Now we have to make it a reality.
I’ve become obsessed with the electrification of our transport systems. Right now it accounts for 29% of Britain’s CO2 emissions.
Me being me I have thrown myself into this. In the last year I sat on the parliamentary enquiry into electric vehicles; travelled to Norway where 30% of new car sales are fully electric so I could understand how they manage it; met with National Grid managers to discuss infrastructure challenges; went to Milton Keynes where there’s a centre where anyone can go and drive different EVs and see what it’s like and compare models; went to Coventry and the factory where they manufacture the London Black Cabs where all new ones are now fully electric; and the week before recess I hosted a debate on EVs in the House of Commons.
And last week I visited local specialist engine manufacturer Ricado. I met with their teams to talk about how electrification and hydrogen can be brought into other forms of transport. There’s a lot of potential with rail for example.
The first thing to say is that electric cars are amazing! I love driving, I’m even a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, but sold my car over a decade ago because I was determined to ‘walk my talk’ when it came to the environment. It was a wrench but well worth it.
So when I approached driving an electric car for the first time I wasn’t looking forward to it. I expected a lesser experience than I’d been used to. Boy was I wrong!
I drove an entry-level car and the first thing you notice is how spacious the car is inside. Tiny engines and no gearbox or driveshaft means masses of extra room to play with. Then when you get going you notice some other things: Woooooooooow….it’s fast! From a standing start they’re much faster than conventional cars, you don’t have to wait for sparks to ignite fuel and all that stuff. Then you notice the noise, or lack of it. It’s practically silent. Very few of us have cars where the engine makes a beautiful noise, and therefore no noise is a much better option.
And there’s something else, it’s really smooth. Because energy is reclaimed when you slow down it means you can slow the car much more simply by lifting the throttle which means much less moving between different peddles. This makes for a really smooth ride.
And then there’s the other issue: refuelling. The biggest fear people have about electric cars is ‘range anxiety’, not having anywhere to plug-in on long journeys. But the funny thing is that once people actually buy an EV they report something entirely different, a sense of ‘liberation’ from petrol stations!
65% of charging happens from home and most people only have to charge once a week or so, so for most people refuelling fits into their natural travel plans like home, work or the weekly shop, rather than stopping mid-journey or going out of your way like with petrol.
Best of all…per mile electricity is 90% cheaper than petrol. Yes, 90%!
But we do need have a massive challenge to get our country ready. Government have absented responsibility for charging points to local authorities so guess what? A quarter of all local authorities haven’t built a charging point in the last year. Government needs to get a grip.
We’re lucky in Brighton and Hove because one of the manifesto commitments for Labour was to deliver on charging points and they’ve not hung around! By October 200 on-street charging points will have been installed and a dozen fast-charging points at taxi ranks. Once that wave has been installed a new round of funding will be applied for and another 200 will be rolled out.
I went out with the council team that’s installing our charging points. They’re an amazing team that include apprentices, and the team director, Pete, took up my invitation to come to parliament and watch my debate on electric vehicles too.
The charging stations are amazing! They fit straight to existing street lights so it doesn’t take long. And it doesn’t add to the clutter on our pavements. They’re also future-proofed, you can pay by account or contactless and in the future when our National Grid can utilise car batteries en mass to draw down power in peak periods, these charging points already have the tech to manage it. This is the kind of forward thinking we need.
Someone told me they didn’t want a charging point outside their home because it will attract a lot of people to park there. I asked a simple question: would you prefer three noisy cars or vans to park in front of your home, each of which emit noxious gassed and particles, or five or six totally silent vehicles that you can’t hear and don’t emit anything harmful at all? I know which I’d rather!
We still have a long way to go. Government have a target of 2050 for ‘almost zero’ emissions. This is crazy. China and Norway is going 100% zero emissions by 2025. I have called for the target to be brought forward and toughened up to ‘zero’.
Government have cancelled their grants for plug-in hybrids and killed the market. They’ve cancelled the grants for household renewables too which I’ve also challenged. Government must do more.
We need to make sure all our electricity is zero carbon generated, and we’re a great example in Hove and Portslade with the beautiful Rampion wind farm off our shores.
With cars it’s much more than carbon. It’s other poisonous fumes too and it’s the noise pollution especially in built up areas. The reason why I think this is the best thing to have a massive push on now is because not only is it a better driving experience, it’s also better for the climate and our loved environment. Once our lives change for the better it will show that tackling climate change is not just right for environmental reasons, it makes our communities cleaner and quieter too. And it creates and protects manufacture jobs also.
I want this revolution in transport to show that tackling climate change is a positive in so many ways if we get it right.
We must focus on these big challenges. For example, the fashion industry emits five times more CO2 (and 20% of the world’s wastewater) than aviation. Domestic transport fifteen times more than aviation. And worst of all is heating 25 million homes and thousands of businesses with gas, 23 times more CO2 than the aviation industry.
We must tackle CO2 from planes, the sector needs to have targets set and investment in CO2 reduction technologies – but right now we have no policies at all on the biggest CO2 emitting sectors and we need to show we can deliver transformation in those areas making it fair, accessible, and affordable for everyone.
As always I’m trying to put my money where my mouth is. As I said, a decade ago I got rid of my car. In the last year I’ve also got rid of gas from my flat too, it’s now heated and powered 100% by electricity from zero carbon sources. I’m now trying to save for the final step, solar and battery technology for my roof…but sadly that’s a way off for me. But we all needs goals in life don’t we!