Is this the start of the electric car revolution?
Posted by Louisa Clarke on 18 July 2017 at 9:01 am
Last year the number of electric cars reached 2 million globally, and the number continues to grow. Despite this, electric cars still only hold a small share of the global car stock (with an estimated 1.2 billion vehicles worldwide). However, recent news of Volvo’s transition to electric cars and France’s plan to ban cars that use petrol or diesel by 2040, suggests that we could be seeing the beginning of the electric car revolution.
Last week Volvo announced its bold plans for all cars released after 2019 to be fully electric or hybrid. These range from battery only cars, to plug in hybrids that use electricity for a certain distance before changing to petrol or diesel. They will launch 5 fully electric cars between 2019 and 2021, and will ensure that the rest of their range has a hybrid engine. This is the first major car manufacturer to move towards a 100% electric car stock, which represents a change to a more carbon conscious automotive industry.
In addition, a day after Volvo released its plans, France declared that they would end sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. This ambitious plan is part of Emmanuel Macron’s renewed commitment to the Paris Climate Change Agreement (which could, at least partially, be seen as a response to Donald Trump pulling the US from the accord). The legislation sets out plans to give financial assistance to poorer households to help them replace their older cars with electric ones. Macron admitted that this would be difficult, but was hopeful that French car manufacturers and the public would meet the challenge. Just 1.1% of new car registrations last year were for electric vehicles in France, so they have a long way to go. Other countries with similar commitments include Norway, who has a target of only allowing sales of purely electric or plug in hybrid cars by 2025. While the UK has aspired to all cars being electric by 2040, it has not set out concrete plans yet.
These two big announcements have renewed the electric car debate, and other similar initiatives have also been reported on. One is the proposal for street lamps in London to be turned into electric car charging points. Some street lamps in a number of London boroughs, including Westminster and Barnes, have already been adapted to charge electric cars. This offers a solution to the problem of there being too few charging points and allows those without off street parking the ability to charge their cars near to their homes. This YouGen blog discusses this further.
Furthermore, another initiative is new electric black cabs in London. Transport for London is spending £18 million on updating London’s power grids to charge battery powered taxis within minutes. Under law, by the 1st January 2018 all new black cabs will need to be battery-powered electric cars.
So is this the start of the electric car revolution? As seen by these examples, there is an increasing focus on the need to transition to electric cars in order to reduce carbon emissions and air pollution. However, the main factor halting widespread growth in the electric car industry is the lack of suitable infrastructure. The UK’s energy grid is not prepared for a sudden increase in electric cars, and in areas where there is a high concentration of them there could be local drops in voltage, causing potential blackouts. Clearly there is a change in attitude towards electric cars, and we could be switching to electric cars sooner than expected, but only if the infrastructure is improved.
A number of our SuperHome owners own electric cars. Shirley and George from SuperHome number 216 in Glenrothes have 3 electric cars that are partly fuelled by renewable energy from their solar panels. John and Ceilia from SuperHome number 154 have 3 car charging points that are fuelled by 100% green electric. Both of these SuperHomes have Open Days this September, where you can ask questions about their cars and charging points, and they can inspire you to make the change towards electric cars. To book a place on their open days please visit the above links.
Image credit: Hakan Dahlstrom, via Flickr.
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About the author: Louisa is a summer volunteer at The National Energy Foundation working primarily on the SuperHomes project. She is in her second year of studying Geography at Birmingham and is passionate about renewable energy and sustainability-related issues.
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