The old movie quote, “If you build it, they will come,” is definitely true of electric car take-up in the UK. At present it is very much a middle-class, surburban mode of transport, due to the high cost of buying or leasing pure electric cars and the necessity of having a driveway to park it, and charge it.
A new report by a UK Think Tank has been published today, full of ideas regarding EVs and persuading the public to abandon petrol and diesel cars.
One of the crucial elements is the rapid spread of public charging points, to serve the one-third that allegedly have no off-street parking. According to the report about 70% of UK households DO have access to off-street parking, which doesn’t really tally up with a walk around any British city. You will see hundreds of apartment blocks and terraced/town houses, with zero parking off the public highway. This is especially true in London, home to ten million people, most of whom don’t own a car of any type, as there is absolutely nowhere to park it off the highway.
But let’s move on from the slightly dodgy assumptions in the report, what measures are they recommending to the UK government, which is keen to implement climate change policies asap?
MORE TAX, MORE CHARGERS & ROADS CLOSED FOR CARBON VEHICLES
Proposals in the report include ZEV (Zero EV vehicles) credits for car manufacturers, to offer an incentive to make more of them, plus green number plates so that EV drivers can get free parking, access to city centre roads, motorways etc. The report also states that the zero VED tax rating on electric cars should be gradually phased out and that taxation on petrol and diesel cars should be increased. Everyone can see more taxes coming to pay for green subsidies.
More rapid charging points are needed, with these being in town centres, or public spaces perhaps. The report notes that in some cases wind or solar power is already being used to charge the charging points, which is great.
The report also mention workplace charging points and government financial support for this idea. But as WFH is the new normal, is that really money well spent given that the wealthiest workers tend to be the ones in the public sector, or managers, who are now working from home for the forseeable future?
The report says that a scrappage scheme should be available, with a sweetener of up to 7K per car. But it makes no mention of offering a subsidy of say 2K towards the costs of replacing a petrol engine with electric power in classic cars. They obviously prefer to see older cars scrapped rather than recycled and converted to zero emissions, which many would say is far greener than building new cars and sourcing all the parts from scratch.
There is very little mention of delivery vans, which – as online buying has replaced physical shopping – are now a big part of the food and consumer goods distribution chain. It’s hard to see how UK carbon emissions can be reduced if millions of diesel vans continue to ship goods around the country every day, but the fact is that electric vans carrying heavy loads, which follow a stop-start route, tend to have a really limited range between charges. Maybe Elon Musk can solve that physics problem?
There can be no doubt that poorer people cannot afford £30,000 for an electric car and then happily park that asset some distance away overnight at a public charging point. It makes no sense and it leaves vehicles open to vandalism, theft and the potential for trip n slip claims over charging cables. The only logical conclusion as regards city car ownership is that the poor are to be legislated off the roads, and priced out of the market altogether. Otherwise busy London streets would need to have car charging points every 10 metres to cope with the demand.
Insurers and brokers in the motor sector should start to think about a much reduced car insurance market by 2030-35, although the risk profile will change as the driver/owner will tend to be much richer and live in a more secure area. The gap between the haves and have-nots is going to get much wider.
Commenting on a report out today by Policy Exchange that calls for a rapid expansion in electric vehicle charge points, RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said:
“In time, many drivers will benefit from a full charge before they even leave the house thanks to home charging. But this is only part of the solution as those without off-street parking may struggle to charge from home for some considerable time so it is vital we have a network of ubiquitous, reliable and easy-to-use public charge points. Having a sufficient number of charge points will also become especially important in those rural areas of the UK that see large annual influxes of visitors by car in the summer months.
IE Note; The idea that Cornwall will install 10,000 extra charging points for a potential 180,000 daily summer visitors to the county (official Cornwall Tourism stats 2019) is laudable, but unlikely to happen.
“Without a big increase in the number of charge points right across the UK, certain parts of the country risk getting left behind as 2030 approaches. Everyone remembers what happened when broadband started to be rolled out and some areas were left with poor connections. It would be a major policy failure if something similar happened in the next few years with communities missing out on good charging provision.
“The UK’s charging infrastructure also needs simplifying to avoid drivers having to try to understand a plethora of different apps and charging systems. Something more akin to the simple process of filling up by petrol and diesel would be very welcome. At least drivers can be comforted by the fact all new charge points installed have to allow payment by contactless bank card.”
Commenting on how the rollout of electric vehicle charge points must become five times quicker according to Think tank Policy Exchange, Andrew Aldridge, Partner at Deepbridge Capital, said:
“The production and use of electric vehicles (EVs) has and will continue to soar as traditional companies adapt to a global push towards decarbonising the automobile industry. The sector continues to be at the forefront of fascinating and fast-moving technological innovation as the motor industry and the tech giants meet to help make EVs the norm. This includes all aspects across the industry, including but not exclusive to, battery innovation, manufacturing change, material supply chains, development of EV tyres and ancillaries, charging infrastructure and commerce developments.
There are however justified concerns around the rapid adoption of electric vehicles in the UK due to the limits on the speed of rolling out the charging infrastructure. There are currently a number of small companies developing and implementing charging infrastructure strategies but there is also a reasonable degree of uncertainty about the future patterns of consumer behaviour which creates a level of risk in these business models.
“One of Deepbridge’s investee companies, Flex-G, is aiming to revolutionise the charging of EVs and create greater battery efficiency through the development of nano-particle technology. Such technology is needed in order to drastically reduce EV charging times and increase battery range, in order that consumers may realistically switch from combustion to electric power. We expect a significant amount of small companies to emerge in the EV space, particularly in the charging infrastructure sector as the world adapts to the widespread use of EVs.”