivalent. However, as Adrian says--

- They have lower servicing charges. You don't pay car tax. You're not going to be 155 pounds a year as you would do for a petrol or diesel car. We have a big investigation coming up on this, which is going to be published in a future issue of Which? So Which? members, Which? Subscribers, do to keep an eye out for that.

- Tim gives a good perspective on this, too.

- You've got the upfront cost of buying your vehicle, but actually, in their use, electric vehicles are usually cheaper than internal combustion engines. So you need to think about the longer time costs that you will incur. And we know from behavioural economics, from behavioural studies, that people are notoriously difficult to compare long term costs versus short term costs.

- There is also a growing secondhand market for EVs, too.

- The second hand market I have to thank, actually, for my first electric car. I was driving an old diesel car for many, many years. I couldn't afford a new car. I couldn't afford a new electric car, so I went on the second hand electric car market and found me a second hand Nissan Leaf. I think people are tending to lease cars more or they are able to own them through a PCP deal. So there's lots of ways of buying an electric car that actually mean that the monthly payments are really quite reasonable.

- One concern I think some people would have with buying a second hand car is that the battery has already had a bit of a run around. And as we know from other recyclable batteries, the more you use them the less juice they seem to get recharged with. So therefore, people might be a little bit concerned about picking up a second hand electric battery vehicle.

- At the moment, I don't think there's any concern about electric car batteries and their longevity. When I was working on a project back in 2012, Nissan extended their warranty for the battery from five to eight years. So even back then, I think that was a clear signal from the manufacturer that they had absolute faith in the lifetime of that electric car battery.

- I had a wonderful nerdy deep dive into charging costs with Adrian that we will probably put out as a bonus clip on the podcast feed in the future, so look out for that. We discussed the costs of charging at home versus a public charger and the relative costs of electricity versus petrol or diesel. Long story short, it's cheaper to charge at home which favours, yet again, those with off-street at home parking. But regardless of where you charge it, filling up an EV with electricity is always going to be cheaper than filling up an ICEV with petrol or diesel.

Oh, and I'm aware I haven't talked about hybrids, vehicles that use both the electrical energy from batteries and the combustion energy of petrol or diesel. I decided to focus on ICEVs versus EVs but, yes, there are indeed a range of hybrids too. There's full hybrid, mild hybrids, and plug-in hybrids.

- Hybrids are essentially internal combustion engines with a little add-on and that add-on is a very small capacity. So it seems like you're driving a environmentally sustainable vehicle.

- But the electric motor in a full hybrid, like Tim is talking about here, rarely provides power by itself or for long. However, it does work alongside the combustion engine, hence hybrid. When compared to combustion cars, there do appear to be tangible benefits to full hybrids in terms of fuel use and emissions. But for those who can charge a car easily, EVs are still the clear winner, though that does also bring us to the tricky subject of plug-in hybrids, P-H-E-Vs or PHEVs.

- So a plug-in hybrid is better because that has much more capacity in the electric propulsion system, so you're less reliant on the petrol part of the system.

- As I've mentioned, the UK government of banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, but you'll still be able to buy some new full hybrids and PHEVs until 2035. However, PHEVs are a bit Jekyll and Hyde. With the battery full, they are the cleanest low emission cars though, note, they are not zero emission. And some tests we did at Which found that if you can't readily charge and the battery depletes, they actually become the most polluting car as the combustion engine then has to power a very heavy car by itself.

This is particularly prominent in PHEV SUVs. And for this reason, Which's advice at the moment is that you perhaps shouldn't purchase a PHEV unless you can charge at home.

- If you can, I would say move to battery electric as soon as possible.

- And Jill thinks the same. A

- Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle can be a useful stepping stone to pure battery electric as long as you use it, you drive it on electric and plug it in. However, if you're not driving it on electric, and actually those cars are really quite costly and actually pretty inefficient. So why not just jump straight to pure battery electric?

- It's a good question. And I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. I'm @GregFoot on Twitter and Instagram if you'd like to get in touch. And Which is @WhichUK. My issues with the previous electric cars that we'd leased was that charging them when away from home was sometimes a bit hit and mess. You'd have to work out which app to use and which payment method, and sometimes charges could be broken or occupied. But really is that much of an inconvenience to take to know that you're not worsening air pollution and you're helping sort out those little problems that early adopters always face?

I am so excited that the charging infrastructure is getting this influx of innovation and support. I really feel that that is going to make EV ownership so much more convenient and appealing. And that will clean up not only our roads, but when the other issues that I've mentioned are also addressed, it will hopefully help our planet a whole lot, too.

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If you enjoyed this podcast, please do rate and review us wherever you get yours. It really helps others decide whether to click and listen. And please do spread the word, too. More episodes are on their way so follow us to catch them. And if you've got something you'd like us to investigate, get in touch. Once again, I'm @GregFoot and Which? Is @WhichUK on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Here at Which, we're making sustainability key to what we do from how we assess the products and services we review to the way we run our whole organisation. That's why this first season of Which? Investigates is dedicated to helping you make the sustainable choices you've told us are so important. We've got new reviews and advice every day on which.co.uk that will give you the power to make the best decisions for you and the planet. And if you want to make the most of your money with everyday personal finance tips, then why not have a listen to our sister show, the Which? Money podcast.

Today's episode was written and presented by me, Greg Foot, produced by me and Rob Lily, edited by Eric Breare and our executive producer is Angus Farquhar Special Thanks go to Richard Headland, Michael Briggs, Emily Seymour, Yvette Fletcher, Adrian Porter, and Sarah Ingrams. And I'll see you next time.

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