billions of pounds at the pump. The UK government
raised about £27.9bn from fuel duties
in 2016-17, according to the Office for
Budget Responsibility. That’s getting on for
4% of the total tax take.
Say I buy an electric car... where will I recharge
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There are more than 4,500 locations with
charging points around the UK, according
to website Zap-Map.com. New locations
are being added daily - with an increase of
255 in the past 30 days alone. But if mass
market ownership of electric cars is to be
viable, there will need to be on-demand access
to power points. This raises a number
of potential problems. For example, where
will power points be sited? Will roads have
to be dug up for cabling? Will drivers have
to share power points, and so be restricted
to certain charging times? It can take up to
eight hours to charge an electric vehicle, so
more efficient batteries will be needed.
While some vehicles can only travel up to 50
miles between charges, others can manage
more than 200 miles. This puts commuting
and city driving within reach, but makes
long distance journeys more of a challenge.
What would happen if I ran out of charge
It doesn’t happen a lot, said Tom Callow,
of Chargemaster, the UK’s largest provider
of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Cars alert drivers in plenty of time.
Electric cars give drivers a range or countdown.
On long journeys, drivers need to
plan ahead. Navigation systems in electric
cars can factor in charging points on the
way to a destination as they plot a route for
the driver.“The reality is that once you start
driving an electric car it is a different kind of
culture,” said Mr Callow. “You are not filling
up, you are topping up and you drive differently
and top up when available.”
Will the National Grid be able to cope?
The electricity demands will be massive.
The National Grid says electric vehicles
could drive large increases in peak power
demand, but it will be able to cope. This is
despite concerns the grid is already strained
at times by the demands of charging electric
vehicles. A report earlier this year by the
think tank Green Alliance warned that as few
as six vehicles charging at the same time,
close to each other, could cause localised
power drops. Smart charging, which intelligently
controls when vehicles draw electricity
from the grid to avoid peaks and troughs,
is one way of managing the situation. It is
a developing technology and there is even
speculation car batteries could return power
to the grid to help smooth out demand.
But if the additional demand from vehicles
is not managed carefully, it will “create challenges
across all sections of the energy system,
particularly at peak times”, according
to forecasts in the grid’s Future Energy Scenarios
report, released earlier this year.
However, not all vehicle owners will switch
to electric replacements when their petrol or
diesel ones finally stop running. For example,
it is expected that some of the owners
of heavy goods and public service vehicles
may switch them to natural gas or hydrogen
powered modules rather than electric.
Will they pay for old cars to be scrapped?
According to its consultation, the UK government
believed a so-called scrappage
scheme would take 15,000 of the most polluting
diesel and petrol cars off the road in a
year. Drivers would be given about £8,000 to
switch to a fully electric alternative, meaning
the UK government would have to fork out
£110m. The impact on emissions of nitrogen
dioxide would be to cut them by 0.02%,
not a huge change in the grand scheme of
things. The UK Treasury is believed to have
objected strongly because of the cost, but
also on the grounds it would be hard to target
the scheme at those who most need it
- and prevent it becoming a subsidy for drivers
who could already afford to change to
Why not ban the dirtiest vehicles from the
most polluted roads?
Environmental campaigners believe creating
what are termed “clean air zones”
(CAZs) in the UK’s most polluted towns and
cities is the most effective and speedy way
of reducing emissions of nitrogen dioxide.
Councils will be able to impose these zones
and will be able to block certain vehicles or
impose a daily charge on drivers.
But the UK government hopes they won’t do
this. While its own research suggests CAZs
are the most effective means of getting
emissions down, cutting them by 18% compared
with 0.02% for a scrappage scheme,
policy makers argue they are too blunt an
instrument and can cause all sorts of complications
for local areas.
Most of the breaches with diesel emissions
happen on 81 roads around the UK, says the
government, in vast swathes in the hearts
of urban areas. It wants councils to target
these roads with a range of tactics that cut
nitrogen dioxide, including removing speed
bumps and changing traffic lights so that
traffic isn’t slowing or speeding. However,
recognising that this might not be enough,
the plan does give local authorities the power
to charge or ban drivers on certain sections
How do diesel and petrol compare?
UK Sales of diesel cars surged in the early
2000s as drivers were encouraged to
choose them because they had lower climate
warming carbon dioxide emissions
than petrol cars. While diesel cars are the
biggest single source of nitrogen oxide
emissions, diesel powered buses, coaches
and - especially - heavy goods vehicles are
the really heavy polluters, producing eight to
10 times the amount of gases per kilometre
than cars. There are, however, more cars.
Does this mean London’s congestion
charge will spread to other cities?
The UK government isn’t keen. Establishing
a clean air zone (CAZ) for which motorists
would be charged to drive into could simply
move the pollution problem elsewhere rather
than solve it. Policy makers believe that
by targeting the 81 roads around the UK that
are the main cause of the problem, they can
prevent the type of emissions transfer that
could happen if one town has a big CAZ and
its neighbour did not.
What about those who need a larger car?
Tom Callow, of Chargemaster, told the BBC:
“There are a couple of cars available on
the market now which are capable of towing
trailers. While they are not exactly like a
Ford Galaxy they are equivalent to SUVs or
estates or saloon cars.”
Will motorcyclists be affected?
Potentially, but only those who drive the
very oldest bikes. Essentially, motorcycles
built before the year 2000 could face fines if
councils decide to impose charges or bans
on some roads. The government is currently
giving a grant of £1,500 for the purchase of
an ultra-low emission motorcyle.
What about aeroplanes? How much air
pollution is caused by aircraft?
In the UK about 1% of nitrogen dioxide
emissions are caused by aviation. Far more
are caused by people driving to airports in
What about hydrogen-powered vehicles,
as opposed to electric?
The government has already announced a
£23 million fund to boost the uptake of hydrogen
vehicles. A competition is due to be
launched this year so companies can bid for
funding to help build the infrastructure that
will support hydrogen cars.