Are electric cars the future?

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, continuing his championing of the electric car, has announced that 37 million pounds of government money will be invested in the installation of plug in chargers for electric vehicles in homes, streets and railway stations. The 37 million comes from 400 million pounds already allocated to promote the take up of “ultra low emission” vehicles and can be claimed up until April 2015.

The government will cover up to 75% of the cost of installing plug in points. It has been estimated by the Department of Transport that it costs up to to £10,000 to install a power point on a residential street capable of charging two electric vehicles. Earlier this year Mcloughlin said that he and his fellow ministers were enthusiastic for councils to install on-street charging points and committed to making the UK a “world leader in the electric car industry.”

Brighton and Hove already have 8 electric vehicle charging points for early adopters to use, [http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/index.cfm?request=c1217855] they can be found in Withdean, The Level, Bartholomew Square and Madeira Drive. Brighton and Hove Council plan to monitor whether the installation of on-street charging points encourages more drivers in the South East to invest in electric vehicles. This is part of the council’s endeavour to achieve an energy efficient transport system, the council also hopes it will contribute to the national 10:10 campaign [http://www.1010global.org/uk] aimed at cutting carbon emissions.

Therein lies some of the issues on whether or not the UK should wholeheartedly adopt the electric car as its preferred mode of transport in a bid to cut emissions. There is some suggestion that rather than reducing carbon emissions, the production of electric cars simply moves the emissions else where. According to a report by Norwegian university of Science published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology electric car factories emit more toxic waste than conventional car factories.

Co-author of the report Professor Anders Hammer Stromman explained that: “The global warming potential from electric vehicle production is about twice that of conventional vehicles.” The production of batteries and electric motors involves toxic minerals such as nickle, copper and aluminium. This means the potential impact of acidification is greater than it is in the manufacture of conventional cars.

Once the electric car are on the roads however, provided they are powered by energy drawn from low-carbon energy sources, they do have the potential to help reduce emissions and noise pollution. Car companies such as Nissan, Renault and Toyota have invested in the development and production of electric cars.

The Nissan Leaf and Toyota Hybrid are already available to buy. Learner drivers struggling with gear changes in a conventional manual car might be pleased to note that if the future is electric, the future is also certainly automatic.

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