Another Uncomfortable Truth About EVs


Another Uncomfortable Truth About EVs

Over here, the heyday for building car parks was in the 60s and 70s. Cars were transitioning from the preserve of a wealthy minority to the achievable aspiration of everyman. Mass appeal cars like the Mini were appearing in more and more driveways, creating a need for town center structures to accommodate them. These buildings would have had a fifty-year design life, and so, are now approaching the end of their useful life. 


Now, every few days it seems there are another few lines written announcing that another one of these buildings has reached the end. It seems to be a combination of the building wearing out; “beyond structural repair” is a common phrase and “no longer fit for purpose,” as in too small bays. One six-level structure not too far from me, with about 600 spaces, has been demolished and is going to be replaced with a surface car park with bigger bays. So that’s 600 replaced by about 100. None of these “Death Notices” mention the expectation that a new structure will be built any time soon. I think that I know why. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, activity has dropped dramatically, and it hasn’t ever fully recovered. My town center closed one parking structure; it has never reopened and is now listed for demolition.


I am not a great fan of electric vehicles. Don’t get me wrong, I think that we are way past the time that we needed to reduce pollution. The trouble is that the government’s made the wrong decision. Instead of doing something within their competence, deciding what level of air quality is needed and setting a timescale to achieve it, they decided that they were the experts, and defined the solution. The problem is the end customers, you, and me, don’t like it much and it can’t do the job. 


So much do UK motorists not like EVs that, once again, EV sales to private buyers have started to tumble. Rather than accept there is a problem, the government is whinging about all the misleading, aka true, adverse publicity in the media. In a recent parliamentary committee, one peer cited the scare stories about electric vehicles catching fire, although apparently EV fires are no more common than ICE fires. This rather ignores the propensity for EVs to spontaneously combust, and the severity of the blaze when they do. Anywho, the UK now has just over 1 million EVs, and if sales continue at the same rate, the government’s 2035 target for no new ICE vehicles would be reached about 2055!


I think that it would have been much, much better if the government had set a target for CO2 reduction and allowed industry to innovate across the full range of available technology to achieve the desired end. Already in the last few days I have seen stories about manufacturers wanting to move away from batteries to hydrogen fuel cells and even LPG and Hydrogen fueled internal combustion engines. Any of these offers pollution-free power without the major drawbacks of EVs and yet are unlikely to ever get a fair chance because there are no plans to provide the infrastructure that they need to refuel.


Talking about negative publicity, the government’s own watchdog, The Advertising Standards Authority, which is responsible for truth in advertising, has just slapped down BMW for claiming that their EV are zero emissions. The ASA ruled this was unacceptable since, although the vehicles may not produce CO2 at the point of use, they most certainly do during manufacture and charging. The government still insists on talking about zero emission vehicles and when challenged about, what on the face of it, is a dammed lie, rather than admit any error they chose instead to simply redefine the meaning of the words. Wasn’t there a U.S. state which back in the 1800s, rather than having to deal with intricacies of transcendental numbers simply legislated that the value of the mathematical constant Π was 3.2? It didn’t end well.


Meanwhile, the good people of Paris have just voted to triple parking charges for non-resident SUVs. Paris will be hosting this year’s Olympic games and, in advance of this, the mayor badly wants to be seen to be taking positive steps to reduce pollution. The cost to park SUVs in Paris’s central districts for drivers that do not have a special license from local authorities is set to soar to €18 per hour for the first two hours, compared to €6 per hour for smaller cars. After that, parking will become increasingly punitive with a six-hour stay costing €225 compared to €75 for smaller vehicles. These charges will also apply to EVs that weigh over two tons.


Another uncomfortable truth about EVs is that, because they are heavier than an equivalent ICE car, they cause a lot more damage to the road surface. My county’s roads would now embarrass a third world country with potholes that go well below the top wearing surface into the substructure. This year’s county road budget is £132m; that’s for new roads, signs, repairs, everything. The response to the growing road repair crisis is to cut this budget by £7.5m, or about 5 percent, next year.


And finally, I have reached that age where I need to start clearing out a working lifetime’s detritus. Reports and studies that were groundbreaking 30 years ago now have no value apart from a sentimental attachment to places and people that are now long gone. During this effort, I came across a magazine that I don’t even remember acquiring. Dated July 1998, Volume 1 Number 1 of Journal of Parking’s the lead article was “The High Cost of Free Parking” by one Donald C Shoup. The magazine’s editor was a certain John Van Horn! Was there ever a Volume 2, John?

Article contributed by:
Peter Guest, Parking Tales from Big Ben
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