Electric cars are not the panacea

It is clear that people have high expectations for the government’s ban on pure petrol and diesel-powered cars by 2040. Probably too high.

I’ve been involved with a few discussions recently about new roads, that have resulted in debates about cars and emissions.

To hear some people you would think that, like the flick of a switch, our roads will become emission free on January 1, 2040.

car emissions

Of course, that is not the case.

Generally speaking, the biggest polluters are large vehicles like vans, trucks and buses. Will they still be producing emissions?

Also, as we’ve already said on this blog, there is the expectation that some car makers may produce mild hybrids as a way to keep producing petrol and diesel. If so, petrol and diesel cars will not disappear from our showrooms.

But, even if they did, electric cars are not as green as some people would want you believe.

In addition to questions about the robustness of the infrastructure to charge them, you have to think how the electricity was generated.

Only around 25-30% of the UK’s electricity is generated by renewables, most of it from Scotland.

That means aound three quarters of the electricity you put in your Tesla, Jaguar I-Pace, or Nissan Leaf is produced from fossil fuels, which, in turn, means releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Just not at the tailpipe (which is at least good news for street level emissions in our cities).

Then, if we are going to be completely honest about electric cars, we need to think about the carbon emissions involved in their manufacture.

Autocar recently highlighted a University of Liege study, which pointed out that an electric car would have to clock up 435,000 miles before it became “greener than the average car”.

Just remember that when you are tempted to buy an EV and polish your environmental halo!

Of course, politicians wanting an easy win are not going to go out of their way to tell you that the ban on petrol and diesel cars is more about being seen to do something, rather than being the most targeted way of tackling emissions.

But, it is easier to be seen to be doing something about emissions by forcing the motorist to switch to electric vehicles, than it is to tackle major issues like maritime pollution.

Did you know that 15 of the world’s largest ships produce the same pollution as all the cars in all the countries of the world?
blog comments powered by Disqus
© 2007-19 Ken McEwen. All rights reserved. Contact me