Thursday 16 April 2009

The electric car is coming. But not just yet...

Only last week all the motor press were slamming the [£2,000] electric car subsidy announcement as a "pointless sound bite." Today, reannounced with a bigger subsidy [£5,000] and to include hybrids, it seems last weeks kite flying is out for another float before next week's budget.

If it really is delayed for two years then the whole thing is probably more damaging to the electric car industry than doing nothing. HMG has poor form on making pronouncements that have yet to be thought through, just for the headline. {VED rise - Stamp duty cut - Scrappage tax - New cars discount boost...}. A delay in subsidy, surely only for a complete lack of government funds, will merely put potential buyers off for two years. How does this help the industry? The only sensible reason to wait two years would be to use the intervening time to build the necessary infrastructure to support such vehicles. There was already a special tax break on the Prius,that was so complicated even the dealers couldn't understand how to tell buyers to access it. Will this be any easier? The subsidy already exists in many other countries. China and the USA and Japan. If its offered there, and those countries are also, like Mr Brown, keen to position their countries as world leaders in electric/hybrid/alternative fuelled cars, then why are we waiting? To give them another 2 years head start on top of the decade they have already had?

The scrappage scheme seems to have been been dropped, even though there seems evidence that, amazingly,it works.The growing list of EU countries with scrappage schemes includes: Austria, Cyprus, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania and Spain. It sounds Green enough for Gordon. Why so out of favour now? 0.01% of cars sold in the UK are currently electric. People looking to buy a Prius may be tempted by the £5,000 off. Many fleet operators will have a look, if they are looking at cars at all. But not vans though. Poor LDV. No help from HMG, even though they claim to want to become an electric van manufacturer.
And even if there was a brilliant design of electric car,that could manage 500 mile range, 80mph, was available as a family sized vehicle and complied with the tough safety tests available in 2 years time, would there be the power to run them? ND may have a view of 1,000,000 + cars all sitting on charge every night for 4 - 12 hours.

Ultimately I can't see the economic sense in any of this. What have I missed?


Sebastian Weetabix said...

There is no economic, scientific or engineering sense behind any of this. A bunch of juvenile, unthinking, doctrinaire student politicians pretending to be grown ups are indulging in green fantasies. How our descendants will laugh at us.

We are living through an interesting time. We are witness to the death of the scientific age, the rise of cargo-cult non-science where models count for me than observation, and the birth of a new religion. The God of that religion is Gaia.

Old BE said...

"I can't see the economic sense in any of this"

Did you come down in this morning's rain? This is Gordon Brown we are talking about. The only reason he has for anything is to get himself on to the front page.

Nick Drew said...

the chances of a small rechargeable electric motor being as energy-efficient, full-cycle, as a modern internal combustion engine (into which a century of development has gone, and can now offer > 60 mpg easy) are zilch any time soon

it is just possible you could get everyone to recharge 'em at night only, which would certainly bring some grid-system efficiencies

and if you could get people to use only 'opportunistic generation', (a.k.a. 'intermittent generation', a.k.a. windfarms) there might be an even bigger system efficiency: but it seems unlikely

otherwise, there will be a net increase in emissions, albeit they are moved out of town and back to the large power stations - gas & coal, natcha subsidy on the scale mooted will be a grotesque distortion: Mrs D drives a >60 mpg Polo that only cost a bit less than twice that

roym said...

i agree, just headline grabbing cr@p.

do they think policy up down the pub these days?

i dont think scrappage is the answer here though. arent the vast majority of cars made here exported? 70%? plus are the ones we actually buy made here? we'd be sending wedges of cash to the continent. something that happens anyway i guess.

Steven_L said...

I doubt that HM Treasury officials would expect monetarists such as yourself to see the economic sense in spraying lots of freshly printed money around left, right and centre.

They'll just trot out the usual 'Keynsian stimulus' line seen as the poor bugger is no longer available to defend himself.

Unsworth said...

Charging vehicles overnight will merely raise baseload in coal-fired stations - thereby increasing emissions. There's no economic sense in using gas or oil fired.

Nuclear was the answer, but we'll get to Peak Energy well before the new stations are commissioned. That decision should have been made ten years ago.

Energy costs are set to escalate over the next five years.

As to scrappage, well, cui bono?

Bill Quango MP said...

Unsworth: Who benefits indeed.
"In Germany a scraping scheme has had a staggering effect, driving a 40pc monthly rise in car sales."

Which is staggeringly successful.

"However, industry analysts have serious reservations about how successful the scheme could be in the UK. A total of 75pc of vehicles produced in the UK are exported, and 86pc of vehicles sold here are manufactured abroad."


"consumers receive a £2,000 incentive to scrap a car over nine-years-old and buy a new or one-year-old model. The estimated cost of £560m would be almost wiped out by VAT returns of £400m, as well as the environmental benefits of drivers switching to modern cars."

Or just cut the VAT on new cars for 1 year? £400 million cost. Takes moments to do.Could be announced on Wednesday and running by Thursday.

Then allow dealers some future 2-5% VAT credit for each old banger squashed.

Bill Quango MP said...

SW: I only recently heard of the cargo cult. Interesting phenomenon.
The scientific age is still here.
its the industrial age that's over!

BE: Yes. I chose the words "economic sense" with care.

ND:Are you suggesting the cars are only recharged on windy days? Also, how are these cars charged? If you don't have a garage do you take the battery inside? If you charge onto the street can someone unplug your juice and plug it into their car? My car is parked 500-2000 yds from my house. When in Town its in a car park.
Anyone have one of these things?

Roym: Not the pub, the club. You can still smoke in the House.
The electric van bloke is C4 news now. They keep adding in replacement parts to the overall saving of running a car.
Mrs Q and I have changed 3 bulbs,2 timing belts, brake pads and tyres in 5 years.

Steven L. Just keep splashing the cash. As Adolph Hitler said when told about the Nazi parties dire finances in the run up to the 1933
"If we win, then it won't matter.
And if we lose, then it won't matter."

Nick Drew said...

Bill - they do anticipate quite a bit of infrastructure required, naturally

as regards the link to windfarms, that was my suggestion but it plays to the only intelligent way to look at them: as opportunistic generators, measuring output from the zero % end of the load spectrum with anything > 0 a bonus (their intermittency is so great as to make them no-hopers when measured from the 100% end)

they then need to be paired with electricity demand that can make use of this - NOT hospitals, natch: but some of the candidates are (a) chargeable batteries (b) pumped water for hydro-electric storage reservoirs (c) compressed-air turbines (d) filling water-tanks in office-blocks ... etc

if (for example) it were the norm to have half a dozen spare batteries for each electro-buggy, and they held a charge well, you may be fairly indifferent as to when they were re-charged, and the 15-20% uptime of a wind turbine may give an acceptable amount of opportunistically-generated power

absent such serendipitous pairings, there's no (economic) future for wind generation. Of course, there may be an excellent subsidised future ...

Old BE said...

I have it all worked out and the world can be saved in one blog comment.

Wind generators are used to generate hydrogen. Hydrogen is used to run fuel cell cars.

Electro-Kevin said...

There doesn't need to be economic sense.

The whole idea is to detract from the fact that the Government can't run our country properly.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Bill Q., I agree the industrial age is over... but I do fear the scientific age is coming to an end. We no longer properly teach science in schools; a generation is leaving formal education which is essentially innumerate. If you disbelieve me, try interviewing some 1st class Hons graduates in science like I have to. Standards have dropped - precipitately.

I was hopeful we would recruit some bright Chinese guys, but I am sorry to say that confirmation bias is prevalent with our Asian friends & scepticism, speaking truth to power if you will, is in very short supply.

Recently I even heard an Indian "physicist" argue that the laws of thermodynamics are racist! (because the most efficient power generation is done on a large scale, not in micro-schemes in villages) As the Yanks say, go figure.

The Frankfurt school of Marxists have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Just for fun, to see examples of the egregious abuse of scientific & mathematical principles, you should all check out John Brignell's blog,

We're doomed I tell you.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

"I can't see the economic sense in any of this"

Because there isn't any.

If there were, it wouldn' need a subsidy.

Elementary, my dear Watson.

Bill Quango MP said...

I recruit from the other end of the scale. 20 years ago I was stunned when a kid proudly showed me his 'attendance and behaviour' certificates. No academic ones at all, but he had glowing letters from his teachers.
Didn't work out.

Since then, if anything, its worse. Used to be about 50% of intake would be ok. Now more like 20%. The good ones are still very good though.

Bill Quango MP said...

'It's the Economy 7 Stupid'.
Very good. Definately an economy 7 now. Lukewarm, low powered, wasteful and ..erm..Brown.

Anon. "I can't see the economic sense in any of this"
Because there isn't any.

I Thought so, and it seems many agree.

Demetrius said...

At the weekend locally, the roads are busier that during the week. Just how much of this running about is really necessary? Just how many cars are really necessary? Whether electric, petrol, diesel, or clockwork, the day will come when the motoring will have to decline. So do we manage it, or just let all the wheels come off at once?

sobers said...

Why bother with destroying wealth by scrapping old cars? Why not go the whole hog and have some serious wealth destruction - a good old war? After all, all those tanks, guns, ships and planes, plus the ammunition, well soon there'd be work for everyone!

Even the eco-freaks would approve - a bit a mass depopulation is just what they want.

Line up here for the Great Patriotic War Against Economic Collapse (2010 - ???), opposition TBA.

Anonymous said...

Oh the scrappage scheme rears its ugly head again.
Ireland had a scheme like this over 10 years ago, but it failed badly.


The intention was to get all the badly maintained smokers off the road. The result was that well maintained older cars that were traded into dealers were scrapped, and the value of end of life vehicles increased slightly. The pool of the worst maintained cars that were sold for peanuts did not. These were bought and sold by people who could not afford anything newer. They sure as hell didn't want to spend any more on maintenance than they had to to keep legal. A really green approach.

Its just bloody greenwash

Bill Quango MP said...

Sobers. If he could afford it, he would do it.
A good old war, with someone feebler than the Argies, and a lot nearer as we can't afford the fuel and maintenance any more. + need Northern hemisphere for the summer..
How about Iceland? Its near perfect. Any they are all terrorists.I'm sure I read that somewhere.

VAW: I read mixed reviews about the EU scheme so far. It seems to be helping pensioners scrap their 10 year old Vauxhall Nova for a Suzuki or Daihatsu super economic mini car.
As they are never going to go anywhere far in it, I doubt the "Eco" saving will ever be realised.
But, it is another car sold, so another job saved.

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