This article is reproduced here with the kind permission of Boudicca Policy ltd (www.boudiccapolicy.uk) which first published it under the clever title 'Is the government's drive for electric cars full charged?"
The government has announced that, under its new 'Green Plan', not only will renewable and nuclear energy development and production be significantly accelerated, the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned after 2030. Presently, fewer than 1% of cars on UK roads are powered entirely by electricity. This has two major implications.
The first is that there will have to be massive investment put into providing the infrastructure, charging stations in particular, to support this change. There are 35 million cars and five million commercial vehicles on Britain's roads.
If these vehicles are all to be replaced with electrically powered ones, where are they all going to re-charge their batteries? Depending on the make, an electric car has a range of between 120 and 300 miles fully charged, slightly below that of petrol and diesel vehicles, although the range may increase by 2030 as battery technology improves. Then consider that a typical electric car can take just under 8 hours to charge fully from empty (home charge), or 35 minutes to charge to 80% at a permanent charging station. Most drivers top up charge rather than waiting for their battery to recharge fully.
For most electric cars, you can add up to 100 miles range in 35 minutes on a 50Kvw charger. That compares with perhaps 5 minutes to fill a a car with petrol or diesel. So, simply replacing the pumps at a petrol stations with chargers is not an option, they simply would not provide sufficient capacity. Also, as electricity is cheaper than liquid fuel, what are the implications for the commercial viability of charging stations operated along the lines of petrol stations? With a a cheaper fuel product there is a narrower and smaller profit, unless the price is increased, in which case the viability of the entire project becomes questionable. What is the government's solution to this charging conundrum?
The second implication is the cost to average or below average earners.
The fact that only 1% of the cars on Britain's roads are electric means they are even more scarce on the second hand car market. Where is a person who relies on a cheap second hand car for work, school runs, shopping etc, going to get the money from to replace it with a much newer vehicle. Of course, electric cars are around a third cheaper to run than petrol or diesel cars, saving average owners a whopping £775 per year, plus, other aspects of the Green Plan may bring other savings to households, but this does not make finding the initial purchase money any easier to find, for a family that's already struggling.
There's no question, it is good that the government is taking such a lead on pushing positive change without forcing it at an unrealistic pace. The concern has to be, however, that their record on grasping the comprehensive complexities of strategic change - take Brexit preparations for example - are not good and this change requires all angles and all 2nd and 3rd order effects to be identified and addressed. If they are not, this otherwise worthy initiative will turn into a disaster.
One thing we can say for certain, if the government succeeds, this green plan will permanently change the the character of our road travel, for ever.