Here on the BBC website on the 28th of August 2010, we have a report that electric cars may be costlier to run than petrol equivalents. If you take into consideration their depreciation and other costs like battery replacement over the life of the car, that hit you take buying an e-car cannot be offset by lower maintenance costs, lower cost of recharging, zero road tax, zero congestion charge (saving only applicable in London of course) and finally a fat government subsidy to reduce the purchase price of the car. None of those advantages of an electric car outweigh the massive depreciation, the replacement of the expensive (and very eco-unfriendly) battery technology and the limited range.
Also consider where the electricity comes from: A surge in electric cars coupled with dirty, inefficient old coal power stations generating the electricity that could actually increase CO2 emissions from the UK or at the very least put a big dent in the CO2 production targets the government seem to crave lemming-like adherence to.
Finally consider the expenditure in charging infrastructure, the blight of charging points on historically protected areas of towns and cities, the fact that its difficult to charge an electric car parked on a normal street, thereby excluding a huge swathe of people from ever owning an electric car.
But when reporting the government's subsidy of 25 percent of the cost of an electric car on the 14th of December 2010, some months later than the critical report above there's no mention of the extra running costs mentioned in August's report. Neither is there any mention of the environmental impact nor the technological cul-de-sac that battery-powered electric cars already are. Even when reporting the fact that only 3 of the nine cars earmarked for subsidy will be initially available, there's no criticism, only a report of the facts.
If government are going to piss away millions of pounds of taxpayer's money on cars that will be redundant and unsaleable within years, increase CO2 emissions and similar sums on the charging infrastructure that will add another level of blight on our town and city streets, you'd think someone, somewhere at the BBC would challenge the decision.
But no. Here, here and herethe BBC reports without any criticism at all of government policy.
The fact is the government is encouraging the public to buy into a technology that will end up costing them millions of pounds and that is already redundant.
I've blogged often before on the advantages of hydrogen technology in cars. Both in fuel cells and for burning in converted internal combustion engines. Hydrogen fuel cell cars are a zero-emission technology that is an evolutionary leap ahead of battery-powered ones. They require no change in our driving habits, exhibit no range limitations and use a fuel that can be created easily and cheaply from electricity. Its school-project-level science, passing electricity through water to create hydrogen and oxygen.
Even on-off alternative energy sources like wind and solar could be made less variable by converting that energy into hydrogen and storing it. If we switch to hydrogen instead of natural gas, hydrogen instead of petrol and diesel, we can start to create a unified infrastructure providing economies of scale. We can produce it within our own borders, thereby eliminating the need to import energy sources like natural gas. In fact, whats not to like about becoming hydrogen energy based?
I just don't understand why the media seem to refuse to criticise the decision-makers we have in government who seem to be making all the wrong calls.
The BBC has coincidentally hours after I published this post released this article about driving an electric mini from London to Edinburgh. Currently, it looks like it can't be done as the article notes a gap between the Northernmost charging point and Edinburgh is further than the range of the car.
Note also the time it takes to get there: 4 days!! Note also the huge charging times at the non-overnight stops. Would you really stop somewhere for 6 hours to top up with fuel?
Exactly the reason why the battery-powered electric car is an expensive cul-de-sac. Why oh why waste precious money on expensive new infrastructure when you already have petrol stations at the roadside? All you need is the right financial incentives for the oil companies to offer hydrogen as another fuel alongside petrol, diesel and LPG and they'll install it.
No need for local or national government to get involved other than to provide the right conditions for it to happen.
But note the tone: no criticism of government at all. No mention of the millions already sunk into the technology without producing a viable North-South route. No mention of the piss-poor planning and strategy that allows government to throw subsidies at a technology there is little infrastructure for.
Note also that battery powered cars have suddenly become "short distance" vehicles, rather than the replacement to fossil-fuelled vehicles they are usually touted as.