The case for making this switch is now very powerful - essentially for reasons of global warming and of pollution. Greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced dramatically if global warming is to have any chance of being arrested, and air pollution caused by fossil fuel burning causes many premature deaths - some 40,000 a year in the UK alone, with an economic cost of some £20 billion pa. Diesel engined cars generate some 8-10 times the NO2 emissions of petrol engines on average, and the emissions put out by the power station in generating the electricity to power an electric car are roughly half that caused by the internal combustion engine per unit of distance travelled - so the greenhouse gas and pollution benefits of electric vehicles is clear.
As a consequence of the requirements of the Climate Change Act 2008 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, most emission producing sources have made meaningful reductions. Transport, however, is so far the exception, so it is here that efforts are now being directed.
Geoff acknowledged that fully electric cars are not yet well enough developed for mainstream use - they cost too much; their batteries are expensive and, with insufficient storage, their range is at present too small; and electric charging points are currently too widely spaced to give drivers confidence that they would not run out of power. However, the time is fast approaching when each of these drawbacks will be overcome.
The Government is offering grants to offset the higher cost of electric or hybrid vehicles, and is also providing funding support to roll out a much denser network of charging points. Even with things as they are now, some 1.8% of UK new car sales are battery electric or plug-in electric vehicles, so the sector is starting to gain traction. As electric cars become price competitive sales are expected to take off. For example it is predicted that by 2030 price parity will occur and by then sales of electric cars will amount to some 28% of all new car sales.
All in all, this was an engrossing and thought-provoking talk.