As the UK government’s 2030 ban on full ICE engines looms in the distance we’ll be seeing more of three things. 1) Car companies announcing they’re going EV only from 2030 2) More EV reveals 3) People complaining about both of the former on the internet.
Change is a scary thing. It challenges the norms we’re used to, and our wobbly brains tell us that any challenge is a huge threat, rather than an opportunity for a positive shift. That’s understandable – when has a large change that you haven’t directly had a hand in been 100% perfect? Going from primary to secondary school meant more difficult work, new people, more uncertainty, and a whole heap of extra pressure, for example. Your boss leaving means ‘things are gonna change around here…’ and that rarely leads to an easy ride. At the more extreme end of things – earthquakes rarely end in smiles.
There are a few things not helping the hysteria filling the comments sections. Right now there isn’t an EV to suit everyone, and lots of people don’t get that that’s fine. A Honda E with a 120-ish mile range isn’t going to suit someone who lives 100 miles away from civilisation, just as a car that takes ten hours to recharge won’t work for someone who lives nowhere near a charge point. It’s easy to see how they won’t work specifically for you, but what about how they do work for others? People who only do short journeys, or who have easy access to charge points have been happily (and in some cases evangelistically) enjoying the EV life for years now.
Some may feel that electric cars are being forced down their throats, after all the swap to EV has been so sudden, right? Well, while 2030’s hard end point for electricity-free motors seems a little close, full production electric cars have been around for over a decade. The Nissan Leaf was getting people silently around ages ago, even before Tesla’s EV darling, the Model S, was available. You’ll have seen more and more of them on the road as well, as EV sales are on the rise and then some. With affordable propositions from Kia, Hyundai, VW, Renault, and others to match higher priced cars from Audi, Mercedes, Jaguar, and Tesla, buyers have choice – not only a choice on what sits on their drive, but what drives their choice (so long as it works for them, of course).
Another thing that displeases the comment sections is just how EVs get their electricity. Some electricity is created by burning fossil fuels, sure, and some isn’t. In the first quarter of 2020 47% of the UK’s energy was generated by renewable sources, so not every electron that shot your neighbour’s Kia E-Niro down the road was done by burning compressed dinosaurs. Proponents of this argument are often keen to point out that an EV isn’t super clean because of how its electricity is made, yet forget how their petrol is made (hint: it’s not made by collecting fairy tears).
Perhaps the anger is a fear that come January 1st 2030 some sort of government agency is going to appear and take away anything with a purely petrol or diesel powered engine? Considering the sheer number of cars on the UK’s roads right now, and the fact that cars that have petrol and diesel engines (alongside an electric powerplant of some description) will still be available for sale until 2035, that would seem impractical. No one’s going to step in and turn off the petrol pumps on New Year’s Day. Unless the petrol station’s on fire – then is probably the right moment to kill the supply. Maybe.
We’re at the early stages of electric tech. Ranges aren’t as high as some would like, charge times are longer than many are comfortable with, and the cost of making an EV isn’t low, all things that will draw ire. But it’s easy to forget that over time ranges will rise, charge times will tumble, and as the tech becomes more commonplace cars will become cheaper to produce.
Blanket denial that EVs are our future (either plug in, or fuel cell) isn’t a good look to roll with. It shows a denial of things we know well: internal combustion engines are bad for the environment, inefficient, and require huge resource to work in the first place. To not move to an alternative, or to ignore the fact that there may well be a better way to do things, seems… unwise.
Of course, there are issues with EVs (rare earth metals being one). Nothing is without sin after all, but things simply can’t stay the same just because we like them that way. Over time, perhaps, the thrill of hearing a V8 at full chat will be replaced with… something?
If you’re still firmly in the ‘I hate EVs’ camp, it’s worth noting that historically you’re not alone. In a 1908 article, The Horseless Carriage Means Trouble, by H B Brown in the New York Times, the author states that you can’t get as close to a car as you can a horse or a dog, and that driving one can result in crashes. Car crashes are less severe these days, mercifully, and just take one look at Instagram to see how much people love their cars.
Brown goes on to say: “How far the automobile is a mere whim of fashion, and how far it meets a real need of the community, time can alone determine.” Time very much determined that cars met the need of the community. Just as EVs will.