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Are The Government Jumping The Electric Vehicle Gun?

Are The Government Jumping The Electric Vehicle Gun?

By Swansway Motor Group 19-03-2018


Four Parliamentary committees have just called for the proposed ban on sales of new petrol or diesel cars to be brought forward, from the 2040 deadline they’ve already set, to, perhaps as soon as, 2030.

MPs and advisors on the Environment, Health, Transport and Environmental Audit committees all say that we need a new Clean Air Act and that the car industry should finance the measures needed to replace the `poisonous air’ with a nice, pollution-free atmosphere.

The committees say that illnesses and premature deaths caused by traffic-generated noxiousness costs this county £20 billion a year; but, if that figure is true, my question is why doesn’t the government spend that much to improve the infrastructure needed to help drivers switch to electric cars? After all, according to them, it would be an investment rather than a cost and one that should pay for itself fairly quickly.

Or am I being politically naive? Okay, no need to answer that.

The new Audi e-tron on charge

The MPs stance is that as the car industry caused the problem, it should now pay to clean it up; but, is that right or even fair? If we recognise that there are perfectly valid grounds for saying that the output from (older) diesels does indeed play a major part in those pollution-linked health problems, then equally, shouldn’t we recognise who largely landed us in it? You can make a very strong case for saying the politicians of 20 or so years ago, who at that time, saw petrol cars and their high CO2 emissions as the main target for their eco-policies,  drove us, and the manufacturers, into diesels and are the ones who should, at least, be partly answerable.

Now it is diesel’s turn to be in the crosshairs and 20 years from now, when supposedly we are all in battery powered cars, I dare say there will be a backlash against the lithium, copper, cobalt and other metals needed in them, let alone how the power needed to recharge them will be generated. Who can say?

Anyway, enough of the blame game, accelerating the timetable may be nothing more than an impossible dream and based on a wish rather than rooted in reality.

You need only be a nodding acquaintance with recent developments in the car industry to know that we stand on the verge of a true revolution as we switch from internal combustion powered vehicles to ones running on electricity.

But, we are not there yet and just as you start to build a house upwards from the foundations, so, you can only move consumer behaviour if there is both an incentive to do so and a means to adopt the new way.

There is no problem with the incentive, the government already gives a grant to people using an ultra-low emission car. That’s the carrot and its flip side is the tax which will doubtless clobber drivers of all those nasty, polluting cars, vans and lorries.

But, where is the means? We still lack the foundation which is the practicality. Sure, the number of battery recharging points is expanding at a rapid rate, but there’s still a long, long way to go to enable a transformation in our driving habits.

As of 15th March there were 926 places in the UK with rapid chargers of which some 140 had been added in the past 30 days so you can see its growth. There are more installed at owners’ homes or places of work.

Volkswagen e-up! on charge

The infrastructure issues halting a much wider uptake of EVs are well known, but there are other issues too, which, so far appear largely insurmountable.

Until such time as you can plug your car into a recharger, pop into a shop for a few minutes and come back to find it now has enough energy for 250 miles or so, I don’t see how it is going to work. (What happens if two cars are parked side by side and you pay for a top up, pop into the shop, and the other driver plugs your pre- paid charger into their car?)

And until such times as the independent garages have invested enough in equipment and training to let them maintain and repair battery cars I don’t see them having appeal on the second hand market in significant numbers and without that you won’t sell many new ones.

In our politicians’ defence it is only fair to say the UK is very far from being alone in this. In just the past week some cities in Germany have voted to allow legislation banning older diesels from their environs and we see similar movements pretty much across the globe, from China to Mexico City to India.

Volkswagen Golf GTE on charge

OK, let’s go for it and accelerate the race to electric cars, but it needs more government investment to turn that wish into reality. How does £20 billion a year sound for starters…


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