Don't waste energy

by Tim Kiek
10 Oct 2018
Don't waste energy

Over the summer I attended a conference which asked how consumers can be incentivised to take up electric vehicles. Superficially, it is a reasonable question to pose given the ongoing hegemony enjoyed by diesel and petrol over the UK car parc. Yet the reality is that consumers are not the main drivers of the shift to electric mobility.

Now this is not completely to dismiss the role of the consumer, it is just to put it in a degree of context. Currently the popular narrative is that cost, battery life and infrastructural inadequacies are the main barriers to mass usage of electric vehicles – and it’s a view that has been corroborated by the approximately five billion surveys commissioned to determine the bleedin’ obvious. However, important as it is to overcome these factors in persuading people to change in the short term, it would take the sort of petrolhead who thinks Jeremy Clarkson is the reincarnation of Jesus to deny that, longer term, the days of internal combustion are numbered. At some point in the future we will all be driving – or be driven by – an electric car, whether we like it or not.

To illustrate consumer insignificance in the move to electric mobility let me posit this scenario: what if electric cars suddenly became even more expensive – would it mean fewer people would buy them? Logic dictates yes. But if internal combustion engine vehicles were concurrently subjected to a worldwide ban, then the obverse would apply and more people (those who could afford them anyway) would buy electric cars – albeit reluctantly.

Clearly this hypothetical situation, one that perhaps exceeds the wildest dreams of the most ardent environmentalist, will never happen. What it is intended to show is that it is those who wield legislative and economic power – namely governments and supranational corporations – with whom the real agency lies in dictating the course and speed of the change.

Ultimately, though, reality dictates that implementing any wide-reaching innovation will take time. And given the profound improvements made to emissions from petrol and diesel cars in recent years – this is fine. It is a modern curse to think that everything has to be done at breakneck speed; that we have to ‘go forward’ at all times. Electric vehicles are coming, period. Let’s not waste time trying to convince consumers about them!

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Wendy Hennessey

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