Electric Cars – toys of the rich, subsidised by the masses

Joanna Nova reports on a new study showing that electric cars produce more CO2 that either petrol or diesel cars if that electricity is produced principally from coal-fired power stations.

The most practical electric car

In Britain there is more a market for electric vehicles, but still puny sales. The European Car of the Year is the Chevrolet Volt, which has a 1.4 petrol engine to accompany the electric motor. At £29,995 it costs 50% more than a similarly-sized Ford Focus diesel, even with the £5,000 government subsidy. In fact, it is more than a similarly-sized Audi, BMW or Mercedes and will not last nearly as long. If you look at the detail, the Volt has a claimed CO2 emission 27 g/km, as against 99 g/km for the best diesels. This takes no account of the CO2 emissions from the power stations. In Britain electricity is mostly from gas, with much of the rest from coal and nuclear.

There is also a question of equity. Domestic electricity has a 5% tax added on. Diesel has over 120% added. So the cost for 100 km (using official figures and 15p per kwh + 5% vat) is £2.66 for the Volt and £6.00 for the equivalent diesel car (combined 67.3mpg and £1.43 per litre). But tax is £0.13 and £3.30, so most of the cost saving is in tax. In the UK the average is 12,000 miles or 19,300km per year. So the tax saving from driving the Volt is up to £610 per annum. Although if you travel that distance per annum there will be a number of long distance journeys. Let us assume half the 12,000 miles is on the petrol engine at 50mpg, with petrol at £1.38. Then the annual tax saving drops to just £70.

The biggest saving for electric car owners is in London, with the congestion charge. Drive 5 days a week for 11 months of the year into London, and the conventional car owner will pay £2,750 a year. Drive an electric car or hybrid and the charge is zero.

So what sort of people would be persuaded to buy such a device? It is the small minority who have money for at least two cars, but want to appear concerned about the environment. They have the open-top sports car for summer days, the luxury car for long journeys, and the Volt for trips to the supermarket or to friend’s houses. It is the new form of conspicuous consumption for the intelligentsia, making the Toyota Prius so last year.

The least practical electric car

Launched this year the Renault Twizy is claimed to be about the cheapest “car” available today. As a car it is also by far the smallest available as well, being more a quadricycle, with no proper doors. The cost is kept low by not including the battery which is rented for at least £48 a month. As the Telegraph concludes, it is an expensive toy. My 12 year old son said he would love one when he saw it in a car showroom recently. But he would soon regret it if he was transported to school in it every day, instead of riding on the top-deck of a bus. At least if his dad forgot to plug it in, it would be small enough for him to push.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 36 other followers

%d bloggers like this: