Businesswise directors Frazer Durris and Peter Catlow were both involved in discussions at the House of Lords last week surrounding greener transport solutions chaired by Lord David Howell.

While the title of the debate was “Banning Diesel Transport in Cities – The Implications”, the main discussion point was in fact about the large-scale adoption of electric vehicles and what needs to be in place to support this shift effectively and within the ‘green’ parameters.

Peter said: “We learned about the leading players in the adoption of electric vehicles, for example; the Norwegian government has been aggressively interventionist in their promotion; reducing taxes, installing charging infrastructure (10,000 charging points), giving access to bus lanes and offering concessionary rates for parking charges, ferry fares etc, resulting in 50% of new car registrations being EVs this year.

“And, as we might expect, China has set out to lead the world in the production and adoption of electric vehicles, through the government’s command of the economy, with ambitions of domestic sales of electric vehicles to be one million units in 2018, with a target of two million by 2020.”

These are all good stats, but while Norway and China appear to be ticking the right boxes and leading the charge to a cleaner future, there were concerns that moving to EVs is not all good news:

  • There is little benefit in making low carbon vehicles if the energy used to do this is generated using non-renewable sources.
  • The most viable battery technology is currently Lithium Ion and as demand increases there will inevitably be environmental issues surrounding lithium extraction.
  • In addition, these batteries have a finite life (circa 8 years or 100,000 miles) and so disposal/recycling will become an increasing issue.
  • Governments benefit hugely from the tax revenues generated from oil based fuels, a replacement for these revenues will need to be found.
  • Countries such as Argentina and Poland have massive reserves of coal and will not want to weaken their economies by moving to renewable sources of energy.
  • Managing the transition from fossil fuels to renewables will become increasingly difficult, as the balance tips, with the need to maintain legacy assets as the generator of last resort, in the face of reducing demand.

There is little doubt that both Norway and China are leading the way by supporting EVs with strong incentives, but there are other, potentially greener, technologies out there; principally the hydrogen fuel cell which are yet to be fully explored.