Since the news last week regarding the UK Government’s ban on petrol and diesel cars, the naysayers have come out in force with their arguments against electric cars. It surprises me that many of the conversations and questions are exactly the same as they were 5 years ago. Whilst some arguments have merit, there are others that can easily be discounted. So here’s my look at the 7 most frequent arguments against electric cars and my response to each:
- The infrastructure is not there
You only need to look at Zap Map to see that there are ample charge points for the number of electric cars on the roads. As I write, there are over 7,000 public charge points which includes 1,000 rapids. And although it’s not a like-for-like comparison, it does put it into perspective when I say that in 2016 the total number of petrol station sites was 8,459. It is also worth remembering that around 70% of all charging is done at home – where it’s easy and convenient for the driver – so the public infrastructure is providing a much needed back-up but it is not the full picture.
2. The grid will collapse and fall over
There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the potential strain on the grid that electric cars could cause. But a lot of that discussion, I think, has missed the point. People have talked about the amount of energy required to fuel 30 million electric cars – with the assumption that we’re all going to come home and plug in at exactly the same time. But of course that won’t be the case. It would be just the same if the entire nation decided to visit the petrol station at the exact same time – it would be chaos at the pump (as we saw during the tanker driver strike some years ago).
Saying that, there is no doubt that as the EV market grows, the UK will require a lot more energy to support charging. But some of the best brains in the energy industry are researching areas such as smart grids and energy storage systems and over the next 25 years, will find a solution.
3. Electric cars are too expensive
There was a time when there were only two viable models on the road and they were expensive. However, today we have over 30 makes and models to choose from and prices range enormously so there’s something to suit all budgets. Car leasing deals are also very competitive these days and many drivers – like myself – choose to lease their electric car. And don’t forget that the cost of petrol vs electricity can really help to bring down the overall cost of ownership.
4. The impact of producing the electricity is just as bad for the environment
This statement may have held more weight five years ago but power generation has changed quite dramatically in that time. In 2012, coal was generating over 40% of the UK’s power output, however in the first half of 2017, the figure had reduced to just 2%. The UK may not be close to running solely on 100% renewable energy yet however our electricity is getting cleaner every day.
Regardless of energy generation, an EV is still ultimately much cleaner than a petrol or diesel car which burns fuel over its lifetime. ICE are not clean and never will be and electric cars, with no tailpipe, have zero emissions helping to make our streets and roads cleaner places to be.
5. We will run out of lithium
Many studies have shown that the availability of lithium is not a limiting factor for car production in the short to medium term. Lithium is the chemical of choice for battery manufacture at the moment however there are many substitutes for lithium which can be used in battery manufacture and researchers are working on the next generation of battery chemistry already. Ten years ago, nobody but researchers had heard of lithium batteries – in 10 years lithium batteries could be a thing of the past.
6. And what happens to the old batteries?
One commentator this week came up with the statement that all our old batteries will be simply dumped in the desert. My response: well why not? They could be used as a much needed energy storage linked to solar generation. But in seriousness, I am confident that in time an industry will be developed around recycling car batteries. Although it hasn’t appeared yet due to the fact that battery degradation hasn’t been an issue as yet and there will not be huge volumes of scrap batteries for many years.
And finally, my favourite…
7. It’s never going to happen
The Government’s announcement set some targets for the move towards fully electrified roads. It’s a positive step forward but the timescales discussed are quite some time in the future to 2040. 23 years away.
That’s basically the same as talking to people in the mid-80s about shopping on their mobile phones – no one could have imagined how technology would transform our lives in this time. In 23 years, who knows where technological changes in the transport sector will take us but I think it is inevitable, by that point – if not a lot sooner – that the majority of us will be driving zero emission vehicles.
Zero Carbon Futures is an electric vehicle consultancy specialising in the roll-out of charge point networks.