Electric Cars Help Cut UK Transportation Emissions By 11.2%

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Sales of electric cars, including plug-in hybrids, surged in the UK last year, accounting for 12% of the new car market. That’s good news, even if it is far behind the EV sales records being set by Norway. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders claims average new car emissions fell 11.2% to 119.7 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer driven, according to a report by The Guardian. Emissions from cars have been rising in recent years due to an increase in gas guzzling behemoths, aka SUVs.

Mike Hawes, the head of SMMT, says, “Once again it is electrified vehicles that are driving the growth, despite the ongoing headwinds of chip shortages, rising inflation and the cost-of-living squeeze. 2022 is off to a reasonable start, however, and with around 50 new electrified models due for release this year, customers will have an ever greater choice, which can only be good for our shared environmental ambitions.”

There is still a long way to go as the EV revolution takes hold in the UK. In May, SMMT data showed that battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids made up only 1.3% of the 40.35 million cars on the road in the country. In 2019, road transport accounted for 25% of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions, according to government data.

Ben Nelmes, the head of policy and research at New AutoMotive, tells The Guardian, “Electric car sales have doubled in the last year, but there is still a mountain to climb to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions from cars. The 90,000 internal combustion engines that rolled off forecourts this month will continue to pollute and hit motorists in their pockets for another 14 years, on average.”

SMMT says sales of electric cars are still limited by the perceived lack of charge points. Government data showed there were 28,400 public charge points available across the UK on 1 January, but SMMT maintains the UK may need 4 or 5 times that amount before people lose their fear of being stuck out on the road somewhere with a depleted battery with no place nearby to plug in.

Pay As You Go Plan For Electric Cars

Even though cars with plugs account for only a tiny percentage of all the cars driving around the British Isles, the trend is clear. Electric cars are coming, which means the amount of gasoline and diesel fuel sold in the country will decline. That means the amount of money the government collects from the sales of those fuels will decrease. The government currently collects about £28 billion a year from those taxes.

That has MPs on the transport select committee worried. They think the move to electric cars means the government should urgently work on plans for road pricing which would charge all drivers a set fee based on the number of miles they drive. There is “no viable alternative” to road pricing to fill the gap in the budget, the MPs wrote in their report.

On the face of it, that plan is scrupulously fair — one price fits all. But you can see the fine hand of the fossil fuel industry behind the idea. “Be afraid. Be very afraid! Loss of revenue because of electric cars means our roads will deteriorate, our bridges and tunnels begin to crumble. Pretty soon we will be back to relying on cart paths the way the Romans did centuries ago!” Expect rates to be set higher for EVs because everyone knows they weigh twice as much as conventional cars, causing rapid wear to road surfaces as they drive.

The Takeaway

Figures often tell only part of the story. The automobile industry has been roiled by computer chip shortages and Covid restrictions, which means any numbers from the past two years need to be put into context. Still, more people are buying electric cars, for whatever reason, and that means more people are finding out about them, which reduces the general level of fear among prospective EV purchasers. The dam hasn’t quite broken yet, but you can feel the changeover to electric transportation gaining momentum.

Our grandkids marvel that we once had to wait for our radios and TVs to “warm up,” and someday their grandkids will marvel that they once owned a car with an infernal combustion engine. The EV revolution is about to get real.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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