Welcome to #TRVSTLOVES. We curate news, ideas and inspiration from across the world which demonstrate how real action can accomplish a positive social impact. This time we’re taking a look at electric cars, how ready we are for them and the associated obstacles that still need to be overcome.
We thought we’d start this handy little pro and con list which gives a helpful overview of the main issues around the rollout of electric cars. The benefits include impressive energy efficiencies and of course no dirty exhaust pipe fumes polluting the environment. Hopefully, cleaner air will become more noticeable as people start to convert, especially in large cities where you can almost taste the fumes. You might also be surprised to know that the performance of electric cars is pretty impressive, there’s an assumption that EV’s (electric vehicles) will be slower and less powerful than their petrol counterparts which is not the case.
On the con side, the batteries used to power electric cars come at an environmental and ethical cost, and there’s also the issue of toxic waste from end of life batteries. Recycling provisions are being developed as we speak, but it’s still something to be mindful of. There’s also the essential matter of supportive and adequate infrastructure to convince consumers to buy with confidence.
The UK's energy regulator has recently agreed to a £300m investment in low carbon projects to encourage electric car take-up. This investment will include support for 3,550 charging points across the country. With sales of new petrol and diesel cars to end in the UK by 2030, it will be important for the UK to get some of these measures in place, not least because they will need to increase public confidence and address “range anxiety” as the date rolls closer.
Asking people to change their habits isn’t an easy one, and as you’d expect there are worries and fears around such a switch, but range anxiety is very real and giving consumers “peace of mind” will be an incredibly important part of our journey toward an EV led market.
It’s worth noting that the £300m investment is part of an overarching £40bn investment for the entire energy network, but this specific slice is to encourage the uptake of EV’s and to provide clean, low carbon electric heating for both homes and businesses, all of which are very welcome initiatives as we move towards more efficient ways of living.
Just recently Australia’s top economists backed government intervention to speed the switch to electric cars. When it comes to EV uptake, it may be a surprise to learn that Australia is still viewed as being in the dark ages, especially when compared to many European countries.
The reason for this points mainly to high price points for EV’s; in Europe, there are generous incentives to either buy or lease new cars which just aren’t available in Australia. Analysis shows that EV sales in Australia accounted for 0.7% of the overall market in 2020 compared to 10% in many European countries. When asked what action the Australian government needs to take to speed up their switch to EV’s, some of the top answers from economists included subsidising public charging points, removing the luxury car tax and making charge points compulsory in new homes and new car parks.
Whilst all countries are going to have to address these practical charging points, it certainly feels like that for most Australians, EV’s need to be financially viable before they are even a consideration as a main mode of transport for the majority of families.
As we move towards electric vehicles, it’s important to remain aware of the ethical problems associated with them too. EV’s don’t guzzle petrol or diesel which is, of course, the main attraction, but like anything that requires a natural resource (the battery), there are consequences. EV batteries are traditionally made from both lithium and cobalt and a recent report from the UN showed that in Chile, lithium mining “uses nearly 65% of the water in the country's Salar de Atamaca region”. This is forcing farmers and local people to migrate, and the mining is contributing towards polluted and contaminated lands. So what’s the answer?
Well the UN recommends that these countries provide a “conducive environment to attract investment to establish new mines or expand existing ones”. In other words, they need to find a way to take advantage of trade opportunities to bring more money to the country. How feasible this actually is, is of course up for debate. They also recommend that the industry finds ways to reduce its reliance on these raw materials. Again, not an easy feat, but we’re already starting to see evidence of how miners of lithium are trying to go green, for example harvesting lithium as a by-product of geothermal power generation.
Of course there’s a podcast about EV’s, there’s a podcast for everything these days! Some are a little dry, but this EV news daily podcast is quite punchy. Episodes are generally around 20 minutes and there’s lots of coverage around the latest news and trends, as well as how automotive companies are reacting and adapting to the changes. Stories are from across the world and not just the UK, so it’s interesting to see how different countries and manufacturers are approaching the situation.
As we mentioned earlier, there are definitely assumptions that EV’s won’t measure up in terms of performance to petrol alternatives, so it’s interesting to hear what luxury sport cars are doing, such as Lamborghini who plans to unveil its first gasoline-electric hybrid performance car in 2023. Whilst the electric versions of these cars are said to be “shockingly fast”, perhaps one of the more noticeable things missing will be the roar of engine, but whether that’s enough to put off potential buyers remains to be seen.
Sam produces our regular #TRVSTLOVES where she seeks out inspiration, news, and ideas from across the globe that both highlight and celebrate how actions can make for social and environmental change.
Sam is passionate about seeking out small businesses that are implementing remarkable and exciting projects to tackle the climate crisis; she enjoys exploring how their innovation will help change the future of our world.
A degree in English Literature from the University of Southampton has given Sam the research expertise to share and contextualize stories around innovative projects, legislation, and changemakers.