It must be my week to bash environmental ideas. Yesterday's announcement by the Government for grants of up to £5,000 for people to buy electric and plug-in hybrid cars from 2011 will do precisely nothing to curb the UK's carbon emissions.
Well, not quite precisely nothing. Road transport currently accounts for about 21% of the UK's carbon emissions. The £250m the Government announced yesterday is aimed at trebling the number of electric cars on the road, which sounds impressive until you realise that they would still only account for 0.3% of vehicles. If you do the maths, that means the increase in electric vehicles will get rid of approximately 0.063% of the UK's carbon emissions (actually slightly less than that, as the production and recharging of electric cars would still produce a certain amount of carbon emissions).
I would gently suggest that this is utterly irrelevant. I suspect it would be far more effective to encourage people to convert from gas guzzling cars to more fuel efficient motors, such as the Fiat Panda diesel that I drive.
And another reason why the £250m the Government's spending on this is going to be wasted is that electric cars are not yet at the stage where they are a reliable enough form of motoring for most people. Most electric cars have a fairly limited range and take a significant amount of time to recharge the batteries. Until electric cars have a range of about 200 miles and take about half an hour to recharge their batteries (ie the amount of time many motorists would spend in a motorway service station), I suspect I, like 99.7% of motorists, will not be interested in buying one.
The £250m would be far better spent on helping manufacturers improve battery technology substantially rather than being used to subsidise the purchase of the inadequate electric cars we have at the moment. Yesterday's announcement was far more about the Government wanting to be seen to be green than about any practical action to reduce carbon emissions from road transport.
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