Hello there and welcome to our monthly / quarterly / whenever i get the chance blog post on random and sometimes electrically biased topics!
So then, some time ago, the government announced that by 2040, no new car would be available to buy with either petrol or diesel power (and that includes hybrid power). This follows similar commitments by France (2040) and Norway (2025). Also mulling over the proposals are the Netherlands (2025), India (2030) and some federal states in Germany (2030). It also followed an announcement from Volvo that from 2019 onwards, it would only be making hybrid or full electric vehicles. What sounds like a fantastic decision and one which surely cannot be argued against - right?
We're nearing the end of fossil fuel powered vehicles and the move into fully rechargeable transport within the next 25 years or so - certainly within my own lifetime.
Whilst current internal combustion powered vehicles (and hybrids don't forget!) are responsible for producing pollutants which have been found to be harmful to health, one of the main advantages of them is a complete and fully supported infrastructure of easily accessible fuelling stations all around the world.
If i were so inclined, i could get in my current car and drive from the office to wherever and i'm pretty certain it wouldn't be an issue to ensure the car could be refuelled along the way.
With respect to electric vehicles, this infrastructure is certainly in it's infancy and will require an awful lot of investment to reach the same level. Yesterday in the Budget, the Chancellor committed to spend some £400m (well, £200m with the balance to come from private investors) to create a Charging Investment Infrastructure Fund which will go "some" way to increasing availability of charging points in the network.
It's true that the ICE infrastructure took decades to get to this level and also that most people (certainly those not living in city centres) can "refuel" simply by plugging in to their home electrical supplies but the fact remains that by announcing a cut off date, governments are committing themselves (and private companies) to ongoing large scale capital investment and expenditure to ensure demand can be met.
I'm pretty sure that this will happen but not sure what the final cost will be. This brings us to the elephant in the room - where do all the wires go back to?
For decades now, the UK's power generating capabilities have been decreasing as coal fired power stations have been decommissioned, whilst nuclear power stations (in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster) fell from political favour and successive governments "kicked the can" along the road for others to address the issue.
In recent years, the emphasis has been on renewable energy (itself in it's infancy) in order to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
All of these measures have meant that our spare capacity for electricity has been reduced considerably. However, at the start of the century, there were signs that this was finally being recognised and that measures would be put in place to address the issue - promptly. Ish.
In 2005, Tony Blair announced a review into the UK's energy policy and in 2006 announced his preference for nuclear power generation. In 2007, EDF said it hoped that we would be cooking our Christmas meals via nuclear power (indirectly!) by 2017. (Edit - not sure if this is going to happen...)
In 2008, the government announced the first plant would be online by 2020 and in the same year, EDF (who bought British Energy, the owners of the UK's existing nuclear power stations) for £12.5bn and planned to build four new reactors) said the cost per megawatt hour would be £45 by the end of 2017.
Initial preparatory works at Hinkley started in 2012. In 2013, the price per megawatt hour was announced at £92.50 and that the first power would be generated in 2020. The cost of the plant was estimated to be £16bn. Edited to add - the £92.50 figure is fixed for 35 years...
In 2014, the EC announced that state aid was "legal" and that the plant would cost £24.5bn. In late 2015, work was announced to start "within weeks" and be completed by 2025. This was started in 2017...
Finally and most recently, costs were announced to rise by another £1.5bn and would now not be completed until 2027.
This is for the first of four plants. Ten years from first announcement to concrete being poured and another ten years to complete.
£10bn over budget (currently). Cost per megawatt hour doubled (in 5 years).
This and the other four plants are to ensure that we have sufficient demand for our envisaged levels of usage. Well, what was envisaged back in 2005...
Based on the current timescales, if the announcement is made for the other three plants simultaneously, we should see them in operation in roughly 2037 -although that is hugely unlikely as the financing capital for such a massive infrastructure project doesn't exist, nor does the political willpower at a time when Brexit is taking up so much of the collective time in Westminster.
In 2016, a total of 2.69m cars were registered in the UK. Of that number, approximately 37000 were either full electric or hybrid vehicles - an increase from just 1000 five years previously.
(This is also in a market which has seen overall car registrations increase steadily since 2012 from approximately 1.95m). As of March 2016, there were 36.7m vehicles licensed for road usage in the UK.
The population has increased dramatically. Our life expectancy rate is increasing. This all means there are now more people wanting to own a car and more demand on our infrastructure.
Into all of this, the government has announced that within just over 20 years you won't be able to buy a new fossil fuel powered car.
£100bn+ on four nuclear power stations. Millions / Billions more investment required for a national grid of charging stations (there are currently 7125 charging points spread over 4603 locations within the UK compared to 8459 petrol stations with over approximately 50000 pumps in those locations).
So the question must be asked - how on earth do politicians believe that this change over can be achieved in the time and how on earth are we meant to be paying for this?