Range anxiety, poor charging infrastructure, the cost of purchase – these are all huge barriers to entry for the majority of citizens across the globe when considering an electric vehicle. Manufacturers globally are pouring billions of dollars into the EV market but with just 15 years before the UK ban on combustion engine vehicle sales comes into action, will this really be enough?
Prime Minister Boris Jonson hailed 2020 as the ‘defining year of climate action’ for the planet as the ban on selling new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars in the UK has been brought forward to 2035 – but is the country ready for such a decisive move?
Speaking at the Race Against Climate Change Live event, Professor and climate advocate Michael E. Mann discussed the importance of reducing emissions: “The transportation sector is responsible for about 25% of our global carbon emissions, which is a pretty big chunk. Ultimately if we’re going to tackle this crisis then we need to decarbonise human civilisation and a big part of that comes from decarbonising transportation.”
“The lockdown has led to a decrease in global carbon emissions – in particular from transportation – but will only amount for a 5% decrease in global emissions for 2020. That tells us that we need to do more than this, we need to decrease our emissions by more than 5% for the next 10 years if we’re going to avert from a catastrophic warming of a degree and a half Celsius.”
“What we’ve learnt from the pandemic is that personal behaviour alone is not going to show a large enough reduction, what we need to do is decarbonise our society and a big part of that is transportation.”
“Scaring people is not the correct approach, we do not want to lead people down the road of doom – we need to convey the urgency but also the agency, the fact that there are solutions out there.”
Michael E. Mann, Scientist, Author & Distinguished Prof of Atmospheric Science & Director of Earth System Science Center
Joining Michael on the same panel was Graeme Cooper, Project Director at the National Grid: “The UK deadline stimulates the debate that it’s not just about transport. You can’t just outlaw the sale of combustion engine vehicles; you need to think about where the power comes from too.”
“What I’ve been really encouraged by is that Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) – a joint government department that is consulting both power and transport. The Treasury have put lots of money down to allow the correct infrastructure to be put in place on motorways – everything is moving in the right direction.”
Whilst deadlines in the UK have been set, across the pond the US are yet to take such drastic action and governmental policies are yet to be discussed. Joining the panel from the Rocky Mountain Institute, Managing Director Britta Gross believes: “We just have to act now. We need to get the cost issue out the way first – from both battery makers and car manufacturers and this is the first priority – we have to take action today.”
As soon as these cars are profitable, the scale will be huge and instant in the marketplace. Every resource as the product makers is being put towards lowering the cost of electric vehicles. Everyone in the US is talking about EVs, we’re at the very start of this journey and everyone is starting to get involved.”
“It’s going to happen, it’s just about getting awareness out, and that’s why I love the Race Against Climate Change and Formula E – it’s all about getting the messaging out to people and bringing awareness of the technology to the consumer.”
So whilst there might not be a clear cut answer to whether the UK – and the world – are ready to fully embrace electric vehicles by 2035, it is clear to see that the onus doesn’t just lie on manufacturers to create the technology for mass market, more needs to be done by every stakeholder to ensure that there is not irreversible damage done to the planet.