JE's opinion on the 2035 Government announcement

I believe that the Government's announcement of the intention to ban all hydrocarbon-fuelled cars (Petrol, Diesel, and Hybrid) by 2035 is misguided on a number of levels.

1) It strongly implies that hybrids are not a valid way of reducing CO2 compared to pure battery electric drive, but this is definitely not the case. Emissions Analytics have shown that a proper Hybrid is about 13 times more effective at reducing CO2 than a pure electric, per amount of battery. Given that batteries remain very expensive, are difficult to recycle, and cause untold damage and misery in the places where the special metals for batteries are mined, we should see our CO2 reductions in terms of reduction per battery, not in reduction per car. I'll spare you the maths, but hybrids are way more effective on this basis.

2) It also continues to reinforce the myth that electricity generation is both clean and plentiful. The UK has been boasting recently that it has had many days when no coal fired stations were active, which is good, but we are also importing a lot of electricity over those cables from Belgium and France, and our nuclear stations are getting very old. Several nuclear stations may become inoperable soon, so on a day when the weather gives us less wind, we are more or less stuffed for electricity already, without adding the load of lots of electric cars. New nuclear builds seem to be the only clean answer, but too many lobby against that and against the gas-fired stations which are what are really underpinning our supplies for the foreseeable future. There have been calmer weather days in recent months, when we have been close to power cuts. Compared to most nations our electricity generation, although barely adequate, is quite clean, but this announcement gives a signal about electric cars which will be damaging if taken up in countries with much dirtier generation.

3) It continues to pander to the idea that zero emissions is achievable and desirable. What we should be looking for (but it is beyond the imagination of many) is balanced emissions. That is, we should be looking to use the cleanest liquid hydrocarbons we can in the most efficient way we can, for some modes of transport. Flying needs the most efficient engines possible and it would be a good use of bio-fuels, for example, while perhaps big ships should use liquefied natural gas rather than heavy oil, while also harvesting some wind power out there on the ocean. The use of clean running, part electric, part hydrocarbon hybrid cars will give great advantages for most people without the problems inherent in pure electric cars. Pure electric cars remain particularly suitable for city use, but less so elsewhere.

On the other side of the balance are activities to absorb CO2, whether naturally through tree/plant growth, or through CCS units installed at the main places where CO2 is generated such as existing power stations, steel-making plants, and so forth (and maybe even on those big ships ?).

4) It also implies that existing petrol and Diesel engine vehicles are all to be eliminated as soon as possible. This impetus would be hugely wasteful, due to the energy it takes initially to make any vehicle. The possibility of modernising some types of vehicle with low-emissions hybrid drive-trains, may be very useful. Converting older vehicles to pure electric drive is often very difficult, mostly because the packaging of useful quantities of batteries is almost impossible, so range is small, but although it is more complicated, packaging a hybrid drive system is more practical.