A green light for electric vehicles nationally and at Keele
The changing climate around the world is encouraging more consumers than ever before to switch to electric vehicles. Despite this, in 2020 so far battery-powered electric
The amount of electric-powered vehicles on our roads is increasing every year however, high prices and a lack of infrastructure for electric vehicles have meant the majority of UK consumers are still in favour of Petrol- or Diesel-powered cars. The pandemic has also weakened the future for electricvehicles with levels of drivers planning to switch to electric plummeting in the face of recession.
On World EV day, the government announced ambitious plans to make switching to electric more viable in the future. The plans mean more electricvehicle charging points and £12 million in funding for electric vehicle research projects. They hope that this will encourage more people to switch away from fossil fuels.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced the government’s plans on how it planned to accelerate electric vehicle uptake, which included painting parking spaces green, installing charging points at major tourist attractions and supermarkets as well as investing in batteries that could charge in six minutes.
Both the automotive industry and environmental groups have been calling for a large increase in funding for charging points for a while and they hope that this will make switching to an electricvehicle more attractive for consumers around the country.
This week, Keele University launched a new charging hub for electric vehicles said to be “one of the largest EV charging hubs in the region” boasting an additional 20 charging points on campus. The university hopes that the infrastructure installed will be able to accommodate the anticipated increased uptake in electricvehicles.
The uptake of electric vehicles has been increasing rapidly over the past few years but from a very small base. This means that in the UK, battery-powered engines are still at low levels in comparison to combustion engines. In August 2020, Battery Electric Vehicles only accounted for 5,589 vehicles in comparison to petrol engines at 49,376 – according to the society of motor manufacturers and traders (SMMT).
Even with funding for electric vehicle infrastructure in place, the next major problem facing electric car uptake is the price. At present, electric vehicles simply are not an option for many due to the high price tag. A survey carried out by the AA found that 82 percent agreed that electric cars are too expensive.
Despite more affordable electric cars entering the market, many of these are small city cars and not suitable for families and the wider UK demographic.
Environmental groups have continued to argue that the best way to accelerate consumer take-up of electric cars is to bring forward bans on internal combustion engines. The government is committed to banning polluting carbon dioxide-emitting engines by 2040 but is considering moving that forward to 2035 or even as early as 2032.
Simply banning internal combustion engines too early without bringing down the price of electricvehicles is unlikely to be successful. Therefore, a government scrappage scheme closer to the ban year will most likely be the solution.
While the infrastructure for electric vehicles is slowly starting to gather pace in the UK, other alternatives to fossil fuels are starting to take place. The Toyota Mirai along with the Hyundai Nexo and Honda Clarity, although unavailable to buy now, are some of the first consumer road cars powered by only hydrogen. The recent innovation in hydrogen fuel cells means that cars powered by the energy source could be available sooner than we thought.
The Hydrogen Mobility Europe (H2ME) is a flagship project aimed at developing the first truly pan-European network of hydrogen refuelling stations. Funding from the EU will aim to increase the accessibility of these refuelling stations to make hydrogen-powered vehicles a more viable option for consumers
Hydrogen power will most likely be most suitable for service vehicles and large SUVs. Although electric vehicles will most likely be the most popular choice in the short term; many in the automotive industry believe that hydrogen power is more likely to be a more permanent replacement to fossil fuels.
While investment in electric vehicles is a smart move for the UK and mainstream electric vehicle uptake is inevitable, the automotive industry will likely focus on other alternatives to fossil fuels as well as electric, that may be a more suitable alternative in the next fifty years.