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Which UK CEOs drive an electric vehicle?

More than 175,000 electric vehicles (EVs) were registered in 2020, a 66% increase from 2019 levels and the biggest annual increase in the number of registrations.

With more electric vehicles appearing on UK roads than ever before, we took some time out to speak with the UK’s EV driving CEOs about the electric vehicles they drive, and why they decided to make the change to an eco-friendlier form of transportation.

What EV do you drive and what’s your favourite part about it?

Despite the first electric production car being built all the way back in 1884, electric vehicles have only become readily available to the average motorist in recent years. Recent innovations have meant that issues like high costs, low top speed and short driving range are no longer so prominent, which has helped their popularity to rise.

There are now a variety of mass-produced all electric cars on the roads, so we asked business leaders across the UK which one they drove.

Dominic Ponniah, CEO at commercial cleaning and facilities company Cleanology said: “Tesla, and my favourite part is the supercharger network on the motorways. As I am travelling more and more outside London, it’s great to be able to stop for 20 minutes on a long trip to plug in and charge whilst you grab a coffee/sandwich. It’s incredibly quick, no other car compares.”

Steffen Brans, CEO of EEVEE Mobility, a digital start-up that creates products and services to improve EV charging and driving, also spoke to us about the electric vehicles he has driven in addition to his current Tesla.

Steffen responded: “A BMW i8. It’s not 100% electric, but I’m lucky to have had the chance to test several other EVs for a week or so, such as an Audi e-tron and a ID.4.

“My favourite part about driving an EV is the sound – there is none. I find it peaceful not hearing an engine and love that, without gears, it still accelerates faster than petrol and diesel cars! I know it sounds spoilt, but I don’t like driving or traffic, so doing it electric makes it less hectic and more enjoyable for me.”

However, a quiet drive is not the only reason why CEOs and business leaders enjoy driving electric vehicles. Ruth Shearn, Founder of full-service PR and digital marketing agency, RMS, points out that their acceleration and environmental benefits also make them highly desirable.

She comments: “After doing lots of geeky research, I opted for a Kia e-Niro because its reviews across all aspects of performance were all positive. It was also priced sensibly.

“My favourite part is its phenomenal acceleration, which is doubly satisfying as I’m also helping protect the planet.”

Toby McCartney, CEO of MacRebur, a company that uses waste plastics to enhance road surfaces, agrees: “I drive the Jaguar I-PACE. I love its acceleration from zero to 60 in 4.5 seconds. You just push the accelerator and away it goes.”

There are other features that, despite not being limited to electric vehicles, also make them a desirable drive.

Sarah Hartley, Director at spare parts specialists Click Spares, says: “I have been driving a Renault Zoe GT for the past year. I chose it because it was the best-performing EV in its price range at the time of buying it.

“I love driving it. It’s very responsive, has great integration to my phone, it’s roomy and most importantly, has heated seats and steering wheel.”

Why did you decide to make the change to an EV?

One of the biggest reasons why business leaders are making the change to EVs is because of the benefits to the environment.

Tamara Roberts, BMW i3 driver and CEO of winemakers Ridgeview, commented: “Climate change was a major factor. We can also charge the car on our drive and the fact that most of our mileage is frequent, short distance journeys.”

Chris Ormrod, Managing Director of specialist food suppliers The Flavourworks and driver of a Mercedes EQC, also made the change for environmental reasons.

He commented: “I changed because I wanted to show staff that we were serious about reducing carbon emissions, and that electric/hybrid cars are the way forward. Plus, the tax break as a company car owner is too good to ignore.”

According to research from Exeter, Nijmegen and Cambridge Universities, the average ‘lifetime’ emissions from EVs are up to 70% lower than petrol cars in countries like Sweden and France (where most electricity comes from renewables and nuclear), and around 30% lower in the UK.

So, if renewable energy becomes more commonplace in the UK as we look to combat climate change, the lifetime emissions of electric vehicles may reduce even further.

However, there are other benefits of owning an EV, including financial ones.

Ponniah commented: “It’s a combination of reasons, including inevitability now that petrol and diesel vehicles are being phased out, significant financial savings (especially in London) and, of course, it fits with our values and ethos.”

Going electric also made financial sense for MacRebur CEO Toby McCartney: “I’m the CEO of an environmental company – it’s only right that I look to reduce my carbon emissions as much as possible and move away from burning fossil fuels.

“For the miles I do each day, it makes sense to go electric, plus it works out so much cheaper to run.”

 Do you think the popularity of EVs will continue to grow? If so, why?

Following the release of the damning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in August, which confirmed that global climate policies failed, there have been calls for urgent action to reduce climate change around the world.

As a result, you would assume electric vehicles are set to get more popular. However, Dominic Ponniah believes there are several barriers that have limited their popularity, although we are beginning to overcome some of them.

He commented: “I think EVs will dramatically increase in popularity over the next few months and years. The autumn fuel crisis has given a further boost to EV ownership but has also brought into sharp focus the high cost of petrol and diesel fuel, as well as other natural resources, such
as gas.

“EVs have also been seen as the ‘preserve of the middle class’, with affordability being an issue to make them have mass market appeal. However, there is now much greater choice than ever before, with luxury options such as Porsche and BMW, to more economical options such as Kia and VW. Only a few years ago, it was a Nissan Leaf or a Tesla!”

However, perhaps the biggest barrier to growing the popularity of electric vehicles is the current charging infrastructure. Almost all of the business leaders we spoke to for this piece cited it as problematic in some way.

Carl Huntley, who drives an Audi E-Tron 55 Quattro and is Chief Executive of award-winning architectural practice Base Architects, says he has had to collect a number of different methods of payment to cope with the range of charging operators.

He comments: “There are issues at public charging points. I have had to collect six different apps/charging cards to cope with the range of charging operators out there.

“There are several different charging connectors, which again complicates matters, and certain charging points which have two connections will only charge one car at a time, with the second charging point only coming available when the other car using it is fully charged.

“I have had to call two providers so far and ask them to reboot the charging point as the software had crashed.”

Sarah Hartley also points out that the coverage for electric vehicles varies depending on where you are in the UK.

When asked whether the popularity of EVs will continue to grow, she responded: “Of course it will! As long as the infrastructure is put in place to support journeys across the UK. I find some areas of the UK are not as well covered as others, and we have visited charging points only to find they are out of order on more than one occasion.

“The car manufacturers also need to develop new electric models, rather than changing their existing fuel models to electric versions.”

According to Ruth Shearn, people’s attitudes are also limiting their popularity. She comments: “Charging infrastructure, although getting better, still needs to be improved, while changing peoples’ attitudes is also a challenge.

“Some people don’t care about the environment and will always be proud and loud petrol heads. Hopefully, as increasing numbers of ‘status’ brands enter the market, they’ll eventually change their ways!”

But despite these potential barriers, many business leaders believe it’s just a matter of time before electric vehicles become more commonplace.

Steffen Brans comments: “I’m very convinced that the popularity will grow because of the growing carbon/eco-friendly awareness. From a business point of view, there are several economic reasons to choose EVs as well as being eco-friendly. I dare you to drive electric for a week and go back – it’s so much more comfortable!”

Peter Gibbons, Managing Director of full-service advertising, marketing and design agency Sprague Gibbons, and driver of a Tesla Model 3 performance, agrees that electric vehicles will become more popular.

He says: “The tide has turned and as the charging infrastructure advances and the battery technology improves (and the range increases), then the reasons to drive a combustion engine vehicle will dramatically decline. Added to which is the realisation that we can’t all continue to drive polluting vehicles.

“The only thing holding back the sales of EVs will be the initial purchase price, but I think we’ll see prices starting to slide as the big manufacturers battle it out for market share.”

Whilst there are still some hurdles to overcome to allow electric vehicles to reach maximum popularity, if the UK government is serious about tackling climate change, surely it’s only a matter of time before charging infrastructure advances and the affordability of electric vehicles improves. And once those things happen, we’d be surprised not to see more EVs surging up and down UK roads.