So now we know: in nine years time the last car powered solely by petrol or diesel will have been sold in the UK. Make that 14 years for all hybrids too. If you think back 14 years, so until just before the global financial crisis, it seems like no time at all. But we must move with the times. Personal transportation is unsustainable in its current form so surely the government’s undeniably bold new plan is to be welcomed?
Actually I’m not so sure, and not because I’m stuck in some flat-earth, don’t-blind-me-with-the-facts parallel universe where we carry on as we are and everything will somehow work out. It won’t. We have to change the way we live (and drive), which means progressing in as fast and orderly a fashion as we can to a point where our cars are powered by clean and renewable sources of energy. I don’t think that many people with an even fairly distant acquaintance with the way our world is really doubts that any more.
My concern with the government’s plan is that while it is reasonably clear in saying what it’s going to do, it is vague to the point of near-total opacity on how it’s going to do it. And if anyone believes that the declared £4 billion of new money is going to do more than scratch the surface of what’s required to make the necessary infrastructure changes, it is they not I who are living in that parallel world.
What I think will happen is that it will cost more money and take longer to implement than the government is suggesting, and not just because all major transport projects from Crossrail to HS2 always come in hideously late and wildly over budget. I think too that there is an element here of a beleaguered government desperate to regain control of the political agenda and put its administration back on the front foot. What better than such a fine-sounding pronouncement even if it appears upon closer examination not to have been properly thought through?
Where will Britain’s electric cars all charge — especially if owners have no driveway?
Which is what worries me far more than having to give up petrol or diesel-powered cars. The outstanding questions are numerous. How is government going to provide sufficiently robust infrastructure for every car owning household in every town and city to be able to charge their batteries as easily as they can fill their fuel tanks at present? How is it really going to be paid for? How do you separate out and tax electricity used for charging your car at home from electricity used to light and heat that home? I expect road charging is on the way.