Nick Clegg announces £500million investment in green cars

POD-PointThe Liberal Democrats have just announced a new Government initiative to encourage the use of electric cars.

Drivers of electric cars already benefit from zero road tax and zero congestion charge in London, as well as the knowledge that they are helping to reduce air pollution. But they have also had to plan journeys carefully so they can find charge-points when they need them.

According to the announcement, the new investment should result in many more rapid charge-points around the country – including provision at every motorway service station. Areas that gain ‘ultra-low city status’ will be rewarded.

There will also be £100million more funding for research and development.

Nick Clegg is quoted as saying:

This major investment is there to make driving an electric car affordable, convenient, and free from anxiety about the battery running out. But it’s also about creating a culture change in our towns and cities so that driving a greener vehicle is a no-brainer for most drivers.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Was a cost/benefit analysis done?

    This, at a time of austerity, seems quite the extravagance given this is one area where the free market seems to be operating very well in bringing down costs and improving technology.

    Obviously everyone has a different idea of how to spend £500m on transport infrastructure, few people would put electric car charging points at the top of their list.


  • Jenny Barnes 29th Apr '14 - 5:12pm

    An electric car’s CO2 emissions are at the power plant. As we aren’t yet generating all our electricity from renewables, that means that the marginal units will at best be generated by gas, more likely, given the price, by coal. With gas, the emissions are about half a comparable internal combustion car, with coal, roughly the same. Let’s say that this initiative puts the market share of electric cars up ten times, from 1 to 10% of the new car market. Not very likely, I agree. So each year, a tenth of the fleet is replaced, and a tenth of that is electric. The reduction in emissions is therefore around 0.5% per year, halving the emissions of the replaced one hundredth of the fleet each year.
    More could be achieved, more easily, by increasing fuel duty, and adjusting VED to encourage purchase of more economical cars. For example a Golf 1.6 TD blue motion is supposed to do over 80 mpg , while a Range rover vogue similarly is 37mpg. In real life you would probably get 55 and 23 respectively. Also, by reducing max speed on motorways, fuel consumption can be reduced. Similar reductions in emissions are available without subsidising electric cars.
    Also I notice that the announcement suggests they should be allowed in bus lanes. That’s absurd; they congest just as much as an IC car, the point of bus lanes is so that buses, which can be much more efficient in seat miles per gallon than cars, can get around without being delayed by cars, thus increasing their use.
    If there’s 0.5 billion to spend on transport , it would be far better spent on cycling infrastructure: cycles truly are zero emission vehicles.

  • To be expected given we’ve just had the spectacle of 451 MP’s not engaging their critical faculties and voting for a vanity project.

    This £500M would of been better spent on improving the green credentials of public transport, because ultimately we need fewer cars on the roads, with tax relief’s available on R&D investments in green cars. But then I’m a businessman and not an MP who is trying to look popular.

  • Ray Cobbett 29th Apr '14 - 8:16pm

    The green case for battery powered cars is very shaky and turns on how they are produced, recyclability of materials used in their construction, and whether the electricity used for re-charging is from renewable sources. They’re also prohibitively expensive. I’m afraid the the Lib Dems have compromised their once pristine green credentials by supporting the government’s fracking obsession and not pushing hard enough for insulating the housing stock and relying on the Green Deal which has turned out to be a complete clunker.

  • The party was always proud of evidence based approaches to policy, this I’m afraid is just another example of how far it has moved.

  • The case for electric vehicles should largely centre around tackling air pollution (NO2 and PM10s) as this is a major health problem, leading to an early death for thousands of people. As an aside electric vehicles will also make our roads much quieter – and noise pollution from traffic is a serious issue for many people.

    That said if this money is to be effective lets just hope it has more impact than the Source London charging network of over 1300 charging points that exist across London. As this report demonstrates many of these charging points don’t even work at present.

    And while electric cars are welcome, the real improvements in air quality will come from switching taxis, buses and vans to run on electricity as well. In fact switching these vehicles should be a higher priority than private cars.

    Finally, if at all possible we should be offering alternatives to car travel – however, the cars are fueled. On balance I think £500 million would be better spent on promoting cycling, however if we can to spend serious money on more electric charging points lets at least ensure the money is far better spent than has been the case under Boris Johnson.

  • peter tyzack 30th Apr '14 - 9:26am

    can I really be the first here to sound a positive comment..? If we want to effect change then sometimes we need to invest public money in that change to make it happen.. this is just one of a number of measures being brought in, including several of the suggestions made by other contributors

  • Good point Peter. In order to reduce pollution we need more electric vehicles to be encouraged and developed; however, I think at the moment it would be best done to help provide more electric buses and taxis rather than private cars. In our area, there are very old buses that need replacing for reliability as well as reducing noise and air pollution.

  • As mentioned above emissions is only half of the problem with private cars, the other part is congestion of our cities and towns. Even on the Isle of Wight there is often too much congestion and cars are not very convenience when you have to search around for parking spaces.
    This is the beginning of the end of private motoring. If we develop an electric car/van it should be designed for the rural areas such as Wales, Scottish highlands, Yorkshire Dales etc. Most areas where people live, that is towns would be better served by public mass transit systems such as trains, buses and trams with excellent cycling provision.

  • Peter, the question is what change is it that we wish to effect? followed by what is the best way of encouraging it to happen. The question here therefore is do we really want to encourage the use of cars, electric or otherwise?

    The real problems with electric cars, are their range and charging requirements.

    The current generation typically has a range of between 50~120 miles and a top speed of circa 50 mph. Obviously, I’m aware of exceptions such as the Tesla and the R&D effort being devoted to improving these figures.

    Charging times depend totally on the rating of the charging point: The typical 16 amp on-street and domestic charging point rated will take 7~8 hours to charge, whereas a 150 amp rapid charge point (which the government intend to deploy across the ‘M’ and ‘A’ network) can charge the same car in approximately 20 minutes. The typical “Fast charger” seems to be rated at 32 amps, so could charge a car in 3~4 hours. [ Aside: all figures assume 240v .]

    So what does all this mean? Well, it should immediately be obvious that a journey from say London to Birmingham (circa 120 miles) and back, isn’t something to be lightly undertaken in a current generation electric car; or even in 2020 when the new charging infrastructure is supposed to be in place; but then if you are time rich and your journey isn’t important …

    But all this overlooks the energy supply infrastructure requirement, both the resources locked up in the physical infrastructure and the generating capacity needed to supply it. Basically, from what I can see if you are pro electric car’s you also support the building of a substantial number of new nuclear power stations. Is this the change, Peter, you wish for?

  • Another, quite fundamental issue, is that electric cars are incredibly expensive compared to fossil fuel driven alternatives. This £500m is essentially a massive subsidy for people reach enough to afford to spend at least £20k (I think the price of a Nissan Leaf) on a new car.

    Think how much further that money could go if spent on public transport, which is generally used by those on relatively lower incomes.

  • From the post: “… ‘ultra-low city status’ will be rewarded.”

    Why on earth do Lib Dems have to go in for this sort of nonsense. It inevitably adds more bureaucratic expense and yet another target, albeit probably a very soft one, which can only complicate the life of those trying to actually run things.

    On electric cars per se I just don’t see the point. There are already significant incentives as others have pointed out and adding more incentives is a waste of money as the barrier to adoption is quite simply that automotive batteries are not good enough yet for most purposes. Development timescales are set by R&D.

    It’s perhaps not generally realised that battery tech is developing along a Moore’s Law-type curve with costs falling fast. The next generation that will hopefully reach the market in 2-3 years will roughly double electric car range at no increase in cost with the generation after that doubling range yet again in the early 2020s.

    What electric cars will eventually do as they become more common is improve the economics of renewables since a proportion of users will be able to charge their cars when there is surplus wind energy. This will naturally depend on the supply industry developing enhanced versions of ‘economy 7’ tariffs tied to the amount of energy surplus not to time. That should not be too difficult.

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