Very interesting forum last month on ’The next steps for low-emission vehicles...’ (see Industry Insight p23). Apart from the fact that the move to electric vehicles and the necessary infrastructure required to service them, all sounded like one huge, challenging mess despite the enthusiasm of some of the presenters there were certain points raised that made my ears prick up.
Firstly, there’s been a lot of talk about ’fast-charging’, and once these facilities are installed more people will be encouraged to buy electric vehicles because the whole process of charging en route will be so much quicker. But this thinking was challenged by Philippa Oldham, head of National Network Programmes at the Advanced Propulsions Centre which supports a range of low-carbon propulsion R&D technology. She said continually rapid charging an EV would destroy the vehicle very quickly, with a real degradation of some of the technology within it. Oh.
Councillor Will Pascall, lead member, streets, planning and transport at Kensington & Chelsea, was concerned that "we’re going hell for leather for EV" and not paying attention to brakes and tyres. Compared to modern diesels, he said EVs were producing more particulates (through extra weight of the batteries) "and for us CO2 is not the primary worry as an inner London borough, it’s particulate pollutants". Oh.
Experts commenting later on the forum transcript, refer to disappointment at the emphasis during the forum on battery vehicles and no mention of hydrogen fuel cell technology, which they say could become a significant contributor to decarbonising transport. One said "fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) change everything for our environment, but change nothing for drivers... Hydrogen pumps can be installed on existing staton forecourts... Building more comprehensive hydrogen transport infrastructure can put us on the best path toward decarbonisation of roadways in the UK." Oh.
All the technologies have their challenges, but I think we deserve some balance in the discussions about a long-term, clean and sustainable, low-emission transport future.