Electric cars could cut the UK’s oil imports by 40% and reduce drivers’ fuel bills by £13bn if deployed on a large scale, according to a new study.
An electric vehicle surge would deliver an average £1,000 of fuel savings a year per driver, and spark a 47% drop in carbon emissions by 2030, said the Cambridge Econometrics study.
The paper, commissioned by the European Climate Foundation, said that air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and particulates would be all but eliminated by mid-century, with knock-on health benefits from reduced respiratory diseases valued at over £1bn.
But enjoying the fruits of a clean vehicle boom will require an infrastructure roll-out soon, as the analysis assumes a deployment of over 6m electric vehicles by 2030 – growing to 23m by 2050 – powered by ambitious amounts of renewable energy.
“There will be a transition in the next five-10 years but you won’t see a sudden shift to electric vehicles until consumers have got over their ‘range anxiety’ concerns and that will only happen with infrastructure spending,” said Philip Summerton , one of the report’s authors.
With recharging stations still relatively few and far between, the ‘range anxiety’ fear that battery-powered vehicles could run out of power has been a notorious deterrent for consumers.
One study earlier this month found that such concerns were more common among less experienced electric vehicle drivers. But the EU also believes that a lack of recharging infrastructure is holding back the budding industry.
Two years ago the European commission proposed a €10bn (£7bn) public works programme, which would have exponentially grown recharging station numbers across Europe. In the UK alone, their numbers would have multiplied from 703 in 2012 to 1.22m in 2020.
But the Tory-led government helped to successfully oppose the measure because of the costs involved in ensuring that a minimum 10% of recharging stations were publicly accessible in every country. Despite this, British subsidies of about £5,000 for new electric car sales have helped the industry develop, industry sources say.
The knock-on benefits to the UK’s GDP from reduced oil costs and increased vehicle spending could amount to between £2.4-£5bn by 2030, the study says. Between 7,000-19,000 jobs would also be created.
“It can no longer come as a surprise to anyone that reducing emissions delivers commercial benefits to industry as well as benefits to the environment and consumers,” said Darren Lindsey, a spokesman for the tyre-maker, Michelin. “To maximise those benefits, however, international policymakers have to create a consistent and robust regulatory framework.”
An Automobile Association (AA) poll of 16,000 drivers last December found that 71% expected to change their car in the net five years. One-third said they would opt for a petrol-fuelled vehicle, one quarter for diesel, 5% would pick a hybrid and just 1% would choose an electric car.
However, fuel economy and low emissions were mentioned by 84% and 55% of drivers respectively as factors they looked for in selecting a new vehicle.
“Our research shows that drivers’ attitudes are changing when it comes to choice of car. Drivers want fuel efficient cars that are also reliable, safe, comfortable and easy to service. However there is still a massive leap of faith to be made before drivers fully embrace full zero emission vehicles,” said Edmund king, the AA president.
Information campaigns and increased carbon labelling schemes are also needed, a launch event in the House of Commons was told on Monday.
Integrating cars running on hydrogen fuel cells into car industry plans will be another challenge to the clean car industry, Summerton said.
“First you have to figure out whether to shift the hydrogen in trucks or build a pipeline [to feed refuelling stations],” he told the Guardian. “Governments are reluctant to pick technology winners, but the downside is that it makes it difficult to start building the supporting infrastructure.”
“When consumers feel confident that a technology has the right supporting technology, the market will move in that direction,” he added.