MOTORING experts have warned the UK Government’s “green revolution” in banning new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 and replacing them with electric vehicles are massive and will cost trillions of pounds.
They pointed out how serious question-marks over creating the physical infrastructure to accommodate millions of electric cars and the loss of billions of pounds of fuel duty to the Exchequer meant “the risk is that this announcement creates could create “more problems than it solves”.
The AA’s Jack Cousens said the National Grid would be under pressure to “cope with a mass switch-on after the evening rush hour”.
Earlier this month, tIt comes after the company that runs Britain’s electricity network suggested electric vehicles could create as much as 18 gigawatts of additional demand for electricity at peak times by 2050; the equivalent of nearly six Hinkley Point nuclear power stations.
Jim Holder, editorial director of What Car? magazine, said it would be “a tall order” to increase the market share of electrified vehicles from just four per cent today of new car sales today to 100 per cent in just 23 years’ time.
A new survey of drivers underscored the challenge as it showed just two per cent intended to choose a fully electric model as their next vehicle compared to 68 per cent who said they planned to choose a petrol car and 21 per cent a diesel.
Quentin Willson, a former presenter of Top Gear, said it would cost trillions, adding: “You are going to have to get rid of 15 million diesel cars, you’ll have to change car factories, no more petrol stations; just think about what that’s going to do. I know it’s 23 years away but it is going to be a huge bill for both industry and consumers.”
Raising concerns about the practicalities, he asked: “Will we in 22 years have the infrastructure, the lithium-ion batteries that will give us one charge that delivers 300 miles? Will we be able to actually support all this new technology which is as yet not proven?”
Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, hailed the £3 billion initiative, forced on the Government by the courts, which ordered it to comply with EU limits on harmful nitrogen dioxide pollution.
The plan will not only include the plan to scrap new diesel and petrol cars but will also facilitate £255 million for councils to tackle air pollution locally.
Mr Grayling said the new plan showed how the Government was “determined to deliver a green revolution in transport and reduce pollution in our towns and cities”.
His Cabinet colleague, Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, added climate change, not just the estimated 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK caused by pollution meant “we can’t carry on with diesel and petrol cars”., not just because of the health problems that they cause but also because the emissions they cause would mean we would accelerate climate change, do damage to our planet and to the next generation.”
Asked if there was no alternative to more wind farms and nuclear power energy stations, the Scot replied: “There is no alternative to embracing new technology.”
But green campaigners insisted the drive by Whitehall lacked urgency and did not include a car scrappage scheme nor plans for immediate clean air zones. They claimed the Government was “kicking the can down the road”.
Greenpeace UK said 2040 was “far too late” and called for the UK to “lead the world in clean transport revolution”.
ClientEarth, the law firm that took the Government to court over pollution levels, branded its plans “underwhelming”, saying they were “lacking in urgency”.
Professor Neena Modi, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said air pollution was a “public health emergency” and that it was “frankly inexcusable” that the Government plans still did not go far enough.Air pollution causes an estimated 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK and is linked to health problems from childhood illnesses to heart disease and even dementia.