No other fuel comes close to the energy-density, portability and easy storage of petrol and diesel. Battery technology will have to come a long way before the electric car has anything like the utility of a conventional combustion-engined car. That's before you consider the cost of replacing the batteries. Some experts give the battery life as two to three years, and the replacement cost at somewhere upwards of £600 to £1000. Look out for a lot of very cheap 3-year-old cars that the owners can't afford to maintain, and a lot of very unhappy motorists who bought into the 'saving the planet' stuff. The cars are not cheap, either: the Mitsubishi i-MiEV comes with a price tag of around £30,000, and that's for something as big as a Smart car with a piddling range of 75 miles. Free road tax and an exemption from the Congestion Charge is small recompense.
Not for me just yet, thanks. I am not against the principle of electric power (although the argument that they are 'pollution-free' is risible). We have a fleet of golf buggies where I work, and for short-distance pick-up-and-forget journeys they are ideal. They are even quite good fun to drive, for limited values of 'fun' - I got one sideways on ice in December, and I was reasonably entertained for a few seconds. And the recent ZeroTT race in 2010 on the Isle of Man showed that electric bikes needn't be slow and worthy, lapping at almost 100 mph. I guess my feelings about electric vehicles are fairly neutral, if that isn't the worst pun you are going to read today.
Until I read this on Subrosa's blog.
The Government is pushing electric cars with a £5000 grant (of my money, I will have you know), and it seems a lot of Scottish local authorities are buying into the idea with electric cars for staff (didn't you know it?) and pledges of millions of charging points. But it's Friends of the Earth's response that has got me worried. Here's Beth Stratford, FoE Scotland's Energy Campaigner:
"A less obvious benefit is that electric vehicles can help smooth out the peaks and troughs in demand for electricity.
If demand is high then the charging process could be deferred for several hours, and with expected improvements in battery technology, it will be possible for energy to be drawn from the batteries to help cope with temporary shortages of generation.”
Yes, you read that right. They want to be able to 'defer' the charging process if there is high demand for electricity. So you come in from work, and plug the car in ready for tomorrow. But that evening the weather is cold and there is a big football match. Demand for electricity is unusually high, so your charging is 'deferred'. And when you try to go to work in the morning ... nothing. I wonder if they will pay you the wages you lost by not being at work that day?
The energy companies (those charming people who will 'give' you light-bulbs paid for out of your increased bills to meet 'green' targets) will have the right to decide if and when you will be able to travel in your own car.
And worse. Did you see that about "it will be possible for energy to be drawn from the batteries to help cope with temporary shortages of generation"? So you plug it in, hoping to top up a half-discharged vehicle, and instead you find that your batteries have been flattened because there were 'temporary shortages of generation'. Everybody else has had your electricity. You want to get to work, or go shopping, or visit Granny? Tough. The community's needs are more important than yours. Of course, the rational thing to do would be to keep an eye on the charge/discharge state, and disconnect if they try to take it back. So what's the betting that, in time, it will become compulsory to leave your car connected to the grid so that the 'community' can have the benefit of your nasty, privately-hoarded electricity? Disconnecting your car from the People's Communal Shared Energy Resource? Six months, and an ASBO.
Ironically, it is only if we followed the Green plans for renewable, sustainable, intermittent and unreliable energy that such a thing would even be necessary. They really do want to take us back to the Dark Ages.