Elsewhere in Europe, politicians have introduced a scrappage tax, whereby consumers are given incentives to scrap their vehicles and buy a newer, cleaner model.
Although the motor industry is trying to say this has major environmental benefits, any detailed cost benefit analysis – including the cost of making the new car – seriously calls this into question.
But we are finally getting the details of UK Prime Minister’s so-called Green Budget, where drivers will be offered an amazing £5,000 to purchase an electric car. The government hope to create “electric car cities” across the country.
The proposals are part of the Government’s previously leaked £250m strategy trying to kick-start an electric car revolution. The strategy is being spelt out today by transport secretary Geoff Hoon and Business Secretary Lord Mandelson with the aim of kickstarting “the market for cleaner road vehicles and slashing the UK’s CO2 emissions.”
The main strategy would be on urban transport. “Given that 60% of journeys by car are under 25 miles, there’s no reason why someone using a car for commuting on a regular basis will not be able to charge up their car at home, take it to work and come home again well within the distance an electric vehicle should be able to travel,” Hoon argues.
“What we’ve got to get people used to is the idea that electric cars will become quite normal, quite usual,” adds Hoon. “That it won’t be exceptional and, without being unkind to existing electric vehicles, they won’t be slightly odd, they will be cars that conform to appropriate safety standards and we can use on an everyday basis.”
The government is also going to give the car makers up to £100m to do something the car industry should have done years ago, and that is further develop electric vehicles. But the elephant in the room is how will all these electric vehicles be powered? How green an electrical car is will depend on the power source: an electric vehicle powered on fossil fuels or coal would be a disaster.
The British green entrepreneur, Dale Vince, the co-founder of Ecotricity, is working on a second generation wind powered electric car “charged from the wind – but not just any electric car, one to smash the stereotype. An out and out sports car. Capable of 0 to 60 faster than a V12 Ferrari, able to top 100 mph for sure – and do 150 miles on one ‘tank’. All with zero emissions.”
Vince’s car might grab the headlines, but the problem for many is that for the foreseeable future, most electric cars will be powered by fossil fuels or nuclear.
The comments in today’s Times newspaper show you don’t have to be an expert to understand the problem.
Simon Bennettt from Epsom writes: “I don’t see how an electric car can be classified as ‘green’. Running on electricity produces more greenhouse gases as it is less efficient to burn fossil fuels, convert them into electricity, store the energy in batteries and then use it, as it is to just burn the fuel in the engine.” Richard from London adds: “Electric cars aren’t the magical environmental solution they’re cracked up to be. We still have to generate the electricity, which means fossil fuels or nuclear.”
It would be much better is the government put some of its money in promoting walking, cycling and integrated public transport. The solutions aren’t rocket science but it would need a revolution not in car making but in government thinking for this to happen.