Simon Williams is the PR and External Affairs Lead at the RAC in the UK. He has been with the company for the last 10 years and has seen the transition of electric vehicles (EVs) grow rapidly in recent years.
The RAC has been quick to understand the needs of electric vehicle drivers when they have the misfortune of breaking down, which is rarer than with combustion engine vehicles.
The RAC were recently at EV Live at Blenheim Palace helping to promote the positives of driving an EV and answering questions about them. We caught up with Simon to find out more about what the RAC is doing to cope with the fast-growing number of electric cars on the road.
EDs: How are the RAC helping to promote the transition to electric vehicles?
The RAC has been preparing for the transition to EVs for several years. In 2019, working with a British engineering company we developed a lightweight mobile charging unit which we’ve been fitting to our vans so that we can give emergency charges to flat or severely depleted electric cars. This is effectively the 21st-century version of a fuel can for electric cars.
We have also adapted our rapid deployable towing system so that we can safely recover EVs and other vehicles with all four wheels off the road. The All-Wheels-Up rapid recovery system is now in the majority of our vans. It saves members having to wait for a separate flatbed to move them and it effectively gives every RAC van flatbed capability.
EDs: How are EVs changing the way in which the RAC has to operate?
We were the first major breakdown provider to introduce a pure EV to our patrol fleet when we launched our Renault Zoe E-Tech van in January of this year. Since then we’ve added a Maxus eDeliver 3.
As no electric van is yet capable of towing we’re using these vans to attend the four-out-of-five breakdowns we fix on the spot. These tend to be battery and tyre call-outs which are our two most common breakdowns.
EDs: What services beyond the classic breakdown cover do the RAC offer to EV/potential EV drivers?
We have also built up an incredibly wide selection of guides on the news and advice section of our website. These are designed to answer every possible question about choosing, charging and running an EV.
Drivers can also lease an EV via our website and get a home charge point installed, as well as opt for a bespoke EV electricity tariff via our partner British Gas.
EDs: You recently had a stand at EV Live at Blenheim Palace what were the most common inquiries/questions you had?
People were naturally concerned about making the switch from petrol and diesel vehicles, but we were quick to reassure them that EV driving is pretty straightforward.
Day to day most people don’t drive that many miles, so range really isn’t the issue people tend to think it is. Clearly, if you’re making a longer trip it will currently involve some planning but this will get easier in the future as more ultra-rapid chargers are rolled out at key locations.
EDs: What are the key issues from your perspective in helping the transition to EVs?
The switch to EVs is happening faster than some may have ever thought. It has been slowed down by the chip shortage affecting the new car industry but drivers are opting for pure battery electric at a faster rate than plug-in hybrids.
We think anxiety around range is disappearing as there are more EVs available that are capable of doing 200-plus miles comfortably on a single charge. Charging infrastructure remains an obvious concern though. It’s vital public charging points increase at a proportional rate to the number of new EVs coming on to the road.
It’s also very important that more rapid and ultra-rapid chargers are installed so that people can make longer journeys without long waits for chargers to become available. This would also make it easier for those without access to home charging to go electric easily.
EDs: How important is it for people to drive an EV to realise how easy they are to use and understand the associated positives, like cheaper running costs and less servicing needs?
The cheaper running costs are a major selling point for EVs. Even though electricity costs have gone up, they are still far lower than petrol and diesel which are setting new average price records every day at the moment.
There are also massive benefits to be had if you are lucky enough to be able to charge at home as you can start any long journey with a ‘full tank’.
EDs: Do you think the old model of car ownership needs to change, with options such as leasing, making it a more affordable way of driving an EV?
With so many different ways to get into a new car, in many ways it’s never been easier for drivers. While upfront costs for EVs are still high, leasing or personal contract purchase can provide good options, even though they obviously require initial payments.
The arrival of many more EVs on our roads should, in theory, reduce the cost of them too. This is vital if we’re going to appeal to a much broader range of drivers, especially the majority who buy secondhand.
EDs: What do you think will be the biggest driver in the transition to EV adoption in the coming years?
More EVs coming onto the used market will make a massive difference. Of course, fleets have been quick to adopt EVs, so when these come off lease in three years time the secondhand market will start to be topped up with more affordable EVs. This is something that can’t come soon enough.
Plus, battery life in used EVs is nothing to be concerned about whatsoever as they are outperforming all expectations.
EDs: What will we see from the RAC in the future to deal with the growing number of EVs?
The RAC has always led the breakdown industry by innovating to solve problems for drivers, so we are confident we will be able to adapt to whatever new challenges might emerge.
We already have great solutions in place to charge flat or severely depleted EVs and recover them safely with our vans. While we aren’t yet seeing large numbers of drivers needing this service, it is definitely needed.
We have, however, dealt with several instances of drivers reaching charge points only to find frustratingly that they’re out of order. As we can give them around 10 miles of range in about 30 minutes, we can then give them enough of a boost to get to the next working charge point or even home. We are already rolling out even faster chargers so we can get drivers on the move even more quickly.