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Thank God for the European Union. I never thought I’d write those words so I’m doing it again. Thank God for the EU.
It is true that it is not usually a deposit of prudence. I could give examples of bad behavior from Brussels, especially regarding the Northern Ireland protocol. But at least on one issue he is showing a glimmer of good sense.
On Tuesday, the EU approved a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2035, five years after the UK. Brussels will also allow internal combustion engines after 2035, as long as they use environmentally friendly ‘e-fuels’. The British Government has made no such concession.
It doesn’t take a PhD in engineering to understand that electric cars aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Evidently, the powerful German automobile industry has relied on its politicians, who have twisted the arm of the bureaucrats in Brussels. German automakers love fast cars and dream of their wonderful machines roaring down the highways, powered by e-fuels.
Our dear politicians have no such hopes. They are betting heavily on electric cars and have decreed that, in just seven years, new gasoline and diesel cars will no longer be in dealerships.
But could e-fuels be an alternative to electric cars? I don’t have technical experience in this area, but for several reasons it seems like a question worth asking.
According to Baroness Brown, interviewed yesterday morning on Radio 4’s Today programme, e-fuels are so expensive that they could never be adapted to normal cars. She is a scientist with a background in engineering and it is possible that she knows her onions very well. She is also very concerned about climate change.
Andrew Graves, a car industry expert and professor at the University of Bath, offers a very different view. He says e-fuels are an “exciting technology that we can not only use for motorsports, but also to keep existing vehicles on the road.”
Graves adds that “there are many things the Government needs to examine before pursuing a blanket ban on diesel or gasoline.” It was Boris Johnson, of course, who announced the 2030 cap, apparently without much thought to the consequences for the rest of us.
Naturally, I hope that Mr. Graves is right and Baroness Brown is wrong. It doesn’t take a PhD in engineering to understand that electric cars aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Nor do I forget that the man who has specialized in apocalyptic warnings about climate change, King Charles, told us last year that he drives his Aston Martin on “excesses of English white wine and whey from cheese processing.” There may be more things in heaven and earth than Baroness Brown’s philosophy dreams of.
One thing is clear: buying electric cars is tremendously expensive. You’ll be lucky to have plenty of change from £40,000 for a halfway decent one, and you can easily pay a lot more. As larger volumes are manufactured, the price may drop.
People used to say that although they cost a lot more to buy, they are a lot cheaper to run. With the sharp increase in the price of electricity, this may no longer be the case.
On Tuesday, the EU approved a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2035, five years after the UK (file photo of a gas station in Savenay, France)
In fact, a recent RAC analysis suggested that electric cars are more expensive on the road than petrol ones. Charging to travel 484 miles on a public network cost £92.69, while filling a 55-litre petrol car to travel the same distance cost £83.03. However, charging at home is still cheaper than buying fuel.
Then there is the difficulty of finding charging points in the right place. As a gasoline car driver, I have never experienced this inconvenience, but I have read articles about anxious drivers searching for that elusive charging point before their car breaks down.
We should also consider the likelihood that electric vehicles are not as environmentally friendly as their proponents claim. Batteries are made of materials such as nickel, lithium and cobalt, the extraction of which requires a lot of energy. The electricity they use can be produced with gas, which is not considered ecological.
Maybe in the end everything will work out and in ten years we will be happily driving our economical, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly electric vehicles. I wouldn’t count on that though.
The truth is that our rulers have gambled everything (that is, us) on this policy in doubly quick time, and there is absolutely no guarantee that their gamble will pay off. It certainly wasn’t like that the last time they tried.
I’m thinking about the great diesel disaster. A quarter of a century ago, politicians and automakers conspired to induce us to buy diesel cars, which emit about 15 percent less carbon dioxide than equivalent gasoline models.
In 2001, Gordon Brown, as chancellor, reduced vehicle excise duty on diesel. He also reduced the tax on diesel at the pump to encourage motorists to switch to petrol. The diesel was good. The diesel was green.
Except it wasn’t. Diesel cars emit much more rust and nitrogen dioxide than petrol cars, which is why their owners are now charged to drive older vehicles in London and other cities. They are being penalized for doing what the government and automakers encouraged them to do.
Could the hasty push to get us to buy electric cars end in a similar debacle? Could there be a flaw in the plan (environmental or financial) that will end up with us picking up the pieces?
I don’t know. What I do know is that the decision to phase out all new petrol and diesel vehicles in just seven years has been made without any regard for the pockets of ordinary people.
Our political elite has forgotten its previous failure with diesel. He cheerfully issues a decree committing us to using untested electric cars and sticks a more or less random pin in the wall calendar.
In 2001, Gordon Brown (pictured) as Chancellor reduced vehicle excise duty on diesel.
That is why I applaud the EU. At least he has planned for five more years before the guillotine falls. By allowing the use of e-fuels, the possibility has been kept alive that there may be a viable, less disruptive alternative to electric vehicles that is suitably green.
I wish the Government had the intelligence to follow the EU’s example, although yesterday Energy Secretary Grant Shapps said it will not. Today he will reveal his latest thoughts on net zero.
Struggling drivers deserve a break, as does Britain’s withering car industry. It will find it harder to attract investment when factories in Germany and France still produce gasoline and diesel models.
Couldn’t our imperious Government (not to mention the eco-warriors breathing down its neck) show a little more good sense, as the EU has done? This country is believed to be responsible for just 1 percent of all global emissions.
According to official figures, transport accounts for a quarter of the UK’s emissions. So we are talking about 1/400 of the world’s greenhouse gas production. Meanwhile, China and India are barely noticing. They certainly don’t fire their own weapons.
Brussels is right for once. But we could go even further. Now that we are out of the EU we can chart our own course. Abandon the self-destructive deadline of 2030 and think again.