The government’s target for one million EVs on the country roads is not credible according to many experts. If this target is going to be missed (and the government’s record to date on any EV target is poor) then we need a better target.
The majority of EVs are likely going to be second cars for two-car households with the EV likely to be relegated to short hops to the gym, school or the local shops. This being the case, then the impact on carbon emissions of a more significant number of EVs is likely to be small. For longer journeys such as weekends away or business trips, then a car with an ICE (internal combustion engine) will be the choice for many.
A more effective target would be to increase the proportion of car trips made by EVs whilst at the same time increasing the number of EVs. The target for the number of EVs can then be more realistic, perhaps 500,000 by 2030. This more realistic target for the number of EVs together with greater use of EVs should be designed such that it would achieve the same carbon emission reduction target as one million EVs.
This revised target allows some flexibility. For example, doubling the use of the existing fleet of EVs at the expense of ICE would have a similar effect to doubling the number of EVs (whilst saving the government the cost of grant subsidies). The first question is, how do you encourage the greater use of existing EVs? The second question is, why is an ICE car so attractive for long trips?
Answering the second question first is perhaps easier. The answer is from personal experience. My wife recently bought an EV, and whilst my wife does little driving, less than 5,000 km per year whilst my diesel car average 40,000 km per year. As an EV is enjoyable to drive (silent, fantastic acceleration and a bit of smugness), we decide to take on some longer journeys knowing that we would have to stop and recharge. And that is where the problem is. The trip was long and required two recharges at fast charge locations (Gorey town on the way down and Coynes Cross M11 on the way back). On both occasions, we had to queue as someone else was charging. The total wait time was 40 minutes before we could charge. Whilst you can have a coffee or a meal whilst charging, you can’t do that whilst queuing for the charger.
The solution to eliminating queuing at chargers is obvious, more fast charge points and doubling up of charge points at busy locations. Our recent experience has taught us that the EV is only for short journeys. As a result, our longer journeys will always be by diesel.
As for the first question, there are many solutions. These could include:
- Priority parking locations for EVs at shopping centres
- Limiting on street parking of ICE vehicles and giving preference to EVs
- Reduced NCT test fees for EVs (as there are no emissions to be checked there should be scope for reducing fees)
- Zero road tax
- Interest fee loans
In short, if a target can’t be reached, then it is time to think again about what we are trying to achieve. The one million EV target should not be the end game; the end game is carbon emission reduction in transport. Increasing the number of EVs alone does not achieve that reduction, it is a mix of actions which include using the EVs in preference to ICE vehicles (or perhaps not driving at all).
Bob Sutcliffe, a director at Environmental Efficiency, is a Certified Energy Manager working with clients to achieve compliance with the EU Energy Efficiency Directive.