The first: old age (much mourned). The second: sold off (needed the cash). The third: write-off at a roundabout (wasn’t looking). And the fourth: old age again. The fifth is now awaiting my mechanic sucking air through his teeth and telling me there's nothing we can do mate, which means I’m about to be on the market for a new car once more. And it’s a special kind of decision isn’t it? You’ve got to get it right.

I tell you one thing though: it won’t be electric. I must admit I did wobble a bit when a friend bought electric and began evangelising with the enthusiasm of a born-again. Look how much money I’m saving. Look how far I got on one charge. Look at the charger attached to my house. Look at how self-satisfied I am. I worried he might have a point; apparently, it had been a good decision.

It’s looking less certain now though isn’t it? If you have a charger at home, it’s true it can be pretty cheap to run an electric: you’ll probably be paying about 7p-a-kw-hour overnight. But many people don’t have a charger at home and will be paying ten times that at a public one. Cheap? Nah.

The cost of buying electric is also prohibitive. Certainly, Chinese vehicles flooding the British market is bringing prices down a bit, but it’s still way more expensive than petrol or diesel. And this matters: if it’s dearer to go electric than petrol or diesel, most people will be led by the cost rather than the environment. This is also why the take-up of heat pumps has been slow, except among the well-off.

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Admittedly, for a while it did look like the market for electric vehicles was starting to take off, but that was in a large part due to grants for private buyers that have since been withdrawn. In other words, the subsidies were getting round the impulse that drives most change: self-interest. Grants gone, buyers gone. If it doesn’t make sense for people financially, on the whole they won’t go for it.

You can see this in the latest figures on electric cars this week. What they show is that private sales were down almost 18% in the first four months of the year compared with last year. Yes, there was a rise in registrations but that was due to company cars, which is driven by the tax incentive. It’s our old friend again: self-interest.

The only thing that’s likely to move things is the second-hand market and, although one has started to emerge in the last three years or so, it’s still nowhere near what it needs to be. Most people do not buy new cars; they second-hand or third-hand or fourth-hand off Dave from the pub who knows of a really good deal are you interested? Until electric cars reach that sort of level, the revolution will not happen.

Of course, there was a school of thought that the best way to get things going was to use force, which is why the UK Government said they would introduce a ban on new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. Rishi Sunak then announced the ban would be delayed to 2035 to avoid “unacceptable costs” on families and be in no doubt, there’ll be pressure to delay it again; Sir Jim Ratcliffe said as much this week.

And the reality of the delay is important because when people like me get round to buying another car, we decide not to go electric because we can see the deadline (2035, meaning that I could still be buying second-hand petrol til 2045 or longer). Some people might say the answer to that is to move the deadline forward, but the manufacturers are nowhere near ready and it would, as the Prime Minister said, land big costs on drivers. So better wait.

The Herald: Sales of electric cars have slumpedSales of electric cars have slumped (Image: free)

The other big barrier – and this is probably the first thing Dave from the pub would mention if the subject of electric vehicles came up – is the charging infrastructure: it’s rubbish. In my village for example, there’s one charging point but it’s not always free and it’s not always working; across the country it’s also obvious the charging infrastructure just isn’t being expanded fast enough. This creates charging anxiety which, combined with the desire to save money, is fatal for faith in electric cars.

Will I change my mind in due course? Will you? Probably, but until the cars get cheaper, and the manufacturers get their finger out, and the charging infrastructure improves, and the second-hand market expands, things will not move and people will continue to buy petrol and diesel for the next 10, 15, 20 years (or more who knows).

And there’s another problem. The situation is unlikely to change in the UK while there is still a political culture that is conspicuously anti-car. Don’t park there! Or there! Park there but it’ll be £20! Don’t go in that lane – fine £50! Don’t come into town, there’s an LEZ! And on it rolls.

Not every country behaves like this though. If you have an electric car in Norway, it’s free to park in the cities. You also don’t have to pay any road tolls. And it’s clearly working – 80% of new cars bought in Norway are electric.

The problem is I can’t imagine local councils in Scotland agreeing to a similar policy here, can you? For years now, they have developed policies designed to discourage and stop the car (diesel, petrol or electric) and that kind of attitude is going to take a long time to turn around. So buy an electric car by all means – but don’t expect any thanks for it.