CHRISTOPHER BOOKER THE LAST WORD
The Government’s electric cars policy is based on unworkable make-believe – and here’s why
Those of us who follow such matters have long been wondering what issue will finally wake up the general public to just how dangerous our country’s climate and energy policy has become, as it is increasingly based on mad wishful thinking. We once thought that this might be when our ever greater dependence on unreliably intermittent renewable sources of electricity combined with the phasing out of fossil fuels to produce inevitable massive power blackouts.
But bearing down on us much faster than we realise is the Government’s declared intention that by 2040 we must abandon conventional petrol and diesel cars completely, to drive nothing but electric vehicles (EVS). This is so riddled with contradictions that it is more crazily unworkable than any other policy – and is being made even more so by the recommendation of a Commons committee that sales of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars should all be banned as early as 2032.
Evidence suggests that, despite years of lavish subsidies, EVS are so unpopular and expensive that they still represent only a tiny fraction of the 30 million cars on our roads (the majority of them self-charging hybrids on which subsidies end this week). The most obvious reason for this is that charging the battery of an allelectric car can take hours, for a drive of often less than 80 miles, when so far there are barely 20,000 public charging points, which EV drivers might have to wait further hours to access.
To cover the country with a proper network of hundreds of thousands of charging points would cost billions and take years. And, as Paul Homewood noted in a recent devastating analysis on his blog Notalotofpeopleknowthat, nearly half the country’s households have no off-street parking, which for most could rule out charging at home through the night.
How is this colossally complex transition going to be managed when petrol pumps inevitably start to disappear, while there are still nothing like enough charging points to guarantee that a motorist setting out on a full charge will be able to refuel when the battery runs out? And National Grid calculates that by 2040 we shall need an extra eight to 10 gigawatts of reliable, low-carbon electricity that could only be supplied by three or four new nuclear power stations, which as yet there are no practical signs we shall have.
Our car manufacturers face a huge transition problem of their own, when they can no longer contemplate investing hundreds of millions on a new petrol-driven model, while motorists still think it a better bet to buy such cars before the ban than to switch to a much less reliable EV. The demand for newer cars will simply open up the market to a temporary flood of imports from abroad.
As Homewood observes, if the politicians persist in their crazy make-believe, we will see the first impacts of this hopelessly unthought-through hiatus appearing around us as early as 2025. Stand by for unimaginable chaos.
For too long in discussing Brexit, many politicians have made giveaway basic mistakes that show that they do not really know what they are talking about. One is when they discuss whether, on leaving the EU, we should still try to remain “in the customs union”; when only 10 seconds on Wikipedia could tell them that belonging to the customs union is open only to EU members.
Another suggestion, now heard more frequently, is that we should apply to “rejoin the European Economic Area” (EEA), to which of course we still belong as EU members. Theresa May may insist that leaving the EU means that we will also leave the EEA, as if one automatically follows the other. But what she has never publicly shown herself aware of is that to leave the EEA in fact requires a quite separate legal procedure, under Article 127 of the 1994 EEA Agreement, an international treaty between the EEA and the EU.
In order to leave the EEA we will have to conduct quite separate negotiations with the EEA itself. How ironic it would be if, on leaving the EU, we were to find ourselves still, by default, members of something Mrs May insists we must be out of. All because, on this – as on so many other technical issues – she did not grasp the details of what she was up against.
We will see the first impacts by 2025. Stand by for chaos