As a petrol head, I have an inherent dislike for electric cars; however, as an inhabitant of planet Earth, I have no valid excuse to ignore the need for sustainable travel. When the government recently announced that they were bringing forward the ban on selling petrol or diesel cars to 2030, I have to admit part of me was feeling a little heartbroken. To someone who has no interest in cars, this news likely has little effect on your life. But for me, this feels like a legendary era of extraordinary engineering and ecstatic thrills is slipping away. And I was born too late to be apart of it.
Let me explain myself a little. I grew up as the only motor enthusiast in my family. I’d sit and watch Top Gear seeing Clarkson review cars like the E60 BMW M5 with the monstrous V10. He’d be slagging off the noughties infotainment system whilst comparing its looks to a cultural figure 10-year-old me only pretended I knew. But then, he’d select M performance mode and stamp on the throttle. The V10 would scream and the entire car would come alive, all its sins instantly forgotten. I dreamed that one day I could have a piece of that thrill, an orchestra of pure power just waiting to be deployed under my right foot, and when it was, I’d hear the roar echo through a valley as I was catapulted through it. The Governments recent news regarding the ban on petrol cars brings my dream to a premature end. That makes me pretty sad. So clearly I’m a dreamer (I think there’s a 90’s dance track there), but I also like to think I’m a realist. As an educated adult and David Attenborough enthusiast, I understand we need to make extensive changes to how we live because of the catastrophic damage the human race has done to planet earth. But electric cars by 2030, are we really ready?
1: Charging Network
A clear benefit with an electric car is you don’t need to pay for fuel. However, you rarely worry where the next fuel station is in the UK. That cannot be said for charging points. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders estimate that by 2030 the UK will need a minimum of 1.7 million charging points and nearly 3 million by 2035. A staggering figure, especially when you consider meeting this demand will require installing 507 chargers every day over the next 15 years. With the current government’s immense competence, I don’t see this as being very likely.
2: Charger Quality
It will be an outstanding achievement if electric charging point demand is met in time for the 2030 deadline. However, the chargers have to actually work. I can see this project being rushed to meet the target, just so it looks good on paper for whichever government has succeeded in the task. According to a 2020 survey conducted by Auto Express, the worst ranking charger (charging cost, speed, ease of use and reliability) currently in the UK is the Ecotricity charger. Which charging point do you think has been given contracts for multiple service station operators? Yes, you guessed it, Ecotricity, literally the worst one. A service station is arguably the most critical place to have a good charger. Do you want to pull up, plug in, spend 30 minutes reading an excellent Travelling Tyres blog post whilst in a Costa enjoying a Caramel Oat Latte + Vitamin B12 & Zinc? Or do you want to pull up, plug in, unload your tent, set up camp next to the M1 for three days and miss uncle Barry’s funeral? As the current motorway charging network is going, Barry is going to have a pretty poor turnout. The Tesla superchargers are regarded as the best chargers currently available. However, there’s a catch; you have to own a Tesla. I think that says a lot about Tesla’s values. Are they creating an electric charging infrastructure to save the planet or for profit? I think the answer to that is clear. Tesla’s are also incredibly expensive, far out of reach for most families, which flows me gracefully into my next point.
3: The Price of Electric Cars
Electric cars are considerably more expensive than their petrol variants. Let’s take the Vauxhall Corsa for example – an icon of McDonald’s drive-thrus and Grandmas driveways all over the country. According to AutoTrader, you can get a 2020 petrol Corsa from £184pm (36 month PCP £1000 Deposit) whereas a 2020 electric Corsa with similar mileage will cost £373pm. That’s double the price! Obviously, you’ll save on fuel costs, but I think that’s unlikely to save you the £189 monthly difference, especially when the petrol car is claimed to do 53mpg. I’m aware that electric cars will probably be cheaper in the future when there is more demand and more are being produced. But how much cheaper is currently unknown.
4: How will we meet the electricity demand?
Driving using electric power is unquestionably better for the environment, but where has that electricity come from? According to the Governments 2020 Energy Trends publication, renewable energy generation comprised 40.2 per cent of total generation. I guess that gives you a 40.2% chance that you’re driving using renewable energy compared to a 0% chance with a petrol-powered car. But if everyone has an electric car surely there will be an enormous increase in electricity demand and where will that come from? Boris Johnson is currently refusing to intervene with the plans for a new Coal mine in Cumbria, which does not give me much hope in his plans for a renewable future.
I clearly love petrol-powered cars and don’t want them to go, but compared to the environmental difficulty the planet is in, I don’t have a good enough excuse not to embrace more sustainable travel. However, I feel like the government uses cars as a vehicle (no pun intended) to blame ordinary citizens and hide from their own responsibilities. Yes, we could all probably do more, but blaming the public’s use of non-electric cars is the easy way out. In reality, the government and business tycoons are not doing enough. For example, why on earth is the Chicken in a Morrison’s sandwich allowed to come all the way from Thailand? Last time I checked, chickens could survive on British farms (well, until they’re turned into a zinger tower burger ). Retail chains have been closed for weeks due to lock-down restrictions, but why are their lights still on at 3 am? Why hasn’t Boris Johnson intervened with the coal mine in Cumbria which will heavily contribute to the release of greenhouse gasses? Cars are a problem, that can not be denied. However, bringing forward the ban by 2030 will only give Brownie points to your party, not solve any problems. We need more investment in renewable infrastructure and until that happens electric cars by 2030 is just political gameplay.