Last week, our very own Graeme Cooper, project director of electric vehicles at National Grid, took to the pages of Business Green magazine to talk about electric vehicles and how they can help curb air pollution.
With transport responsible for around a fifth of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, the Prime Minister’s announcement this week to fast-track the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles (as well as hybrids for the first time) to 2035, is a major step forward in the UK’s net zero efforts. But there’s still a long way to go.
Latest figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) have shown a steady rise in registrations of new Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs), accounting for 3% of all vehicles registered in the third quarter of 2019. This is a 39% leap compared to the same period in 2018, but with EVs making up less than 2% of all vehicles on the road, much more needs to be done to meet the government’s target for at least 50% of cars and 40% of new vans to be ULEVs by 2030.
It’s fair to say then that this pace of change will be a challenge, but we’ve seen it before. The introduction of the Model T ford in the US in 1916 marked the start of a major transition from horseback to the hallowed motor car that saw horses all but eliminated from city roads in little more than 20 years. Critics will point out that the first cars were expensive and limited to early adopters (and they were), but the benefits swiftly beat down these barriers and the era of mass motoring was born.
Close to a century on, our challenge is to replace petrol and diesel cars with cleaner vehicles, tackling the issue not just of carbon but of poor air quality which is responsible for an estimated 40,000 premature deaths and six million sick days every year, costing the NHS over £6bn and the UK economy £22bn.
As the DfT data shows, some progress is being made. The Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce’s recent report is a step in the right direction, from reassuring customers they can safely share their data to enable intelligent charging, to offering them financial incentives for making their EV batteries available to help balance the electricity grid.
But one of the most fundamental barriers to mass EV take-up is range anxiety. Just as a rider in the early 20th Century must have worried about the life left in his horse’s weary legs; drivers are clearly worried they will face a similar issue with their shiny new EV.
While most charging will happen at home and at work, drivers need the confidence their battery will go the distance and that opting for an EV won’t disrupt their daily routine or fail them when something unexpected happens. It’s with this in mind that National Grid has been working with Government and the networks to develop a solution that would deliver upgraded and future-proofed electricity grid connections at 54 motorway service stations, giving the owners and operators of charging infrastructure the power to put 99.6% of drivers in England and Wales within 50 miles of an ultra-rapid charging hub.
Our goal is to provide every community across the UK with cleaner air, so that everyone benefits from the transition to net zero. We believe this can be achieved by delivering the right infrastructure for drivers today while supporting the demand that the Prime Minister’s announcement will surely encourage tomorrow.
To this end, we would urge the Government to use the forthcoming Budget to unlock the investment needed in electricity networks to support the nationwide roll out of ultra-rapid charging points, avoiding an infrastructure ‘postcode lottery’.
Putting such a network in place will ensure a fair transition to cleaner transport that benefits everyone, regardless of where they are. Charging points for drivers, air equality for all.