Peter Takes After EVs


Peter Takes After EVs

So, it’s all (mostly) about electric vehicles today. The world is polluted, we need to reduce emissions otherwise the bad things that are already happening are going to get worse. One thing that governments worldwide seem to be in agreement about is that it would be a good thing to cut emissions from road traffic and, so, we should all go electric. However, an increasing number of people are becoming fed up with the BS and downright lies that are being used to justify this movement.

The UK government has decided that the future will be electric, yet, as anyone who can read knows, electric vehicles don’t actually reduce pollution. The government say that EVs reduce C02. They do at the side of the road, but whether or not this is a real saving depends entirely on how the electricity is generated. 

Then we have the little issue of non-gaseous particulates. Electric vehicles are heavier so produce more particles from brakes, tires and road wear, all of which is harmful to hairless apes. The government know that building an EV actually produces so much more CO2 than making a gas guzzler that the vehicles have to be used for about ten years before the ICE overtakes the EV in terms of total CO2 output. 

The average horseless carriage lasts for about 11-12 years, so that’s a very long wait for a very small gain. And yet the government continues on the path that it has set for itself, meaning that 10 years from now, those of us Brits who can afford cars post Brexit, will be driving EVs, and car generated pollution will be getting worse. I wonder who they will blame?

Initially the government offered grants to try to persuade us to go electric. There were subsidies to make the cars more affordable and for home chargers. EVs were also exempt from the annual vehicle tax charge. They have all gone or are going and EVs will soon have to pay an annual £165 charge, which compares poorly with the £20 I pay for my dirty old diesel.

Of course, apart from the lie about saving the planet by buying an EV, the hook that was used to snare the havering buyer was that, once bought, running cost were so low that they would soon be in clover running their cars for pennies when us lesser mortals sold our children to fill our tanks. Cue Putin. Western Europe had become addicted to cheap Russian natural gas and when our lad Vlad moved into Ukraine and we objected, the little rascal turned off the gas and cheap electricity very quickly became a distant memory. 

In a like-for-like test on a trip that he regularly takes in his diesel, a correspondent found that he paid £90 to recharge a borrowed EV compared to £50 for derv and the trip took 90 minutes longer as he struggled to find a useable charger. The problem was magnified by the EV, which had a claimed fully charged range of 273 miles, but would actually only go 180. 

Apparently, this one-third difference was due to it being cold, but since it was a Volvo…. Another driver, Giles Coren, who is a bit of a media event over here, has very publicly dumped his Jaguar I-Pace citing a combination of persistent mechanical problems and the total inadequacy of the public charging network. According to Coren, two out of three public chargers are either broken or in use and although this may be journalistic hyperbole, the national roadside assistance organizations tell a similar story.

The Daily Telegraph offers further insights to the problem. Electric vehicles now make up around 15 percent of new car sales, but this plateaued in 2022 when it should be growing. A clear reason for this lack of expansion is the paucity of public charging points. There are about 18 cars per charger, but this rises to about 100 cars per rapid or ultra-rapid charger, meaning that anyone wanting to top up their battery at the roadside is doomed to a long wait, possibly for hours. However, that assumes that the charger is working. In a recent spot check in Stratford Upon Avon, which is a major tourist attraction, half the charges were busted.

The government response seems to be to witter on about the need to consider changes to how charging points are regulated, to make them more reliable. Perhaps this should have come first? However, on closer inspection it seems that the real problem is the lack of suitably skilled people to do the job. Perhaps it would be more productive if, instead of stamping their feet, the government funded some training?

So, I am forced to conclude that EVs are an evolutionary dead end. Notwithstanding that, the need to reduce vehicle generated pollution remains and is becoming daily more urgent. I am not alone in this with both BMW and Toyota expressing concerns. One commentator put it succinctly: “Legislating to make new electric cars the only option amounts to ideological zealotry that bears little resemblance to what is actually achievable.” 

Hugo Griffiths, the consumer editor of online car marketplace Carwow, has a similar view: “Ministers can come up with all manner of high-minded policies from the back of an electric limousine, yet there remains a huge gulf between blue-sky political thinking, and how much cobalt and lithium can actually be dug out of the ground for EV battery packs.”

With that in mind, I was very interested in a report from Australia. Engineers at the University of New South Wales having been working with the mining industry to reduce their carbon footprint. 

What these clever guys have done is adapt a heavy plant diesel engine to run mainly on Hydrogen. The adapted engine runs on 90 percent hydrogen with a small amount of diesel (presumably 10 percent). 

The result is an 85 percent drop in CO2 emissions. 

Not perfect, but to my simple mind, it seems that, by adapting existing technology we could obtain an immediate significant operating benefit. When you remember, see above, that EVs produce so much more CO2 being manufactured, than ICE vehicles, it could truly be a game changer.

ULEZ or Ultra Low Emission Zone is probably not a concept with which most of you will be familiar. The idea is simple: when traffic generated pollution has reached unacceptable levels, the local council can create a ULEZ. The intention of the ULEZ is to deter the use of older vehicles with more polluting engines. 

The council can’t quite ban them, access rights and all that, but it can introduce a daily charge to encourage owners to either get a less polluting car or use public transport. Central London has such a zone and now the London Mayor is planning to roll this out across the whole of the capital. 

The reason is quite rational: pollution is too high, and people are dying. Notwithstanding that, some of the Boroughs, the county of London is made up of 33 Boroughs, have told the mayor that they will not allow him to install the enforcement cameras and signs on their roads. I wonder how many deaths they would consider to be OK?

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