It’s the pin-up of the Net Zero cause, set to decarbonise personal transportation and speed us all into a glorious green future.
Indeed, under current Government plans, electric will be the only kind of new car we will be allowed to buy after 2035. And even before that, in 2030, the sale of purely petrol or diesel cars will be banned, with hybrids the only fuel-driven option available.
Just this week, Rishi Sunak announced that Tata Motors — which owns Jaguar Land Rover — will invest £4 billion in a new electric car battery factory in Somerset in order to power the incoming fleet of e-vehicles.
But is the electric car really as green as it appears?
True, pure electric cars don’t have exhaust pipes, so, unlike petrol and diesel models, they don’t spew out toxic gases as they are driven.
But that doesn’t make them ‘zero-emission vehicles’ — as they are sometimes mistakenly called — not by a long way.
So where do they truly score — and where do they fall down — when it comes to their environmental credentials?
How power station emissions are key
An electric car is only as clean as the electricity used to charge it and, in 2022 — the latest year for which official figures are available — Britain still derived 40.3 per cent of its electricity from fossil fuels.
A further 10.6 per cent came from ‘thermal renewables’, typically industrial power stations that burn wood chips harvested from forests, mostly in the U.S. While the Government likes to call this ‘zero carbon’ energy, wood-chip power stations spew out large quantities of carbon dioxide.
As for genuine renewables — wind, solar and hydro — they accounted for just 30.4 per cent of electricity generation. The Government clearly has its work cut out to meet the 2035 deadline for eliminating fossil fuels from the national grid because we are still nowhere near solving the problem of intermittency — what to do when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.
All the possible solutions — massive battery storage, or hydrogen production — look like being fantastically expensive. For now, driving an electric car simply displaces carbon emissions from roads to distant power stations.
It takes more carbon to make an EV . . .