29 Nov: The future is electric?

Let’s get one thing straight, there is absolutely nothing wrong with electric cars. In fact, there is much to like. They’re comfortable quick and have fewer moving parts than what most of us currently use, which should make them more reliable, should it not?

They do everything that we need and expect of a modern personal transport vehicle. They seat four or five people, they’ve got air-con and all the electronic connectivity that the modern family will need. The biggest thing that most folk will notice though, is the lack of noise.

So why isn’t everyone driving around in one? The reason is simple and has little do with the vehicle  manufacturers. It’s the lack of supporting infrastructure, and not only that, it’s the limited range of batteries and the time it takes to charge them. Once these three things have been sorted, there won’t be any real drawbacks. Oh! And one more thing, the cost!

It would appear to be a simple case of trying to make an egg before you have produced the first chicken. The world’s governments are hell bent on getting us out of petrol, diesel and gas powered vehicles and into electric vehicles. Not hydrogen, because that’s more of a long term thing, whereas electricity is here and the folks who govern us understand it.

It is they who are driving this revolution, not the manufacturers who would rather proceed at a pace led by research and development rather than political expediency. It takes time to turn around giant conglomerates and manufacturing processes. The politicians should know this. After all, how long has it taken them to agree on Brexit? Oh, they haven’t, as yet!

However, if they want everyone to drive around in electric cars, every house should have a high capacity charging point and every commuter’s place of business should have enough for their staff. It’s the only way this will work. Currently, using a standard domestic supply will take more than a single overnight to fully charge a depleted vehicle battery pack.

That means every new house build will need to have a high capacity charger installed as part of the building specification. That also implies that a huge retro-fit programme would be needed to get every current house fitted with such a device – and we know how well that will be tackled. Just look at the national push for universal Broadband installation “for everyone” and the retro fitting of  double/triple glazing and roof and wall insulation. That’s running to schedule eh? And that’s without thinking about terraced housed and flats. That’s a whole other big issue.

That also leads to another huge problem, creating a reliable nation-wide electricity grid to cope with such a massive increase in demand. And that’s even with solar panels on every roof and a wind turbine in every back garden. And where’s the back-up on a cloudy, wind-less day?

That’s also why we need charging stations in cities, towns and the countryside, because those who need/wish to travel further than to and from work will need to top up on the move. And therein lies another huge problem. There aren’t enough of these charging points around the country. Also, there are three (or four?) different types of charger and not all compatible with each other. Neither do they appear to be terribly reliable or fixed pretty quickly when they go down.

The other issue concerns planning ahead. When planning a longer route incorporating  the use of public chargers, there is no guarantee that it will be free when the driver gets there. Someone else might well be using it. That means waiting for a free charger. And given that it can take anything from 2 to 4 hours to get a decent charge, let alone a full one, how long will someone have to sit and wait before getting the chance to plug in and top up.

Availability is not yet up to coping with what we have, never mind a wholesale conversion to electric cars. If those who dictate would only sit down and think about it, they’d see for themselves, but they’re too busy with all the other problems they have to face that they are missing the bigger picture.

Nope. The system is not yet ready for the wholesale introduction and deployment of electric vehicles. That means we have to stick to what we currently use. And yet the car manufacturers are having their arms twisted up their backs to desist with such ‘filthy machines’ and make clean ones. If anything is going to crash an economy worse than Brexit or banker greed then it’s the lack of transport. Be it train, plane, sea or highway, no-one will get to and from work and no raw materials or finished goods will get to and from farm or factory, to town and country. Holidays? Forget them too.

The environmentalists are rightly kicking off about oil wells on land and in the sea and the pollution that causes, but where do the exotic materials that go into batteries come from – holes in the ground, and looking ahead, undersea mining. And it’s not as if electricity has any emissions problems. Apart from the upheaval, dust and dirt from mining, what happens to all the dead batteries? More power will be needed to deal with them.

The governments have got it wrong. They are trying to push toothpaste back into the tube using a tyre lever.

They are simply overlooking the biggest threat facing our dear plant. Over population. The more the population expands the more people we have to feed, the more bodies we have to clothe and the more families we have to house. The planet is already struggling to cope and the numbers are rising inexorably.

On that basis, ‘solving’ the country and the world’s transport needs are simple. It’s easier telling a motorist “you’re not getting a car, so take the bus”, than it is telling a couple of loving parents they can’t have more than two kids.

However, one day this issue will indeed have to be tackled. According to the United Nations the global population is projected to increase from 7.7 billion in 2019 to 11.2 billion by the end of the century.  Admittedly, the global population growth rate has already slowed down reaching its peak at over 2% in the late 1960s and has been falling since but that alone shouldn’t minimise the challenges that lie ahead.

So don’t blame the car, van, truck and bus manufacturers. Of course, they are in this business to make money, but they are providing jobs while producing the vital means of currently getting food to the hungry, clothes to the naked and building materials to the construction sites.

But we can’t just blame the politicians, they are simply reacting to our own personal needs for quick fixes. We individually are too impatient. That impatience increases as technology improves and yet we continually want more and faster. So we can’t blame the politicians for everything, we must temper our own impatience and desire for a fix now rather than next week or next year. When you think about it we’re a pretty selfish bunch really, so why should we expect anything  else from those we elect to govern?

Still our past is catching up with us now and we have no-one to blame but ourselves. So raise a glass to gridlock, it’s just around the corner. Although we’ll never reach the corner cos we’re stuck in  bluidy traffic.

We’ve all seen the best of it, it’s downhill from now on. Happy days, eh?