Electric Vehicles

I tend to hold the unpopular opinion on a lot of technology related issues, mostly because I get so excited about technology of the future. People cry "But what about our jobs?" and "How will the government cope?" and then there is me over here in the corner building a little shrine to our autonomous overlords.

Joking aside, one topic of discussion that has come up a lot lately is that of electric vehicles, more specifically electric vehicles in the UK.

You've probably already heard, but the UK Government announced that it was introducing a ban on the sale of all petrol and diesel vehicles in 2040. A lot of news sites posted this out with misleading headlines saying that they were banning the vehicles completely in 2040 which is not true, it's just the sales of new vehicles. A few weeks prior, safety god Volvo announced that their entire range would be electric or at least hybrid by 2019.

In my ideal world, we ban combustion engine sales today, not in 23 years but this is the real world and there are a lot of reasons that doing that wouldn't be possible and/or work. So the point of all this is that I wanted to explore a couple of thoughts I had on the transition to an all electric country.

First, let's be realistic. The 2040 ban will be almost completely irrelevant by the time it comes around. The move to electric vehicles is happening now, and it's picking up some serious momentum. Elon Musk is putting rockets into space, but he's also putting them up the backside of car manufacturers by changing the game with Tesla, making ever more affordable versions of the popular electric vehicle. Affordable electric cars already exist with cars like the Nissan Leaf and the Renault Zoe. Manufacturers aren't going to carry on designing combustion engine vehicles when they can't sell them here in 20 years; they need to establish a strong electric line/presence now before it's too late. That, or they just see the UK as a lost cause, with Brexit and the ban serving as a reason to leave us for dead.

The second argument I've heard is "Well I prefer my combustion engines, they can't stop me", and you are right, they can't, but the truth is that they don't actually have to stop you because it's going to get difficult to drive combustion by 2040. What do you think is going to happen to petrol stations in the next 23 years? Anyone who owns a petrol station is going to start suffering as the percentage of electric vehicles increase. We're going to see petrol stations replaced or upgraded to charging stations (Well, owners of stations with any common sense will anyway). Once we tip to 50% mark for electric vehicles on the road a lot of the smaller petrol stations will start to disappear and the bigger ones will eventually follow. You will start needing to drive further and further to fill up your tank which I imagine will be off-putting and expensive.

The third argument is that the batteries for electric cars are toxic to produce and cause lots of pollution, so electric cars aren't better at all. I agree that there is a bit of optimistic marketing about electric cars being "green", but it will make a difference to cities. London reached its 2017 annual air pollution limit in just five days, and over 29,000 deaths are linked to pollution from mostly diesel vehicles each year in the UK. Imagine London with only electric vehicles. London's air would almost certainly be cleaner. Yes, the pollution will be moved out to the factories that make the batteries wherever they may be, but I think that's a step in the right direction at least.

The fourth and final argument I want to tackle is "But the government needs the revenue it gets from fuel duty, they can't cope without it". The best figures I could find show that about 6% of UK Tax Revenue comes from Fuel/Car Duties. I recognise that 6% does equate to literally billions of pounds in revenue, but it is just 6% of the total amount. I won't pretend to know the answers on how that will be replaced. Maybe the government will tax electric vehicle battery hire, who knows. What I do know is that we aren't about to halt the electric car revolution because the government might struggle to balance the books.

I don't really have a conclusion for this, so I'll leave you with some more of my infuriating opinions:

  • Self-driving electric lorries will take all of your jobs. They will drive all day and all night, never get tired and deliver twice as often as you.
  • Buses are a prime candidate for self-driving vehicles as they drive fixed routes so they're going to take your jobs too.

Sleep tight and try not to have nightmares about the engine of your classic car slowly seizing up in your garage