Persuading people to switch to electric cars requires addressing several barriers – both real and imagined. Price remains a major factor: for many people, electric cars are just too expensive. That will change as the technology improves, with firms such as Hyundai, Kia, Renault and Volkswagen all pledging small, affordable EVs in the years to come.
But those cars aren’t here yet and the various target prices that executives have offered are just that: targets. So the news that the Dacia Spring Electric – billed as Europe’s cheapest EV – is finally coming to the UK is hugely welcome. It’s a tangible demonstration that battery-electric machines really are getting cheaper.
The key question will be how cheap. Based on pricing elsewhere, we’d expect the Spring Electric to be priced at somewhere just over £15,000. That’s a far cry from the heady days of the £5995 Sandero, but then again even Dacia’s cheapest petrol model now costs more than £12,000. Still, it does highlight the challenge for the Spring Electric: even if it is the cheapest EV on sale, it will still be undercut by some petrol-powered machines – which, contrary to some scaremongering recent headlines, will remain legal to drive in the UK once the sale of new ICE cars are eventually banned.
Clearly, buying a Spring Electric will require some compromise: it has a motor that produces just 44bhp, and a 28.6kWh battery that gives a comparatively meagre official range of 143 miles. So while it might help vault the price barrier, some buyers might be put off by concerns about range – whether real or imagined.
The reality is those limited-range compromises are often far less significant than imagined: witness the many happy owners of early Renault Zoe and Nissan Leafs, or buyers of the Honda E or Mini Electric. And it’s worth noting that the Spring Electric’s range is significantly more than many of the EVs it is set to substantially undercut.