the problem with electric cars
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The problem with electric cars

A key government aim for the future has been learning how to mitigate the negative effects of climate change. Often, this will be most effective through international action. A country acting alone, if every other country is increasing their emissions, is likely to have a minimal effect at best. Agreements like the Paris Accord bought hundreds of nations together to commit to real targets and change for reducing carbon dioxide emissions.  

One of those is transport, which accounts for 23% of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions

However, there are actions that individual states can take which account for bringing change. One of those is transport, which accounts for 23% of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions. We’re used to the fumes of cars and buses, but these inevitably pollute an amount of carbon dioxide nobody likes. In response, the government has committed to banning the sale of petrol, diesel, and hybrid cars by 2040. Of course, this government is unlikely to be in the office by then, so won’t have to take responsibility for whether the pledge is met.  

The carbon dioxide emissions from these hybrid cars are as much as two-and a-half times higher than official tests

Nonetheless, such a target does help to set some kind of ambition. A solution to the rise in petrol and diesel cars initially was hybrid cars that would be plugged into charging stations. However,  these contain many faults. The carbon dioxide emissions from these cars are as much as two-and a-half times higher than official tests, according to the BBC. The cars are powered by an electric  motor that uses a battery which is recharged. Currently accounting for 3% of car sales, pressure groups have suggested they emit 120g of carbon dioxide per km travelled compared to 44g in lab tests. 

The data used by pressure groups is apparently real-world data based on efficiency tests from  20,000 plug-in hybrid drivers from across Europe, with individuals choosing to record their fuel consumption for different surveys. While, according to the research, a petrol or diesel car will emit between 39 and 41 tonnes of CO2 during its lifetime, a plug-in hybrid average will emit 28 tonnes of CO2. This means such hybrid cars, mixing petrol with electric cars, only reduce emissions by up to a third, which is far less than official estimates.  

This is just a sample of the many issues facing hybrid cars. They are far from the utopia that some have suggested. A key issue involves owners rarely charging their cars, meaning that the petrol and diesel engines become heavily reliant. Similarly, many of these hybrid cars, according to the  BBC, contain design features that automatically turn on the petrol/diesel engines if, for example,  the weather is cold, further reducing the beneficial impact of the electrical functions.  

The government however, are still desperate for people to use electric cars. Since November 2018,  they have offered up to £3,500 off the price of a new fully electric car to incentivise purchasing.  They work through an electric motor which receives its power from lithium ion batteries, which store a significant amount of energy. In order to be charged, most electric cars rely on being  plugged in, either from a domestic socket or fast charger at motorway service stations. The future of charging, however, appears to be wireless, with induction charging being prioritised by companies like Nissan. 

Only 1.1% of new cars being sold in 2019 were electric

The electric car revolution should not be exaggerated. Most individuals won’t be thinking about changing their car any time soon. Only 1.1% of new cars being sold in 2019 were electric. Furthermore, the choices are extremely limited, with few electric cars under £20,000  available and the new Tesla model costing £37,000, The high entry price puts people off. Practicalities of charging with cables could also be extremely tricky for people living in flats and are far away from charging points. 

Electric cars then, hybrid or completely electric, contain a number of flaws. These deserve questioning before they are rolled out extensively across the country. While it is welcome these questions are being asked, they must be explored further before electric cars fully become the government’s desired policy. There are many steps to take to ensure that the UK meets its carbon targets while also investing in a transport system fit for generations to come.

Electric cars might be the future, but there is a long road ahead before they fully become the norm.  

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