Why Britain needs an energy bank to support growth of electric vehicles

Business

The UK Government’s ten-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution includes a commitment to accelerate the move to zero emission vehicles.

Thursday, 4th February 2021, 8:46 am In just ten years’ time, the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned – though hybrid will still be allowed. While hybrid vehicles are, perhaps, a needed stop-gap measure, a hybrid vehicle using petrol is also driving a heavy battery and is not environmentally friendly under certain driving conditions.

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In addition, from AESSEAL’s experience of buying a new electric van to move parts between our Rotherham and Bradford plants, there remain significant obstacles.

Electrification of motor vehicles is a great vision and the time frame set by the UK Government is possible, but is entirely dependent on battery technology getting better and a suitable charging infrastructure. The announcement that Britishvolt is building the UK’s first EV gigaplant on the site of the former Blythe Power Station in Northumberland is good news, but the UK clearly needs more such gigaplants to make the use of electric vehicles possible on the scale envisaged. The battery in an electric vehicle is the most expensive component and the price point will probably come down as demand and volumes increase.

The big issue is how to charge the battery when the user cannot wait ten to 12 hours to charge it. Electric vehicles have a limited range and that is fine for round trips of up to 200 miles. How can Government help?

The first issue is to create a standard for the charging to enable a fast, slow or medium charge from the single socket in the vehicle or have a standard for adaptors. Users might stop for a short 20-minute break while the vehicle is recharging on a long journey, but no one will wait eight hours or more unless they are staying overnight. Any new hotels, factories and industrial estates need to have adequate electric vehicle charging points as a condition of planning consent and the price point needs to be set by Government.

Standards should be set for uninterruptible power supplies – basically big batteries – to be used in all Government buildings that not only prevent a power interruption, but also take energy from the grid when demand is low and either sell it back when demand is high or use it to recharge vehicles. The Government should insist that all industrial users who can get a ten-year return on investment on energy saving measures, adopt a policy to prevent global warming and that the requirement for energy audits should be more strictly enforced. An ‘energy bank’ that makes loans for energy projects should be supported and the Government should continue to pump prime the market until there is an acceptable commercial return.

We have a UK Government vision, now we need operators to buy into it and believe it, but mostly we need attention to the right detail in the right order.

We need the minimum viable solutions today and should worry about the really hard parts like trucks and planes later.

By Chris Rea – Managing Director – AESSEAL

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