I want to preface this post by saying that I do believe that climate change is real and the emissions we, humanity, create from burning of fossil fuels and other materials are a significant contributor to the destabilisation of the ozone layer. That combined with the fact that fossil fuels are a finite resource and in increasingly short supply and other solutions are needed. The news I am writing about is additionally relevant as I am a UK resident and is an important issue globally.
A new report from a parliamentary committee has triggered further pressure on the UK government to pull forward and be more definitive on the plan to be “effectively zero emission” by 2040 as stated by Prime Minister Theresa May earlier this year. The report gives the opinion of the current plan being “vague and ambiguous” as it stands and even calling for a plan to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2032 which would be more in line with European countries inc Ireland, Germany and Denmark planning their ban for 2030.
The change from petrol & diesel being no mean feat and the transition to alternative energy sources always something we have been aware of with the evidence signifying the effect on the environment but there is more to it than just carbon dioxide affecting the ozone layer. Poor air due particularly nitrogen oxides from sources primarily car exhausts has been linked to approximately 40,000 deaths from heart disease, lung disease and dementia such as Alzheimer’s.
Given the evidence of the effects of vehicle emissions it is important to make steps towards zero emissions more than ever but there is the impact on drivers and passengers of vehicles. Of the 31.5 million registered cars in the UK, 1.6% are plug in hybrids and 0.6% are fully electric with 6500 charging points UK wide available and more required for UK vehicles. This raises the obstacle of providing more suitably available charging points in terms of extending cabling but funding being available and charging point subsidies for employers to install at work places.
Another concern is the demand this would place on the national grid, as it stands with current charging technology the process takes approximately 8 hours but with intelligent drawing from the power grid & improved technology for charging car batteries could alleviate demand. Akin the power walls like with Tesla charging points can be set up at home but not possible for people with no off road parking or living in flats so would be using public charging stations. Given the current 8 hour charging time this would be difficult and so creation of more charging points being a major obstacle in the plan for zero emissions.
Steps are in place at the moment in the UK with funding towards their plan of lowering emissions including local authorities being given £4.5 million over the next 2 years for battery charging points. In addition to that more actively looking to tackle the problem of vehicle emissions before 2032 is looking at bigger offender vehicles and local councils getting £200 million. This will be looking at vehicles with higher emissions but also particular areas such as central London which has an exceptionally high nitrogen oxide emission count.
For the drivers and vehicle owners personally there of course is the benefit of being environmentally friendly by getting a hybrid or electric car but financially there is less incentive with starting next month stopping the plug in hybrid grant and lowering the electric car subsidy from £4500 to £3500. This does make it a bit more difficult for the transition when after the change happens when buying a new car when petrol and diesel are no longer available.
The changes only currently apply to car and vans but there are plans to have low emissions for other vehicles too. Public service & heavy good vehicles are expected to have the option of using natural gas or hydrogen instead with the aim of being ultra low emitters of nitrogen oxide gases and funding from the government of £23 million.