When will we be driving on sunlight?

How to buy an electric car right now...

Solar panels in Yorkshire
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You wouldn’t think that solar panels would be a big success in Yorkshire. But to my surprise they’re remarkably able to convert even our pale, northern, sunshine into a chunky number of KWh each day. 

Which (being from Yorkshire where we are notoriously parsimonious) led me to wonder what we could do with all this free electricity. Despite putting on the washing machine in the middle of the day to use up what we are generating and doing the ironing when the sun shines, we’re not using all the power we generate. And why export it to the grid, which earns a sixth of the retail cost of power, when you can use it yourself?

We looked at batteries and smart thermostats and they all have merits. But the single biggest battery item that could quietly sit on the drive powering itself up on sunshine would be a car. Imagine that. No more refuelling costs. Driving on sunshine!

However, buying an electric vehicle is not quite as simple as you’d hope - despite the obvious benefits for the world around us. No more fumes and the ability to run on renewable power should probably be made simpler.

But many electric vehicles are simply not produced in enough numbers (yet) to satisfy demand. There are 18 month waiting lists for the Kia eNiro. This  will change: VW is busy converting its massive facility in Zwickau, Germany, to electric vehicle production and retraining its 20,000 strong workforce. However, right now, there are not enough new vehicles around.

Used BMW i3

It’s worth looking at the second hand market too though. Used i3s are in the £15 - £20,000 ball park. The advantage here is that the major part of the depreciation is done (and batteries seem to be holding up better than expected). There are some knowledgeable dealers around (we went to see the range of neat looking BMW i3s at electriccarsuk.com). Plus they’re quite an innovative vehicle using interesting materials - and they certainly stand a test drive!

However these are earlier generation vehicles with lower ranges than the ones in production right now. This is fine if you mainly use your car to commute (even up to 100 miles a day) - but if your driving is mainly longer trips with luggage or sports gear - the typical weekend away - the logistics of these lower range cars becomes quite off-putting. Not to mention their not-particularly-capacious boots. And the fact that mostly they’re not rated to tow.

BMWi3 boot


Whilst the i3 range extender helps even up the odds the deal breaker is the capacity here. Just one bike then...

There are promises of LDV vans and family size Nissan eNV200s in the next year, but none of these are available now. So what is? Join us shortly for the start of our series ‘how to buy a Tesla’.


by Beate Kubitz at 4 Jun 2019, 00:00 AM