January 16th, 2020 at 12:24 pm
When most motorists think about whether to take the plunge and go electric, they tend to muse over it in isolation. If an EV could save them money on their motoring costs then this is to be welcomed and most people’s concerns are over the cost of these new vehicles and the nearest charging points. Those with a green conscience will be delighted that they are doing their bit to help the environment but what will an electric motoring scene across the UK really look like?
The government has pledged to ban all sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 so within the next two decades, our roads and lifestyle will change forever. There are rumblings of discontent from motoring organisations saying that the UK is not ready for such a sweeping change but fast forward and consider just what the country’s roads could look like by 2040.
Peace and quiet
Electric vehicles don’t just remove harmful emissions but they are quiet, even silent so traffic noise is going to disappear, a welcome relief for those who live beside busy roads. Town centres previously choked with traffic will become silent. Those areas which have been pedestrianised, will vehicles be allowed to return? Rather ironically, different organisations have raised a safety flag as very quiet vehicles can be hazardous to pedestrians and cyclists.
From July 2019, all EV manufacturers must install an acoustic sound system in new quiet EVs and hybrids for road safety. The artificial sound generator will produce a specified level of noise when the vehicle is either reversing or moving forward at around 12mph or slower. The noise options are similar to the sound of a conventional engine and may be switched off by the driver.
Pollution and the elimination of toxic emissions from vehicles is the main aim behind the move to EV vehicles in the UK. This should have a significant benefit on those who live in town and city centres and considerably reduce harmful emissions around schools and hospitals.
There is the question of indirect emissions- how is the electricity produced that powers the vehicle? So if you have your own charging point and solar panels on the roof of your house to generate your own electricity then you can feel very self-righteous about your motoring’s green footprint. And you will be saving yourself a lot of money too.
The demise of the petrol station
There will still be a requirement for fuel post-2040, for older vehicles and classic cars but the proliferation of the petrol station will be over alongside the history and culture that surrounds it. In rural areas, the filling station is a community hub often having a store or shop attached, sometimes even a Post Office and they are frequently independently owned local businesses. There may also be a garage or repair shop too. Will these remote outposts miss the fuel sales as part of their business? The answer is, probably not as the profit per litre is minuscule and the fuel provision is usually kept as a community service and to bring people in for other reasons.
But if people are drawn to the petrol station by the fuel, will footfall diminish if the fuel is lost? Possibly. But the fuel pumps could be replaced by electric charging points meeting the same purpose although, in rural areas with houses standing alone with gardens and land, it is far easier for occupants to install their own charging point not something which replicates easily in the terraced rows of towns and cities.
The oily rag consigned to the history books
For a young guy wanting an apprenticeship in traditional mechanical engineering, he will need to look elsewhere as cars are almost solely the domain of the electronic engineer now and with the conversion to EVs, the traditional role of mechanic will disappear totally. Some young men are heading to the heritage railways lines to get their hands dirty on steam and diesel engines. For new entrants to the motor trade, a proficiency in sorting out electronic issues is almost the sole requirement now. It won’t be long before generations don’t know what a spark plug, screwdriver or spanner are and ‘what is Swarfega?’ will appear as a puzzling question on television quiz shows.
The balance of power in the world
With less reliance on crude oil, global demands for fuels is expected to peak in 2021, what effect will this have on the international stage? The Arab states are never far from the news and the US and Western countries have always had to tread carefully because of their huge reliance on crude oil for petrol and diesel. No longer.
The big-name oil companies are busy acquiring the electrical infrastructure to service the anticipated demand for EVs. The number of EVs around the globe remains low at around 2% of overall vehicle numbers but the growth is expected to be exponential. A recent acquisition was made by Royal Dutch Shell who bought Greenlots, a company devising software for EV charging points, networks and grid balancing solutions.
The rise of Artifical Intelligence
Alongside the development of electrical power comes the advancement of Artificial Intelligence which has been cruising around the motoring scene in many guises for several decades. ABS is one of the earliest manifestations of AI on cars but AI has been creeping into motor manufacturing for several years making the concept of a driverless car a fairly imminent prospect.
Driverless technology raises a whole host of ethical, safety and legislative issues which will need to sprint to catch up with the developments within motor manufacturing. With no requirement to be propelled manually by a human being, the design of cars will also change to reflect this new world. It might all seem space-age but it is charging towards us driven by substantial fear about climate change coupled with the endless progression of technological developments which will bring AI into many areas of our lives.
Whether its EVs or driverless cars, you can be sure that the face of motoring will be revolutionised within the next two decades. This is probably the biggest change since the arrival of the horseless carriage just around a century ago.