POLITICS

Government's Air Quality Plan Makes Electric Car Revolution Inevitable, Experts Say

HuffPost UK talked to those in the know about what happens after petrol vehicles are scrapped.

01/08/2017 14:46 | Updated 01 August 2017
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The government’s plan to clean up the UK’s air means an electric car revolution is inevitable, according to experts.

Environment secretary Michael Gove unveiled his department’s official air quality plan last week - and the jewel in the crown was the intention to ban all petrol and diesel vehicles from sale by 2040.

Environmental campaigners branded the move “headline grabbing”, while lobbyists on behalf of motorists warned it could crash the economy.

But James McKemey, head of customer operations at POD Point, which runs a UK electric vehicle charging network, says regardless of its talking points, the government’s plan means an overhaul of the industry is inevitable. 

“We’ve seen a lot of negative press around the announcement, which was to be expected,” he told HuffPost UK.

“But the key thing is it has made the transformation from combustible fuel engine vehicles to electric vehicles absolutely inevitable.  Those who didn’t want to believe it would happen now have to.”

Hannah Mckay / Reuters
Environment secretary Michael Gove says tackling poor air quality is a "top priority".

James says switching the UK’s 32 million fuel-guzzling vehicles to greener, electrical models will be a huge undertaking and homeowners, business owners and government bodies will be required to step up and make big changes. 

“We will need a huge numbers of extra charging points to meet demand.  And while autonomous [self-driving] cars will become more common, it’s hard to say whether the number of vehicles on the road will remain around the 32 million mark. But we do not envisage car ownership going away.  

“But the cost and burden of building up a network is not going to fall on any one body.  We are not going to say to the government that we need millions and millions to equip the entire UK; there will be lots of different stakeholders involved. 

“Supermarkets can install charging points outside their stores, for example - and some already are - and homeowners can install their own charging points so they can refuel vehicles overnight.

“And for those on low incomes, while installing a charging point costs under £1,000 - which we appreciate is still considerable - the eventual cost savings will mean it will be cheaper for them in the long-run and the second hand car market will still be there - it will have just changed. 

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 “Of course it will be a massive challenge, but we are optimistic about the future.

“It’s about changing the agenda.  Most people aren’t extremely conscientious about their carbon footprint and that argument isn’t really tangible for most people.”

The government’s plan, which aims to tackle dangerous levels of toxic nitrogen oxide responsible for 40,000 premature deaths every year, will also put pressure on local councils to address more than 80 pollution hotspots.

But it stops short of introducing clean air zones across the country, which would prevent the worst polluting vehicles from accessing areas where air quality is poorest, and imposing taxes on motorists. 

Environmental charity Friends Of The Earth said its proposals simply “pass the buck” to local authorities. 

A government spokesman said: “Our plan to deal with dirty diesels will help councils clean up emissions hotspots - often a single road - through common sense measures which do not unfairly penalise ordinary working people.”

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