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Electric vs Petrol and Deisel

Recently announced plans to do away with all diesel and petrol cars by 2040 in favour of electric models have been met with some apprehension. Setting aside the relatively high price and comparatively high level of impracticality posed by current electrical vehicles, there's also the question of where we're going to get enough electricity for such a massive switch-over?

Current estimates, which are sourced directly from a report carried out by the National Grid, suggest that electricity demand could rise by up to 50 per cent. Scrapping petrol and diesel vehicles certainly has positive implications for the environment, but would the cost and hassle involved in getting rid of petrol cars completely be worth this benefit?

Benefits of switching to Electric

Firstly, let's look at the benefits of switching to electricity as the primary source of vehicle power. One of the major ones is, of course, the fact that electrical vehicles do not incorporate exhaust systems, which means they do not emit environmentally harmful emissions. Vehicles which are powered by diesel or petrol contribute to the build up of greenhouse-gases in the Earth's atmosphere, which have many detrimental effects on the environment. As a result, electrical vehicles are a much more eco-friendly and sustainable transport solution when compared to their petrol and diesel fuelled counterparts.

When discussing the advantages of electric vehicles, another factor to consider is the sustainability of fossil fuels. Current estimates suggest that the coal deposits we know about will have run out by the end of this century. This means that, sooner or later, the switch to electric would be compulsory anyway, unless new fuel sources are discovered. A vehicular transport infrastructure which is not reliant on fossil fuels seems like a good contingent plan when you think about it in this way – why wait for our natural resources to run out before we make the switch?

Another benefit of electrical vehicles is one that affects consumers directly – the running cost. Electricity is much cheaper than diesel or petrol. The fact that electric vehicles don't have combustion engines also makes maintenance much easier and less costly. Just think – no more oil changes! As well as being cheaper and less of a hassle to run, the lack of a petrol engine also has another benefit – electrical vehicles are much less noisy. This means a reduction in noise pollution created by the din of traffic on busy roads, welcome news to anyone living in inner-city areas, or close to roads with high levels of traffic.

A closer look at the dis-advantages

Now let's consider some of the disadvantages of electrical vehicles. As things stand, one of the foremost objections motorists may voice with regard to switching over to electric is the impracticality of current models. This isn't to say that technology won't be vastly improved over the next twenty years, but currently there are a lot of issues associated with electric vehicles that make consumers wary of making the switch.

One of the foremost disadvantages of electrical cars is the amount of time they take to charge. Depending on the model this can be anywhere from 6 – 20 hours for a full charge. As technology improves however, there are however, newer models which are capable of plugging into rapid charge points – these still aren’t anywhere near as fast as filling up at a petrol station however. If we want to do away with petrol and diesel cars completely by 2040, it's clear that vast advances will need to be made in recharging technology.

Recently announced plans to do away with all diesel and petrol cars by 2040 in favour of electric models have been met with some apprehension. Setting aside the relatively high price and comparatively high level of impracticality posed by current electrical vehicles, there's also the question of where we're going to get enough electricity for such a massive switch-over?

Current estimates, which are sourced directly from a report carried out by the National Grid, suggest that electricity demand could rise by up to 50 per cent. Scrapping petrol and diesel vehicles certainly has positive implications for the environment, but would the cost and hassle involved in getting rid of petrol cars completely be worth this benefit?

Benefits of switching to Electric

Firstly, let's look at the benefits of switching to electricity as the primary source of vehicle power. One of the major ones is, of course, the fact that electrical vehicles do not incorporate exhaust systems, which means they do not emit environmentally harmful emissions. Vehicles which are powered by diesel or petrol contribute to the build up of greenhouse-gases in the Earth's atmosphere, which have many detrimental effects on the environment. As a result, electrical vehicles are a much more eco-friendly and sustainable transport solution when compared to their petrol and diesel fuelled counterparts.

When discussing the advantages of electric vehicles, another factor to consider is the sustainability of fossil fuels. Current estimates suggest that the coal deposits we know about will have run out by the end of this century. This means that, sooner or later, the switch to electric would be compulsory anyway, unless new fuel sources are discovered. A vehicular transport infrastructure which is not reliant on fossil fuels seems like a good contingent plan when you think about it in this way – why wait for our natural resources to run out before we make the switch?

Another benefit of electrical vehicles is one that affects consumers directly – the running cost. Electricity is much cheaper than diesel or petrol. The fact that electric vehicles don't have combustion engines also makes maintenance much easier and less costly. Just think – no more oil changes! As well as being cheaper and less of a hassle to run, the lack of a petrol engine also has another benefit – electrical vehicles are much less noisy. This means a reduction in noise pollution created by the din of traffic on busy roads, welcome news to anyone living in inner-city areas, or close to roads with high levels of traffic.

A closer look at the dis-advantages

Now let's consider some of the disadvantages of electrical vehicles. As things stand, one of the foremost objections motorists may voice with regard to switching over to electric is the impracticality of current models. This isn't to say that technology won't be vastly improved over the next twenty years, but currently there are a lot of issues associated with electric vehicles that make consumers wary of making the switch.

One of the foremost disadvantages of electrical cars is the amount of time they take to charge. Depending on the model this can be anywhere from 6 – 20 hours for a full charge. As technology improves however, there are however, newer models which are capable of plugging into rapid charge points – these still aren’t anywhere near as fast as filling up at a petrol station however. If we want to do away with petrol and diesel cars completely by 2040, it's clear that vast advances will need to be made in recharging technology.

Another problem with electric cars as technology stands now is the relatively short distance they can manage on a full charge. For some models this can be less than 100 miles, but some newer models are capable of distances of over 350 miles. If diesel and petrol models are to be scrapped, the range of electrical cars is something that will have to be improved. With pioneering companies such as Tesla involved in the manufacture of electrical cars, it seems likely that technological advances will overcome the current stumbling blocks of battery power, charge time and range.

If you're driving a standard petrol or diesel fuelled vehicle and are running low on fuel, chances are that there's a petrol station within easy reach. If you're in your electric vehicle and forgot to charge the battery fully, this becomes potentially a much graver problem with no easy solution currently in place. Granted, cities and heavily populated areas have quite an abundance of electric vehicle charging points in place already, but in more sparsely populated rural areas these points are few and far between, and certainly aren't as abundant as regular petrol stations. Depending on how the popularity of electric vehicles goes over the next twenty years, we may well see charging points become as frequent as regular petrol stations, perhaps even more so. But if electric cars don't catch on and charging points don't become more widespread, the plan to switch to electric by 2040 could prove quite a challenge for motorists.

Another potential challenge inherent in the scheme to do away with petrol vehicles is the inevitable strain that would be placed on the National Grid. Imagine post-rush hour, when everyone arrives home from work around about the same time and simultaneously all plug in their vehicles for an overnight charge. Will we have the electrical infrastructure in place to support such a demand for electricity by 2040?

It's always hard to predict what will happen in the future, but as things stand, it's clear that there are still a lot of issues to be resolved before we can make the switch from petrol to electric. Some of these issues can be worked on gradually over the next 23 years – there's still plenty of time to work on the electrical infrastructure necessary for powering all the vehicles which would previously have relied on petrol and diesel. There's also time to introduce more charging points across the country and to improve the technology of electric vehicles so that they can run longer on a shorter charge. The one thing that may prove difficult to change is motorist's mindsets – especially when we've been so used to petrol and diesel vehicles for so long.

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Comments

I was very interested to read this. Can I refer you to a very interesting programme which answers some of the questions which your article poses?
Firstly, can I point out that organisations such as Electricity North West (my local distributor) owns, operates & maintains the electricity distribution network & provides electricity connection services throughout the North West of England. The National Grid is simply the network, ie the pipeline it runs along. At a recent meeting we heard how ENW and others are already planning ahead for the anticipated increase in electric cars. For one thing, by 2030 we will all have smart meters and when we plug in our cars at home, they will switch on in the wee small hours when demand is low. More businesses will have solar panels so we will also recharge our cars while we are at work from this non-grid energy source, and for many who live less than 30 miles from work, this will be sufficient for their needs.
The 3rd speaker mentioned below, Chris Morrison, Head of Peaking Plant (that is the needs for peak demand), Centrica, elucidates on this. I hope that you will be able to update your article in the light of this info, and your own concerns are allayed,- the experts are ahead of us in their thinking- it WILL happen, maybe sooner than we think.
BBC RADIO 4
Is battery technology the key to decarbonising energy and reinventing transport? If so, can the current technology, Lithium-Ion batteries, evolve quickly enough to meet growing demand. If capacity is the problem, is Lithium-ion the answer and what are the alternatives? Can we expect to fly in battery powered aeroplanes in the near future?
Join Evan Davis and his guests as they discuss the future of the power of batteries.
GUESTS
Huw Hampson-Jones, CEO Oxis Energy
Cyrille Brisson, Vice-President, Eaton
Chris Morrison, Head of Peaking Plant, Centrica

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