Tag Archives: electric vehicles

Great idea – but show us how we’ll get there!

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Here we go again! Boris Johnson announces a ‘world-beating’ programme to make Britain the environmental envy of the world. The usual suspects line up to say it’s too little too late, and the whole thing blows over in a couple of days, at least as a news story. But dig a little deeper and it’s not hard to identify what needs to happen to make Boris’s bluster into a plan that can really make a difference.

Let’s focus on the headline announcement: the intention to withdraw all new petrol and diesel cars from sale in the UK from 2030. Yes, numerically that puts us ahead of every country except Norway (which was first out of the blocks on massive investment in electric vehicles) so it sounds good, but on its own it’s meaningless. We’re back into that territory we were in at the election where all parties took part in auctions to see who could say they’d get Britain to net zero carbon emissions earliest – the dates garnered all the media attention, with little heed paid to whether the policies that underpinned them would actually deliver.

So it is with ending new internal combustion engines by 2030. The aspiration is great, though hardly ahead of the game when we consider the urgent need to cut climate emissions. But given that petrols and diesels still make up around 90% of new car sales in the UK, it’s a very tall order to stop all new sales within 10 years, so the key lies in whether there’s a plan – a roadmap if you like – to get us to zero-sales by 2030.

The short answer is that there is, but it’s already hopelessly behind the clock. The EU has a plan to increase e-car sales, and it’s currently being transposed into British law for the post-Brexit era. But the EU’s law is inadequate, and the British transposition is even weaker.

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Electric cars are not a silver bullet, but they’re a start

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Electric cars are a phenomenon. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, sales of electric and Plug-in Hybrids (PHEVs) increased by 131.8% and 13.8% respectively in the year to May 2020. This figure is expected to keep on going as infrastructure improves and battery technology becomes easier to manufacture, more efficient, and, most importantly, cheaper. Layla Moran MP also wrote to Rishi Sunak this week calling for electric vehicles to be exempted from VAT, which would help bring down prices and increase sales even further.

This is surely great news: no or little (in the case of PHEVs) tailpipe emissions means that we can reduce air pollution levels sufficiently and help bring about an end to the climate crisis. Presently, emissions from passenger vehicles make up 21% of all the UK’s CO2 emissions according to the latest figures from 2018 and have increased by 6% on average since 1990. Although road traffic increased by 28%, any increase is a worry and needs to be combated if we are to bring an end to the climate crisis.

Lockdown has also had a profound effect on emissions. In the UK, emissions dropped by 31% by mid-May, better than the global average of 26%.  While this is welcome, and many people will have noticed the fresher air in urban areas, this is only temporary. A report by Rohit Chakraborty of the University of Sheffield found that emissions have risen by double digits in the first fortnight in June – in Bradford as much as 116%.  Therefore, it is clear that lockdown is an outlier and a very brief dip in our ever-increasing carbon emissions.

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