Electric vehicles are not the answer to all our transport woes but they are a big part of the change we need on transport, and they are coming quicker than you might think.
Watch any city street and you cannot help notice that Teslas are now common place, some delivery vans proudly boast that they are all-electric and a range of other electric vehicles, from other brands of cars to electric double-decker buses, are growing in numbers.
Electric vehicles are taking off in a big way. Electric car sales in the UK increased by 40% last year with around one in four new cars being pure electric or hybrid electric. The leading European country is Norway, with almost four out of five of all new cars being electric last year.
The UK and Scottish governments plan to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2030. The Scottish targets also includes vans. The EU is aiming for 2035. Until recently forecasts predicted that 40% of vehicles sold in China would be electric by 2030. It is now quite likely that level will be reached this year, seven years ahead of previous expectations. The US is about to set a target of nearly 70% of new vehicles to be electric by 2032, with California already aiming for 100% by 2035.
Even the freight industry is keen, with 44 companies from Maersk to Unilever calling on the EU to set a target of 100% electric for new lorries by 2035.
The low emission zones coming into being in Scotland’s four biggest cities will also encourage individuals, bus companies, taxi fleets and delivery companies to switch to electric power.
Of course electric cars aren’t perfect – they still crash into people, the wearing of their tyres creates air pollution and a car-based society is one of divided communities and built-in inequality. But electric vehicles, especially for buses, taxis and final delivery vehicles, are a huge improvement over our current dependence on climate-wrecking fossil-fuelled vehicles.
Fossil-fuelled vehicles will not gradually fade away over decades. There will come a tipping point, when petrol and diesel cars will disappear rapidly. Most petrol stations, as well as supermarket car parks and multi-stories, have already installed electric vehicle charging points. When all new cars and most cars on the road are electric, supplying the dwindling number of fossil-fuelled cars and vans will become very expensive, with rising prices for the much smaller quantities of petrol and diesel still being sold and pumps being removed to make way for more profitable uses of the land, especially electric vehicle charging.
Drivers of early electric vehicles used to suffer from ‘range anxiety’ – the worry that you will run out of charge before you get to your destination or to a charging point. Ironically, this phenomenon will start to hit fossil fuelled drivers as fewer and fewer ‘petrol stations’ actually sell petrol and diesel any more.
In the end petrol and diesel vehicles will not disappear because government’s ban them, but because there will be fewer and fewer places to fill them up with increasingly expensive legacy fuels. The only question is how quickly this will happen.
A version of this blog was published in the Scotsman newspaper on 13th April 2023.
Image: Cityswift https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/