Thursday, April 16, 2009

Electric Cars

The government have announced a scheme to give people £5000 to get electric cars. Actually, they haven't. There are no dates, details or, in fact, cars. What we have is an eye-catching idea to grab a few column inches with no committed spend and probably no committed spend for years. Still, the media have lapped it up. The biggest problem with electric cars are the cars. Right now the only pure, plug-in, electric cars on the road are slow, unreliable, have a short range and have significant safety issues. You wouldn't buy one through choice. There are hybrids around, primarily based on the Toyota system, but they are outperformed in environmental and practical terms by the best of the clean diesels. So, the best that this policy may be is a marker for motor manufacturers to build something better, and there are some new designs on the way. One example is the Chevrolet Volt, arriving in the UK in 2011 at an estimated price of £30,000 for a car that underperforms a normal car costing half as much. For electric cars to be truly popular they will have to match the performance of at least an average car running on fossil fuels and, crucially, they will have to be capable of recharge in minutes rather than hours. Otherwise no amount of theoretical incentives are going to help.

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