Time for some clear facts on electric vehicles and infrastructure

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When it comes to vehicle technology, for those not very closely involved in the detail nitty-gritty, the whole subject of low-emission and zero-emission can seem complex and unwieldy, especially if you are a vehicle operator.

It’s not helped by reports in the general media that tend to pick on one area of concern and blow it out of proportion. The classic being – if we all have electric vehicles (EVs) – we don’t have enough electricity and the lights will go out.

That is not true, as National Grid has made clear, although there are changes already underway to strengthen parts of the distribution network in local areas where this is needed. Again, this isn’t new and it’s something that’s always happened as demand for electricity changes.

If you want to know more about this subject, then check-out the exciting sessions at next week’s ITT Hub ‘Future Logistics’ conference, on Wednesday 30 June and Thursday 1 July.

And, don’t be put off by the title – in fact it covers passenger transport as well as freight. Full details are here, and you should register today to be assured of getting into the exhibition and conference, as places are limited!

For those who register and attend the show, if you miss a conference session, then you will be able to view it on ‘catch-up’ which will only be available to people who turn up on site on either of the two days. Plug over!

But where do you go for a comprehensive overview of where we are and what the government’s role is? If you are an MP then you can avail yourself of the House of Commons Library. As well as a repository, it also has a team of researchers whose role is to produce ‘briefing papers’.

These are well researched, full of facts and links, and importantly are free from any political or other basis.

The aim is that an MP can easily access information about any subject and become a sort of ‘instant expert’. That’s helpful as while many MPs have a specialist area of knowledge, they can’t be expected to know everything so these research briefings are very helpful.

Little-known outside parliament – as they are full of facts rather than opinions, so never make the general media – happily they are also made freely available to anyone who wants them.

The output of the House of Commons (HoC) Library is prodigious – in a typical week a dozen or so papers are released and this morning’s publication of Electric Vehicles and Infrastructure is very timely.

It would appear to have been slightly delayed, as it’s not unreasonable to assume that it was intended to be published at the same time as the Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan.

This is an overarching plan to decarbonise transport, which will cover all road vehicles as well as the rail, aviation and freight sectors.

Officially due to be published in ‘Spring 2021’ informed sources tell us that it’s been sent back with a ‘not good enough, try harder’ type homework message after it lacked the ambition to meet targets, including the 2030 ban on new diesel and petrol vehicles. The plan was originally due to be published before the end of 2020 and was then pushed back to spring 2021.

We don’t yet know when it will be published, but a plan that is going to work, published later than intend is much better than one that’s out on time but full of holes.

Meanwhile, there’s much to absorb in the HoC Library’s 68-page paper.

As it’s written to support the work for MPs, it doesn’t assume huge amounts of prior knowledge, or get stuck into difficult technical areas. This doesn’t mean it’s lightweight, indeed it’s an invaluable document bringing together information not available elsewhere in a non-biased form.

It covers four main areas:

  • Government measures to encourage uptake of EVs
  • International comparisons
  • Additional electricity demand
  • Environmental Impact: EVs and conventional vehicles

While cars are inevitably the focus of much of the work – cars represent 92% of the 432,000 ULEVS licensed (1.1% of all licensed vehicles) at the end of 2020 – there are also electric motorcycles, taxis, buses, vans and heavy goods vehicles.

It also examines what other countries around the world are doing and what this, and previous governments have done to support progress.

For example, since the start of grants a decade ago, the English Government-funded Low Emission Bus Scheme and Ultra-Low Emission Bus Schemes have delivered 742 low emission vehicles, of which 263 are zero emission.

There have been a variety of strategies employed over the past decade to encourage the uptake of EVs, says the ‘paper. Since 2011, the Government has supported EV ownership through the plug-in grant scheme.

Additionally, the Government plans to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans from 2030, while only fully zero-emission vehicles will be sold from 2035.

The number of EV charge points per 100km of road in the United Kingdom has increased from 42 in 2011 to 570 in 2019. Whilst the Government expect most charging to take place at home, the CCC suggest 1,170 chargepoints will be required per 100 km of road by 2030.

The Government aims to have a globally recognised EV charging network. This is supported by £1.3 billion funding, covering the strategic road network, homeowners, local authorities (for on-street charging), and workplace, alongside regulatory changes.

Some people would argue that while EVs improve local air quality and reduce point-of-use emissions they are not a ‘silver bullet’ as they are not net-zero when considering the whole life cycle of a vehicle and sub-components, as well as the particulate matter emitted on-street.

And, that’s the purpose of this paper – to give you the facts to make your own mind up, and the resources to delve deeper if you wish.

We commend it for a close read!

Download the House of Commons briefing paper below:

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