Should governments be encouraging so many individuals to own their own EV?

Many governments around the world are seeking to move individual ownership of vehicles over to EVs.

In Norway, where EVs already account for half of new vehicle sales, the government has said it plans to eliminate sales of new internal combustion vehicles altogether by 2025. The Netherlands aims to follow suit by 2030, with France and Canada to follow by 2040.

The Scottish Government’s ambition is to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032. You can find out more about Scotland’s drive to convert to EV personal ownership here: Greener Scotland Orkney, as The Orkney News has previously reported, has a very high % of EV ownership. There are also many more charging points installed across Scotland. EV Charging Point Finder

Is this the way forward? Should governments be encouraging so many individuals to own their own EV? What are the implications ?

Today there are more than 7 million electric vehicles (EVs) in operation around the world. A group of researchers from the Toronto Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering have modelled what would happen if personal ownership of EVs was to become the norm.

They decided to run a detailed analysis of what a large-scale shift to EVs would mean in terms of emissions and related impacts. As a test market, they chose the United States, which is second only to China in terms of passenger vehicle sales.

Researcher Alexandre Milovanoff explained:

“We picked the U.S. because they have large, heavy vehicles, as well as high vehicle ownership per capita and high rate of travel per capita.

“There is also lots of high-quality data available, so we felt it would give us the clearest answers.”

“Right now the total proportion of EVs on the road in the U.S. is about 0.3%.

“It’s true that sales are growing fast, but even the most optimistic projections suggest that by 2050, the U.S. fleet will only be at about 50% EVs.”

Based on the scenarios modelled by the team, the U.S. would need to have about 350 million EVs on the road by 2050 in order to meet the target emissions reductions. That works out to about 90% of the total vehicles estimated to be in operation at that time.

A fleet of 350 million EVs would increase annual electricity demand by 1,730 TWh, or about 41% of current levels. This would require massive investment in infrastructure and new power plants, some of which would almost certainly run on fossil fuels.

The shift could also impact what’s known as the demand curve — the way that demand for electricity rises and falls at different times of day — which would make managing the national electrical grid more complex. Finally, there are technical challenges to do with the supply of critical materials, such as lithium, cobalt and manganese for batteries.

The team concludes that getting to 90% EV ownership by 2050 is an unrealistic scenario. Instead, what they recommend is a mix of policies, including many designed to shift people out of personal passenger vehicles in favour of other modes of transportation.

These could include massive investment in public transit — subways, commuter trains, buses — as well as the redesign of cities to allow for more trips to be taken via active modes, such as bicycles or on foot. They could also include strategies such as telecommuting, a shift already spotlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Researcher Heather MacLean said:

“EVs really do reduce emissions, but they don’t get us out of having to do the things we already know we need to do.

“We need to rethink our behaviours, the design of our cities, and even aspects of our culture. Everybody has to take responsibility for this.”

Orkney Housing Association has deal with an EV car club, Co Wheels, which encourages people to move from individual car ownership to hiring one when it is required.

Improving the road infrastructure to make it safer and easier for people to move around by cycling and walking is essential as is the expansion of public transport which needs to be affordable to all.

Although moving around too much is being discouraged currently due to the spread of Covid19 we have to think beyond the pandemic because the climate crisis hasn’t gone away just because we are dealing with a public health one. Indeed we need to take this time to reset how we think about transport. Recently a new railway station was opened at Kintore, Aberdeenshire and a veterans rail card scheme was also launched.

The Veterans Railcard

  • The Veterans Railcard will be available as a 1-year product for £21 until 31 March 2021 (after this date it retails at £30),
  • A 3-year product is also available for £61 until 31 March 2021 (after this date it retails at £70).
  • The card will offer 34% discount on Standard and First Class Anytime, Off-Peak, Super Off-Peak and Advance fares, with a Minimum fare of £12 applying Monday – Friday between 04:30 and 09:59, excluding public holidays and July and August.
  • The cardholder can specify a named companion at time of purchase who will also receive 34% discount, but only when travelling with the cardholder.
  • Up to 4 children aged 5-15 can also travel at 60% discount, but only when travelling with the cardholder.

Veterans Railcards can be obtained by applying through the RDG website, telesales or via postal application.

Transport, including ferries, is a major contributor to carbon emissions and finding solutions to our reliance on the convenience that individual car ownership affords us will take a major shift not just in government strategies but in our own thinking.

The report from the researchers in Toronto was published in Nature Climate Change.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

Leave a Reply