Electric cars – good news and also bad news!

The news that the Government intends to ban the sale of diesel and petrol cars by 2040 was greeted in some quarters as good news, moving away from unsustainable fossil fuels to more sustainable fuel sources.

On the surface this sounds like a good idea but and there are some big buts!

Tailpipe emissions will be reduced but not non-tailpipe emissions, where particulate matter is a problem;

Will there be sufficient renewable energy to maintain the fleet of vehicles?

The rare metals in lithium batteries are produced only in inconvenient places. More than 85% of the world’s supply comes from China. How dependent will that make us upon them? Mining these materials is far from environmentally friendly. Each tonne processed produces 2,000 tonnes of toxic waste, laced with ammonia and hydrochloric acid. Much is dumped into landfill, decimating agriculture and poisoning drinking water. The very manufacture of an electric vehicle can create a large carbon footprint, offsetting global warming benefits. Then there is the issue of safe disposal of obsolete batteries.. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jul/27/switch-to-electric-cars-clean-air-uk

Congestion will still be a problem, indeed if motoring costs were to fall, traffic levels would probably increase;

We already have significant land areas used for roads, the likelihood is that more land would end up being used for road space.

The fundamental problem is that we are too dependent on car use which has a range of negative impacts. Transferring to electric cars in itself will not resolve this. Indeed it could give the false impression that we can proceed with business as usual.

What we need to recognise is that using electricity from renewable sources is only part of the policy suite needed to create a more sustainable transport system. We need to reduce overall car use at the same time. Only then will we get the full benefits of electric cars!


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