Busting the myths surrounding electric vehicles

Greg Archer, head of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP) took to the Stage at The Environmental Technology show this week in an attempt to dispel some of the fog surrounding the facts on electric transport.

“There are lots of myths out there at the moment, some exaggerate the benefits, some the downsides,” he said.

“I want people to understand the reality and base their decisions on that.”

He said that the first myth was that, due to taking electricity produced by fossil fuels from the grid, they do not save carbon.

“They do,” he said.

“Even with the current grid an electric car will get around a 25 to 30% saving over its lifecycle, and as the grid is decarbonised, so those benefits will increase.

“We can decarbonise our electricity supply more quickly than we can address the emissions from petrol or diesel vehicles.”

Myth number two, he said, is that electric vehicles are the solution to decarbonising transport.

“They are one solution, but there is no silver bullet,” he said.

While electric vehicles are appropriate for some uses, they won’t meet everyone’s needs.

The third myth flagged up by Mr Archer is that there’s an electric vehicle revolution just around the corner.

“There are already niche markets for electric vehicles but it’s unrealistic to expect to see tens of millions of them on our roads in the next ten years.”

Obstacles to an overnight transformation include consumers’ reluctance to pay higher prices up front for savings on fuel bills down the road and lack of infrastructure.

Fourth on his list was the belief that electric vehicles were not yet easily available and were unlikely to reach the market for several years.

“Electric vehicles are available that you can go out and buy now,” he said.

“And a whole range is becoming available from major manufacturers over the next couple of years.”

The fifth myth was that there would be a rapid and sudden consumer uptake of electric vehicles. He argued that the process would take time, as people needed to replace vehicles and government incentives began to be felt.

Another unwarranted fear, he said, was that the use of electric vehicles would overwhelm the grid and lead to power shortages.

Realistic predictions would see electric vehicles responsible for up to 0.2% of the country’s total demand by 2020 and between one and eight per cent by 2030.

“That’s not going to cause the electricity supply to be destabilised,” he said.

Suggestions that electric vehicles would act as mini-generators and mobile storage devices, putting electricity back into the grid at peak times and drawing it back overnight were also unlikely to become reality, he said, unless the energy companies owned the batteries themselves, since frequent charging and discharging would shorten the life of the batteries.

The final myth, he said, was that the UK was not doing much and risked being left behind.

“Government has made £250m available in £5,000 grants for those buying electric vehicles,” said Mr Archer.

It has also put aside £140m for R&D and £30m for infrastructure, along with £20m for public procurement.

“Electric vehicles are going to play a really key role in transport infrastructure in the future,” he said.

“There are significant barriers to market adoption and it’s going to take time for the market to grow, but it will happen.”

Sam Bond

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