Petrol and Diesel Cars Face Extinction

After being preceded by numerous leaks, the Government has finally announced that it is bringing forward the date when sales of new petrol and diesel powered cars are banned to 2030 (see Reference 1 for details). The only exception is that sales of hybrid vehicles will be permitted until 2035. In practice such vehicles will go the same way as the dinosaurs, facing extinction in a few years’ time.

That will not stop such vehicles already purchased from being used after those dates but they may be discouraged in other ways of course (such as by the ULEZ in London).

This is what Allistair Heath (who described himself as “a convert” to electric cars) said in the Daily Telegraph: “The green agenda has triumphed, in the sense that cultural, political, educational and corporate elites, in the US, UK and every European country, are all in favour of decarbonisation. Opponents have been routed, with almost no chance of a way back”. He’s definitely right in that regard. There has been no cost/benefit analysis of these proposals or rational justification given. It’s all about cutting air pollution and saving the planet regardless of the negative consequences of these moves.

To start with the Government is spending £1.8 billion to support the charging infrastructure and other measures required by electrification of all vehicles. That will come out of your taxes. This is far from a trivial matter. In London and other major UK cities one big problem is that many households do not have off-street parking so there will need to be kerbside charging points installed in many streets.

The car industry, one of the major UK exporters, will have to adapt to only producing electric vehicles and much faster than they expected. They may be able to cope with that but will it damage their export capability? Nobody seems to have looked at that issue. The Government says it will create 40,000 extra jobs by 2030, particularly in our manufacturing heartlands of the North East and across the Midlands, but that seems to be very unlikely to be the case. These will not be new jobs surely, just replacing existing ones.

This is what Lord Lawson, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, had to say about the new “Green revolution”: “If the Government were trying to damage the economy, they couldn’t be doing it better. Moreover, the job creation mantra is economically illiterate. A programme to erect statues of Boris in every town and village in the land would also ‘create jobs’ but that doesn’t make it a sensible thing to do.”

Does the public demand cuts in air pollution? It was interesting to read some of the response to our recent survey of Lewisham residents where 13% said they suffered from medical conditions as a result of air pollution in their local street. Some of them might be suffering from more pollution because of the closed roads in Lewisham though and it’s worth pointing out that the majority of air pollution in the borough comes from other sources than transport (see Reference 2). In reality diesel and petrol cars contribute only 12% and 6% respectively of all emissions in London and they are falling rapidly. See Reference 3.

But a survey by London Councils reported that “The vast majority of Londoners (82%) are concerned about climate change with half of concerned respondents going further saying they are very concerned (40%). Over half of respondents (52%) feel their day-to-day life in London had been impacted by climate change”. Many years of scaremongering over climate change has clearly brainwashed the general public into believing it’s a major threat to their life. The metropolitan elites who can afford to buy electric vehicles (which currently cost a lot more than diesel/petrol ones) can salve their consciences by buying electric vehicles despite the fact that they will have minimal impact on overall levels of air pollution while UK emissions from all sources contribute only 1% to global CO2 emissions and hence cannot have any significant impact.

Will the public accept the ban on the sale of new diesel/electric vehicles and cope with it? Based on public opinion, they are likely to accept it and in reality, with a few exceptions they should be able to cope.

By 2035, electric vehicles are likely to be cheaper and also have longer range, and older vehicles will still be able to be used. If charging points are much more common as they should be in a few years, that will lessen the problems. But there are two problem areas:

Those vehicle owners with no off-street parking might find charging their vehicles problematic. And those who wish to own motorhomes or tow caravans will find electric vehicles have very short ranges.

In summary, the Government’s announcement will impose major costs on people, and on the economy while having little real impact in reality on air pollution or global warming. However, the encouragement of electric vehicles does make sense in some ways but that is already being done by taxation, by subsidies and by measures such as zero emission streets in problem areas in London.

Putting a sharp deadline on sales of some vehicles, particularly hybrid ones in 2035, just seems somewhat irrational when the dangers of air pollution have been grossly exaggerated and there will be significant problems in making the change for some people. More attention needs to be paid to other sources of air pollution and one of the major factors that has caused increases in that is the growth of the population, an issue few politicians seem to want to tackle. Air pollution directly relates to population numbers and density and London is a good example of the negative consequences of allowing unlimited population growth.

Reference 1: DfT Announcement: https://tinyurl.com/y2l4xhcw

Reference 2: Air pollution in Lewisham: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2020/03/04/air-pollution-in-lewisham/

Reference 3: ABD Publication: Air Quality and Vehicles: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Air-Quality-and-Vehicles-The-Truth.pdf  

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Shaun Bailey’s Views, Self-Driving Cars and Climate Change

Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate to be the next Mayor London, today (24/4/2019) issued the following statement in the Evening Standard giving his views on the Ultra Low Emission Zone, and very reasonable they are too in this writer’s view. Here’s some of what he said:

Shaun Bailey: Expanded Ulez will hurt poorer

Let us agree on one thing: We need to clean up London’s dirty air.

Clean air is a perennial problem for London. My grandparents and parents suffered pea soup fogs. I had headaches in the days of leaded petrol. And today my boy and I struggle with asthma. We need strong action to this killer problem, in central London and beyond.

To his credit, Sadiq Khan has adopted Boris Johnson’s plan for a central Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) and is planning on expanding it to the North and South Circular Roads in 2021. I support the former but have concerns over the latter. Here’s why.

If we’re going to shift people’s behaviour using expensive taxes (and the ULEZ is £62.50 a week) there needs to be an alternative for those without the means to get a new vehicle or pay. The central ULEZ is relatively fair to poorer Londoners because central London is well served by cheap public transport. It is also home to the worst pollution.

Zones 1 and 2 also have the necessary enforcement infrastructure in place; cameras already police the congestion charge, so using the same tools to enforce a central ULEZ is easy and inexpensive.

The same isn’t true in outer London, where the infrastructure will have to be built from scratch (at a cost of £130 million), and where our transport network isn’t as comprehensive. Hitting Londoners — many of whom are already struggling with the cost of living — with a tax on driving when they simply have no alternative is unfair; especially when there are other ways we can clean up our air. A tax alone won’t do.

Top of the list is greening our fleet of almost 10,000 buses and our army of taxis. Hybrid taxis are now a reality and more and more hybrid or low-emission buses are being rolled out too, but we need to move to zero-emission technologies more quickly than by the current target date of 2037.

Instead of setting up the massive surveillance system we’ll need to make the bigger ULEZ work we should be spending that money expanding our green bus fleet and routes.

To be sure, we need strong action. But in his rush to tax, Mr. Khan risks penalising a critical mass of Londoners — especially poorer Londoners — many of whom simply don’t have the money to change their mode of transport on a dime.

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Self-Driving Cars

Another announcement this morning was from UK public company AB Dynamics. Their financial results were very good but it was interesting to read their comments on vehicle technology.

The company specialises in testing systems for major car manufacturers including a range of driving robots, soft vehicle and pedestrian targets and driving simulators. This is just what is needed to test the new Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicles (“self-driving” vehicles) that all car manufacturers are now investing a large amount of money in developing.

For example Elon Musk of Tesla recently predicted that his cars will have self -driving capability by mid-2020 – they just need the software upgrading to achieve that he claims. He also promised a fleet of “robo-taxis” by the same date. These claims were greeted by a lot of skepticism and quite rightly. This is what AB Dynamics had to say on the subject in today’s announcement: “There will be many phases to the development of fully autonomous vehicles and we foresee extended periods of time before they can satisfy a significant part of society’s mobility requirements.  There remain significant barriers to adoption including technical, ethical, legal, financial and infrastructure and these challenges will result in the incremental implementation of ADAS systems over many years to come. The ongoing regulatory environment and consumer demand for safety are also driving technological advancements in global mobility requirements and this provides a highly supportive market backdrop to the Group’s activities”.

I can tell you that the ABD is also very wary of self-driving vehicles. None of the vehicles under test offer anything like the reliability needed for fully-automated operation and expecting human operators to take over occasionally (e.g. in emergencies where the vehicle software cannot cope), is totally unrealistic. In other words, even “level 3” operation for self-driving vehicles which requires drivers to take over when needed is fraught with difficulties and offers little advantage to the user because they have to remain awake and alert at all times, something not likely to happen in reality.

Extinction Rebellion and their supporters who have been blocking London’s roads lately seem to want to remove all vehicles from our roads in the cause of reducing CO2 emissions which they claim is the cause of global warming (or “climate change”). I won’t even attempt to cover the latter claims although it’s worth stating that some dispute the connection and that climate change is driven by natural phenomena and cycles. But three things are certain:

  1. Reducing carbon emissions in the UK alone will have negligible impact on world CO2 emissions. China, the USA and other developing countries dominate the sources of such emissions and China’s are still growing strongly due to their heavy reliance on coal-fired power stations for electricity generation. China now produces more CO2 emissions than the USA and EU combined and is still building new coal-fired power stations. The UK now runs much of the time with no use of coal at all and rising energy contribution from wind-power and solar although gas still provides a major source.
  2. Environmental policies in the UK and Europe have actually caused many high energy consumption industries to move to China and other countries, thus enabling the UK to pretend we are whiter than white but not solving the world problem.
  3. A typical example of this approach is the promotion of electric vehicles. A recent article in the Brussels Times suggested that in Germany electric vehicles generate more CO2 over their lifespan than diesel vehicles. The reason is primarily the energy consumed in battery production – for example a Tesla Model 3 battery might require up to 15 tonnes of CO2 to manufacture. Electric car batteries are often manufactured in locations such as China although Tesla produces them in the USA.

In summary the UK and other western countries are being hypocrites and environmental campaigners are demonstrating in the wrong places and for the wrong reasons. The real problem is too many people in this world wanting to move to a high energy consumption lifestyle as we have long enjoyed in the western world. Population control is the only sure way to limit air pollution or CO2 emissions but nobody is willing to face up to that reality. In the meantime we get a lot of virtue signaling from politicians but a failure to tell the public the facts of energy consumption and production. Energy consumption is still growing world-wide and will continue to do so due to demographic changes and the desire for western lifestyles.

Finally just one comment on the Extinction Rebellion demand for a “people’s assembly” or “citizen’s assembly” as it is sometimes called. Is not the parliamentary democracy that we have at present such a system? Or is it simply a case that they want unelected people to decide on future policies? It has been suggested that such an assembly would be chosen at random from the population which hardly seems a very practical idea to me. This demand is a classic example of how muddled the thinking actually is of Extinction Rebellion supporters.

Roger Lawson

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Wallets on Wheels, and Electric Cars

A couple of interesting articles in the Daily Telegraph today (13/7/2017). Firstly there was a report on the comments on parking revenues from AA President Edmund King. He said that local authorities are reducing their expenditure on road maintenance and street lights while increasing parking charges that normally help to finance them. Specifically, he said “Far too often drivers are viewed by every level of government as wallets on wheels”. How true that is. The Greater London Authority made the largest reduction in expenditure at £59.5 million, way ahead of the next largest of £6.2 million in North Yorkshire.

Another article was on the potential demand for electric power if the number of electric vehicles grows as expected. Certainly in London the Mayor’s recent Transport Strategy document (see https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/07/07/mayors-transport-strategy-an-attack-on-private-transport-with-dubious-economics/ ) suggests that by 2050 most cars will be electric – at least they will be if the Mayor has his way. The Telegraph article suggested that this might add 30% to peak electric power demand, thus requiring the equivalent of five Hinkley Point C nuclear plants according to National Grid. See publication entitled “Future Energy Scenarios” issued by National Grid. Even if people only charge their electric cars in off-peak periods, the additional demand could be very substantial. As I plan to attend the National Grid Annual General Meeting later this month, I may ask some questions on how they plan to cover this.

But readers may be interested to know that I am planning ahead on this issue and recently had a test drive of a Tesla Model S. A very impressive vehicle altogether and obviously getting near the point where electric vehicles are practical for most car drivers. Somewhat expensive at present as it’s really aimed at the luxury car market, but Tesla announced the first production deliveries of the new Model 3 this week which will be substantially cheaper (not yet available in the UK). One can see that in two or three years time, all electric cars will be a viable proposition for most drivers, particularly if the costs come down as expected. Volvo announced this week that all their new models after 2019 will be electric or hybrid so you can see the way the wind is blowing.

But that still leaves the problem of generating all the extra electricity, particularly when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not out. To meet the demand in the timescale required might simply result in more cheap gas power stations, not nuclear. I am yet to be convinced that this migration to electric vehicles makes much environmental sense because of the inefficient energy conversion involved in comparison with a modern petrol engine. We might end up with more air pollution rather than less, although the Mayor of London will no doubt ensure its not on his patch.

Roger Lawson

Media Coverage of Air Pollution and Electric Vehicles

With the Mayor of London’s plans for the ULEZ, his new Transport Strategy and the Government about to publish their air quality plans for cities, the issue of air pollution has been getting a lot of media coverage of late.

The Evening Standard ran an article by David Williams on the 28th June headlined “Don’t punish the car drivers for air pollution when other causes are worse”. The article said that making motorists pay punitive charges will fail to achieve major cuts in London’s pollution. This is the argument put forward by campaign group FairFuelUK who say it is more about raising cash as the revenue raised is not ringfenced to tackling emissions or congestion. One cannot but agree with them.

They also suggest that politicians are aiming for the wrong target by focussing on private cars which contribute only 11% of NOX emissions when 16% comes from gas central heating, 14% from diesel machinery and a lot from LGVs. Other sources are air traffic, air conditioning and HGVs. They also complain that local authorities have failed to cope with particulates that are left on roads by tyres and brakes.

FairFuelUK are asking people to write to Michael Gove and Theresa Coffey on the prospective additional taxation of diesel cars while promoting alternative solutions. For example, instead of an expensive diesel vehicle scrappage scheme they suggest retrofit devices can solve the problem on most vehicles. In addition, they push for the adoption of E10 fuel (an ethanol/petrol blend) which most cars can run on perfectly well and is widely available in other countries. They also promote the use of additives to reduce diesel emissions as is mandated in Texas. This can cut NOX emissions by 67%, and reduce other pollutants also. It does seem there are a number of other possible solutions that would be both cheaper and more effective than taxing motorists or forcing them to replace their vehicles – as Sadiq Khan is doing in London.

You can read about the FairFuelUK campaign here: http://act.fairfueluk.com/lobby/Defra-Plan .

I would encourage you to support it.

In the Financial Times on the 8th July there was a good article by Neil Collins on the unforeseen consequences of the push for electric cars. It was headlined “Electric cars are a pain in the wallet for those who don’t drive them”, and it spelled out the wonders of such vehicles.

But the downside is the loss of fuel tax to the Government (£28 billion per year and rising), while electric vehicles are subsidised by the Government. In addition, there are major problems in developing the electricity supply grid to cope with future demand. He says “The energy transfer at a busy filling station is about equivalent to the output of a mid-sized power station” and goes on to explain the energy inefficiency of electric cars due to high distribution and storage costs. He notes that: “Electric cars are gathering speed thanks to politics rather than economics”.

This writer has so far avoided the lure of electric or hybrid vehicles simply because the economics did not stack up. A Prius might work well for a high mileage Uber driver and all electric vehicles have historically had problems of range, recharging time and cost. But they are getting better. I am having a test drive of Tesla Model S next week so I may be able to report my impressions in due course.

Roger Lawson