What was new about our Electric Car day on September 10th was that amongst the usual eco-nerds and Electric Evangelists there were other people who were just looking at electric cars, doing the math and finding the investment worthwhile.
Stretton’s EV day was the opportunity for interested people to explore the idea of owning electric cars. The salespeople were outnumbered by the users who were often more enthusiastic in their support for the car they’d bought, but also honest about its limitations and realistic about things like their true range and performance. After four of these events, we can draw some conclusions about the way things are going:
- Electric transport is nearly mainstreamThere wasn’t one whacky Tonka toy or one milk float on show. Ranging from the modest to the breathtakingly sporty, these were all vehicles that stood alongside ‘ordinary’ cars. They may make up only 1% of the car population right now, but that’s twice as much as last year, and the real developments aren’t here yet. In a couple of years there will be much wider choice, much longer range, much better value for money.
- The public is becoming more awareMany people who spoke to us were clearly looking for ways to reduce the impact they were having on the environment. They didn’t say it out loud, but there was a tacit acknowledgement that whatever Donald Trump or Nigel Farage may say, our collective lifestyle is unsustainable. We may ignore the fact most of the time, we may prefer not to think about it, but if an opportunity arises to reduce our carbon footprint we’d like to take it. The days of the Stretton resident who told us “I turn my heating up as high as I like and I’ll drive what I like and I DON”T CARE!” are gone.
- There’s a growing uneasiness that the government has lost its way Things are generally unsettled, what with Brexit and all, but the messages from politicians betray a desire to play to the gallery rather than address the problems. Thus the House of Commons energy and climate change committee criticised the lack of co-operation between government ministries, and various policy failures, including a misguided prioritising of heat pumps over biomass and a need to raise the minimum quota for the proportion of biofuels that must be included in transport fuel.
“Our overarching concern” they said, “is that the UK is at risk of failing to meet the targets not because they are impossible, but because Government departments have not cooperated effectively.”
- The spin is being recognised as suchWhen pressed, politicians tend to fall back upon the progress made in meeting targets for renewable electricity rather than overall energy consumption. The UK’s targets involve three areas: electricity generation, transport and heating. According to Carbon Brief, : “So far, the UK is progressing well on electricity. In 2015, it sourced 22% from renewables and is expected to surpass the 30% [target] by 2020. In transport and heat, however, the news is less good…The UK is currently not even halfway towards its heating target, and progress towards its transport target actually reversed between 2014 and 2015.”
- We are out of time, and way beyond ‘normal’Despite its constant promises to ratify the Paris agreement on Climate Change, the UK government hasn’t done so, and doesn’t look like it will do so this year. Remember the existing promises won’t deliver the goods – even if every government delivers on its targets, we’ll be facing a temperature increase of over 3 degrees. And whilst everyone dithers, we’re on track for the third successive hottest year in a row. So, encouraging as it may be to celebrate the launch last week of the Pentland Firth tidal energy plant, it’s only producing 1.5 megawatts and even when all four turbines are running will only produce 6 megawatts, less than one wind turbine and only a tad more than your bog-standard ‘small’ solar farm. Sometimes it seems as if we’re baling the boat out with a teaspoon.
- There’s a long way to go, and time is not on our side
Stretton Climate Care’s mantra is Think Global, Act Local. Globally, the supertanker is turning but, oh, so slowly. Locally, we are doing what we can to decarbonise by helping households increase their energy efficiency, change to less carbon-heavy heating and move away from fossil fuels. That is why we put on Electric Car days; if one person moves a step away from high carbon towards a low carbon lifestyle, it’s worth it. We can look our grandchildren in the eye and say, we tried our hardest; we did our best.