“All the Conservatives can offer is green number plates” – Labour spokesman, discussing radical new plans to usher in an ‘electric car revolution’.
Of course, both major political parties are bandying around key words and phrases, all designed to pique your interest and win your vote: “We will provide interest free loans for 2.5 million people to upgrade their vehicles, and introduce a scrappage scheme for old cars” sounds like a great idea, and anything that makes ownership of a state-of-the-art electric vehicle more accessible should be applauded.
Should be applauded.
The United Kingdom has signed up to be ‘net zero’ by 2050, which effectively means removing as many emissions from the environment, as we produce. As part of the 2050 strategy, the government are looking to implement numerous regulations, schemes and processes to help that along, and of course, transportation is chief among those targets.
Limiting and reducing mileage driven is a prime source to aiding that goal, but to achieve this, it’s thought that a minimum of a 20% reduction in mileage is needed, and that figure rises to around 60% under Labour’s expert briefing report, thanks to trying to hit that target by 2030.
The Conservative Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, is clear as to what this means for the motorist: “Corbyn is coming for your car and will exhume the last Labour Government’s war on the motorist.”
Kickstarting the revolution
“We will provide interest free loans for 2.5 million people to upgrade their vehicles, introduce a scrappage scheme for old cars, protect the 186,000 workers in the automotive sector that has been under siege from Tory mismanagement of the economy, kickstart a mammoth rollout of the UK’s electric vehicle charging network and set up community car sharing clubs so that everyone can benefit.”
It’s clear from the above statement that Labour are offering more than just coloured number plates, and there is huge potential to make this work, but just as likely is the potential to get things wrong; warnings of a ‘massive barrage of taxes and increases in road pricing’ follow on from Labour’s own statement of ‘demand management’ to force a ‘large and rapid’ drop in road use.
To those of you thinking that this is politically biased, I’ll point out that under the Conservatives, grants and schemes to aid the purchase of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure have been slashed, that their alternative is little more than a box-ticking gimmick, designed to give the impression of pushing the green agenda.
Now more than ever, we need bipartisan or independent policies to create a sustainable, useable and manageable policy for future transportation and road use. Pushing electric vehicles to the fore will help drive demand and technology innovation, but it can’t be at the cost of huge price hikes in fuel duty or VED.
The technology behind electric vehicles and semi-autonomous driving is revolutionising the industry, perhaps it’s time for the authorities to take the same attitude and look toward making radical changes to the production costs, purchase price and infrastructure to help enable a wider uptake of these vehicles? Or is the guarantee of easy revenue, cheap votes and cheaper point scoring more important?
It’s clear that societal attitudes are changing – even the most ardent lover of internal combustion is coming round to the benefit of electric vehicles, both in terms of the environment, and their pocket, but forcing them through financial measures to choose electric over internal combustion just isn’t feasible, nor is it ‘for the many not the few’.
Offering low-rate VED on new electric vehicles is a start, but that’s a very small step toward offering real, actual help to purchase a vehicle, and until that happens, the majority of the population that live hand-to-mouth will never make the decision to swap to electric, and that’s before we look at the complex problem of actually being able to charge the vehicle.
If the government (any government) are serious about pushing the switch to electric vehicles, they need to offer more than green number plates, a 60% reduction in mileage (through taxation), and an increase in fuel duty to force the change.
‘Now is the winter of our discontent’ seems perfectly apt as we face a winter of politicking, sorting the wheat from the chaff, and trying to decide just who to place our money on for the future of our motoring, but one thing is for sure – the motorcar as we know it is firmly in the crosshairs.
What’s your solution to ‘Net Zero 2050’? Should the decisions & choices be removed from the political arena? Or are we just needing to get on with it … they’re all terrible? Let us know in the comments.
Start with public transport, buses and all trains should be electric. This is relatively easy for government to achieve, and could be implemented quickly. Next move to all urban private hire vehicles by only allowing electric propulsion. This would substantially benefit London air quality. Stop the sale of high performance and polluting cars, they are an anachronism in this day and age. This leaves the private motorist the option of sticking with an efficient ice vehicle or converting to electric as and when the price falls and the required infrastructure is in place, without the need for draconian legislation or taxes.
Much to reasonable and common sense for any political party to contemplate.
There are many other things that many people enjoy that could be dismissed as simply being environmentally damaging anachronisms, but it’s incredibly arrogant to remove others’ personal of choice on that premise.
What it would leave is the private motorist that prefers ICE in older even more polluting vehicles. A sports car today is farm more environmentally friendly than it’s 30 year old counterpart.
The government needs to accept that not everyone (myself included) wants an electric car and that it can not force one on them.
Too true, until they have a greater range easy charge and a similar price most people will not be persuaded.
Until the population realises it’s not about the environment but the governments ability to control every facet of our lives nothing but draconian restrictions will continue.
We are all going to have to pay much more to pay for the enormous environmental damage we have caused sine the 1950s. The sooner we start paying for that, the less painful it will be. I’d you think an extra 5pence per litre of fuel is outrageous, just wait until you see the price you , and everyones’ children and grandchildren will have to pay over the next 50 years. If your response is that you won’t be alive in 50 years- that explains why we are in this huge mess selfish and short term thinking.
You smoking something???? This Climate nonsence is all a lie… In the 70’s we were all going to freeze to death.. now we are all going to fry… and the politicians use this garbage to spend more and more of taxpayers money on stupid projects such as paying rich landowners subsidies to have a wind turbine on their land and we, the hard working people of this country have to keep stumping up.
The only smoking going on is from the 33 million plus vehicles on our UK roads!! Quoting RAC foundation statistics back in 2007 we were then using just shy of 50billion litres per year just for car transport. Turning the math into sensible comparisons, that volume would equate to 20 super tanker loads of oil into the UK every week!!! Now multiply that by the developed countries in the world (many now far more congested than dear old Blighty) and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise that pollutants apart, the release of all that locked up fossil energy into the thin atmosphere of the whole planet is bound to cause climatic change, not just for humans but for every living thing on the globe. No one single change can undo the mess only a rapid rethink of how we work, rest and play will ever prevent this planet becoming a giant Mars bar!!
I finished my degree studies in earth science in the early nineties. Pretty depressed I was then, sadly despite my best efforts to go green I soon realised I could have little personal impact and yet to function at all in the current century I like everyone else had to still keep moving about.
It is a stark message but some attitudes and ways of life are going to have to change whether we have enough time is now the question. This is no time be sticking ones head in the preverbal sand or flying at 35000 ft just to have cheap holidays at the drop of a hat. Have a look at Flightradar24 and see the number of planes wreaking even more havoc as human movement takes to the skies in huge numbers.
True the developed world has a lot to answer for, question is will the rest of it accept the change and one could say why should they.
The dinosaurs became extinct after some 160million years, as a species and with brains far more capable, we could probably wipe out the whole planet in little less than a millionth of the same time! And some might think dinosaurs are stupid!
I completely agree with you Trickcyclist! The climate has been warming up since the last ice age, but the greedy politicians are using it to invent new taxes to tax the hard working & the gullible tree huggers are lapping it up! Electric vehicles may be zero emission when they are being driven, but they are certainly not zero emission! Battery production is definately not green, charging these dodgem cars up is not green & what is going to happen to the batteries at the end of their very short life, I’m sure that will not be green either! When are people going to wake up to the fact that electric vehicles are not zero emission & they are certainly not “green”! The only thing “green” about them are the drivers!!
Unlike these drum banging middle class hemp sandle wearers, who have got good jobs and plenty of time to waste, I’m too busy thinking about daily life now, not in 50 years time.
Do you realise just how many miles of steel rails and copper cabling, plus manufacture of gantries to hold up the cables would cost country wide? Yes, I know the London underground runs on a 3 rail system but do you really think there will be enough steel to produce a 3 rail system countrywide, with all the substations needed to provide the electricity to energise them?
Many people such as myself live in rural areas, lucky to be within 5 miles of a bus service which runs one bus an hour and nearest railway miles away.
I suspect you have easy access to public transport, many of us don’t.
Or buying a classic car of course.
Heavy goos vehicles; especially foreign ones which can with impunity ignore our speed limits.
M. All trains to be electric, I guess you don’t like out in the sticks, or further afield like Scotland, how much would it cost and how long would it take to electrify all the lines in the remoter parts of the country, and it would never be viable. It looks like the electrification of the trans pennine route from Manchester to Leeds is a none starter so I can’t see Glasgow to Fort William or Edinburgh to Inverness and Wick being done in the next 30 years.
My prime concern with battery-powered everything is with the availability of the rare earth materials needed for all these batteries, with China being almost the sole source of them, and the sky-rocketing of the price for them as they become very scarce and China seeks to capitalise on these resources. My secondary concern is the recycling of all these batteries after they’ve died. The potential to pollute is at least as great a problem as that of fossil fuels.
You’re right. The obsession with carbon and electric vehicles is completely misplaced, just a means of social and political control under the guise of environmental protection. Mark my words, it will all come to light and the bubble will burst.
With home central heating changing to hydrogen where are the hydrogen powered cars. We do not need batteries and their pollution
I agree that Hydrogen is probably a better method of fueling transport as it has, at present, a far greater range for vehicles to travel without the extra costs involved with battery manufacture and ultimate disposal.
Electric car batteries require mainly lithium and cobalt.
Cobalt sources (Democratic Republic of the Congo has 63% of it!!):
Production of these materials is expensive and causes significant pollution. Transportation of these materials to manufacturers also has a significant carbon footprint. Recycling of EV batteries – now there’s another challenge and big expense!! EVs are not as squeaky clean and pollution free as many imagine they are…
At some point enough people are going to realise that this obsession with electric cars is not only completely misplaced, but also primarily political, that the environmental benefits are either negligible or irrelevant, and then the soulless contraptions can finally be consigned to the scrap heap and we can all get back to enjoying driving actual cars again instead of glorified milk floats.
Despite the problems with charging times, the inability to provide people who live in terraced houses with sufficient charging opportunities, the environmental cost of producing and then recycling batteries, the Government seems fixated on electric vehicles. It’s also determined to target private car drivers when there are vehicles that much worse at polluting the environment. Buses, taxis, white vans, heavy duty haulage vehicles, even trains, many of which it would not be feasible/ practicable to install electric drive into.
Why isn’t the Government investigating the use of hydrogen as a power source? Solar and or wind power could be used to power the onsite generation of hydrogen, with no electricity producing power stations involved. Refuelling might take as little as five minutes, the product of combustion is water and there are no defunct batteries left that have to be dealt with.
Surely we should at the very least be investigating the possibilities???
Solar panels will eventually fail. Then recycling comes into play. At the moment there are no facilities for the removal and desconstruction of these items.. Dissecting thephysical make up of solar panels shows- The toxic chemicals in solar panels include cadmium telluride, copper indium selenide, cadmium gallium (di)selenide, copper indium gallium (di)selenide, hexafluoroethane, lead, and polyvinyl fluoride. Additionally, silicon tetrachloride, a byproduct of producing crystalline silicon, is highly toxic.
So when it comes to scrappage of solar panels… look out there is another emergency on its was and another tax to pay for it.
The terraced(?) house / flats / apartment problem could be solved by installing charging points at the ground floor level attached to the owner’s meter and with a lock to ensure privacy. The lock would need a device to switch off (until overridden) if anyone tried to swap their lead for yours. To be fair, this would have to be a HMG-funded scheme. Private home-owners with no access problems would fund their own charging points.
So would we be able to lay electric cables over the pavements and 400 meters up the road to a the only space left to park the car?
What happens when I have to park across the road?
The truth is that whatever energy sources we use for our national grid, or what ever power we use for vehicles, nothing is perfect. One long term plan that is being looked at apparently is that every house will have a fast charge point for vehicles, that will use renewable energy to charge the vehicle. Then when the National grid is short of power, (which is already a serious problem with much reduced Energy Security over the last 10 years, cables getting power from France, Belgium and Holland) the Grid will tap into all these car batteries that will make up a sort of National Botnet of instantly accessible power. Maybe this will be one use of the Smart Meters? How you get to work in the morning if that happens in the night is an interesting thought. The use of lithium is problematic as it requires vast quantities of water to refine, and it also creates health hazards with lung problems and attacks on the human nervous system. A Tesla battery we are told creates 20 tons of Co2 in its manufacture. The Tesla website gives training courses for the Fire and Rescue Services to avoid fatal electrocution of the rescuers when trying to extract trapped victims of accidents. Tesla’s recommendation regarding battery fire, is to let it burn out as it can’t be extinguished without fear of re-ignition. I wonder if the UK Fire Service have had the necessary training and a stock of rubber blankets, clothing etc in Fire Stations. I am sure by the time we all have electric cars there will have been amazing developments particularly in battery technology.
Well said Rae. And the reason the government does / doesn’t do anything – money / power. Too much of an exciting business opportunity to manufacture loads of battery vehicles (at lower cost than ICEs) and then replace them again when it comes to light that they’re not that great for the planet after all (anyone remember diesels in the 1990s?).
What about the lorrys, so necessary and so many what are they going to be powered with
In most towns there is a lot of terraced housing how are the occupants going to charge their vehicles ?
You live on the 10th floor of a block of flats and try running a charging cable out the window and down to your car!.
And if you have a drive then you will have to buy the latest “fast charging” system which will of course result in large VAT charges for the Treasury… Or you can leave you can on a slow charge for most of the day and pray you dont need to use it.
The other suggestion I have heard is that you have two electric cars.. once charged ready to go whilst the second one in on charge… But then of course your pretty much doubling the number of cars, which need maintainance, and a serious recycling program for all those batteries.
No off street parking. No car simple.
See my previous reply. There would be a lot of electric leads across the pavement, creating tripping/electrocution hazards, admittedly. And it does not solve the problem of having to park your car miles away because the available space is full. Nicola Tesla’s idea of electric power through ‘the ether’, but connected to your meter, would solve this, if it could work.
If I change me car to an electric one will the government decide that its not environmental friendly in a few years as they told us to buy diesel, they don’t yet a rock steady policy on what will be sustainable, or will we be left with another lemming on on the drive.
For those who worry about elctric cars range, and about rechargng them if you live in a flat, and about the high initial cost: There is an answer!
Battery exchange! And before anybody says it is impossible or too cumbersome, a company in India called sunmobility has produced a totally automated solution for large vehicles – the bus driver doesn’t even have to get out of the vehicle and the battery swap is done in THREE MINUTES – less time that it would take to fill a petrol tank. See:
They also have a smaller and simpler system for motorbikes, tuktuks, etc.:
Obviously this solution requires that the batteries be owned by the power company rather than the vehicle owner.
That addresses the high capital cost of the car (which is mostly the cost of the battery), and also provides a solution for those who don’t have off-street parking.
It also raises the possibiity of using less expensive battery technology, which would get around the shortage of lithium.
A company in Taiwan has a very similar system for scooters, and 12,000+ batteries are swapped each day at 350 battery swapping stations. They have 1,527 exchange stations located in convenience stores, supermarkets and parking lots. Swap & Go takes 6 Secs.
They have sold more than 20,000 of their Gogoro “Smartscooters”. See:
Clearly they have solved the practical issues of battery rental, and of course their solution would work for any size of battery.
You’re right, your article is politically biased. There’s 39 million vehicles in the uk. Labour’s proposals are just one of several attempting to get votes. There is a way to go with the developments in electric cars especially battery technology. Further, the charging infrastructure isn’t in place yet to truly make electric cars viable. I wouldn’t buy one now and neither should you.
I swapped my petrol guzzling 2000cc car for a !000cc run-around vehicle. Saved on VED, insurance, double + mpg…. great! I would go a step further & go electric if I could afford the capital outlay… which I can’t. Hydrogen does seem like a viable alternative, but not available at the moment. I do worry about the effect that the production and disposal of batteries would have on the environment, but if the net result of swapping could be proved to be a viable alternative to fossil fuels then fine. As for freight… could the govt. not promote a return to railways? This could even lead to more profitable rail travel generally, and the consequent reduction of fares for commuters etc. (economy of scale). None of the solutions can be taken as a one size fits all, but a combination of what is both feasible and desireable can be considered. I worry about the advocates of taxing pollution… the stick will never work! The carrot, on the other hand, could help achieve the desired outcomes.
There is a choice other than electric and it could involve capturing CO2 and converting it into synthetic petrol and diesel so that it can be used in the oldest and newest internal combustion engine vehicles on our roads. With no impurities it will burn cleaner so that also means better air quality. The technology is there, and it doesn’t rely on scrapping cars that have plenty of life left in them.
Electric vehicles are a blind alley. They export pollution to the communities around the world next to the huge mines and processing plants producing raw materials for the batteries, and the disposal sites of used batteries. I doubt there are enough raw materials in the world to produce all the batteries which are required.
Subject to safety constraints, hydrogen is a better way to go. We can produce all the hydrogen we need from renewable electricity at home. Hydrogen fuel cells are cheaper to make and use. The exhaust is water.. Range limitations subject to the availability of hydrogen at fuel stations would be no different from petrol/diesel vehicles.
Of course hydrogen is explosive, so safety constraints for refuelling and use are higher, but not insuperable.
Hydrogen powered vehicles are the best way to go forward. I dont think the public know that Lithium is running out, Cobalt is heavy and expensive to mine ………………… Hydrogen all the way
Reminds me of a certain Roman emporer fiddling whilst Rome burned! Before you say hydrogen is an alternative Google how much energy is required to make it and where it comes from? Also look at what it does to metals and then think hindenburg
Never wanted an electric car. Give me the sound and feel if a V8 any day.
Totally agree, V8s all the way!
One big problem is that people like me and my wife, who need a 4×4 suv to get to work in the winter, is that as of yet, I’ve not seen a viable electric 4×4 that is reasonably priced, and by the time it came into my price range, the batteries and motors would no doubt be shot.
It is about time more was spent on developing hydrogen powered..vehicles and the infrastructure. No range anxiety. Use power stations at night when no one uses electricity to generate hydrogen from water.
Completely misses the mark. Electric cars will be a disaster. Delivery firms can’t go electric because they’ve got deadlines to meet and can’t afford to hang around while the vehicle recharges. Heavy haulage has to remain deisel for the same reason and because every ton of batteries you haul around comes diectly off the bottom line.
And in 10 years time there will be a mountain of spent batteries to dispose of somehow. Nightmare.
The sensible solution is hydrogen cars. Tried and tested technology that’s been around for years. They drive and perform like petrol cars, refill from a pump just like petrol cars and the exhaust is just water. Existing vehicle engines can be easily converted to use hydrogen. You need a beefed up fuel tank to handle the pressure, but that is similar to LPG vehicles – another tried and tested technology.
Politicians are past masters at jumping on bandwagons, and getting it massively wrong. Take the deisel engine fiasco, for instance. And this is another example. Attempting to force elecric vehicles onto everyone is deluded madness, and is doomed to failure.
Much as I might like an electric vehicle they won’t tow my caravan or, at best, not very far.
Surely my ability to tow my caravan is less environmentally damaging than countless aeroplane flights and better for the UK economy too?