Electric Cars, Buses and Trucks – Problems Remain

Electric cars are rapidly becoming more viable, both economically and practically, for many vehicle users. They can surely be helpful in cleaning up London’s air which needs improving because there are still hot spots of air pollution in the City. The Freedom for Drivers Foundation is fully supportive of the Government’s encouragement of electric vehicles although we see potential problems with the banning of the sale of all new internal combustion engined (IC) cars in 2030. That now includes a ban on many hybrid vehicles which can be a good compromise for those who have no off-road parking (and hence cannot easily plug in their vehicles) or do long journeys to remote parts of the country.

2030 is of course a long time away and the range of electric cars may be very different then, and the cost much lower, which are the two things that put off many people from buying them at present. Batteries need improving to extend the range of vehicles and reduce recharging time. But this can probably only be done to a limited extent with Lithium-ion batteries, the predominant technology in use at present.

There was a good article published by the Financial Times recently on the battery problem and how it might be solved by the development of solid-state batteries. It suggested batteries will be available to give a 700km range for cars, although it’s probably a few years away before they could be put into mass production. See https://www.ft.com/content/c4e075b8-7289-4756-9bfe-60bf50f0cf66

With improved batteries, giving longer range and an improved charging infrastructure around the country, one can see that by 2030 there may be no good reason for most people to worry about having to buy an electric vehicle although those with no off-road parking may still face problems as kerb-side charging is still an issue.

Buses in London are still a major contributor to air pollution and although the Mayor has made promises about the increased use of electric or hybrid buses, particularly in central London, those promises are slow in realisation. It will not be until 2037 that all 9,200 buses across London will be zero emission. The Mayor and TfL are also betting on the use of hydrogen. See https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/environment/pollution-and-air-quality/cleaner-buses for more details. Other Mayoral candidates have promised a faster roll out of electric buses.

HGVs and LGVs are another major source of pollution. LGVs (vans) are available in electric form but do not yet seem very popular, probably because of the price. An electric Ford Transit (E-Transit) won’t even be available before 2022.

HGVs have also been a problem because of the limited loads they can carry and the need for frequent recharging.  But UK Bakery company Warburtons have recently announced the acquisition of its first 16 tonne electric truck, a Renault Trucks D Z.E. The vehicle has been given Warburtons orange livery with the slogan “Our electric trucks are the best thing since sliced bread” on the side.

It will be used to operate out of its Enfield bakery and can cover up to 150 kilometres on a single charge. It can carry around six tonnes of bread and bakery products to multiple locations across London.

One can see that the market for new electric vehicles of all kinds is rapidly changing. They are becoming more viable for many people and for many applications. With used IC vehicles being available for many years and the market for second-hand electric vehicles developing, there seems to be no reason to oppose the Government’s policies in principle.

However, there are particular problems in London due to the pace of change and the ULEZ implementation. Those who own older vehicles, particularly diesel ones, will need to buy a newer vehicle come October 2021 or pay £12.50 per day if they live within the South Circular. For retired people, this could be a major if not impossible burden when they are often people who rely on their cars to get around. Tradespeople who use older vans also face the same problem.

The current Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has not considered the plight of such people and how their problems could be relieved. The basic issue is the application of rules about the taxation of vehicles retrospectively, i.e. to vehicles that were legal to drive anywhere when they were purchased. This is morally wrong.

It would not hamper the general move to lower emissions to give such users some relief.    

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page (see under the About tab) to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.