With all in investment and incentives rolled out by councils in Scotland to encourage us to buy more electric vehicles, why did we fail to register more than 10,000 plug in cars last year, totalling only 0.3% of the overall vehichle ownership?

With the recent focus on air pollution and the harm it can cause, drivers must be helped to make the change to electric vehicles, argues our guest editor Dr Colin Herron, Managing Director of Zero Carbon Futures, an automotive consultancy specialising in advising towns, cities and countries on how to adapt to the introduction of electric vehicles.

Air pollution is one of the greatest challenges facing our local authorities today. In the UK, we are seeing pollution levels at well above Government health standards, something that is estimated to cause at least 40,000 early deaths a year.

Over the past few years, the topic of air pollution has moved up the public agenda and we are becoming increasingly aware of the impact that this health emergency will have on our future.

Parents are becoming more concerned about their children’s walk to school and we’re seeing a real shift in attitudes towards diesel vehicles. Most importantly, we’re also seeing court cases being brought forward. Just this month, a mother in London has won her right to seek an inquest after an expert linked her daughter’s death from
an asthma attack to dangerous levels of pollution from local traffic.

In a similar way to anti-smoking cases many years ago, cases like these will force governments into action.
With traffic a major contributor to urban pollution, towns and cities are starting to introduce policy and initiatives which will help the public reclaim their streets and create cleaner environments for our next generations.

One of the major ambitions of the Scottish Government is to phase out petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032.

The UK Government has declared the sale of both will be banned by 2040

This is definitely positive, however what is clear is that the current fossil fuelled vehicles are not meeting required emission levels now. Major change is needed and for me that means a shift to pure electric driving. Public promotional campaigns, grants towards vehicles and public charging infrastructure development are just some of the initiatives that both the government and local councils have been implementing since the early 2010s to help to create an environment for electric cars to thrive.

HeraldScotland:

Dr Colin Herron CBE, Managing Director of Zero Carbon Futures.

Despite all of this, encouraging consumers to adopt electric vehicles is the most challenging of tasks. By the end of October 2018, there had been a total of 9,892 plug-in vehicles registered in Scotland accounting for only 0.3% of
the overall total vehicle ownership.

Although EV registrations have increased significantly in the last year, this is still a market in its infancy.

So why is this? There are many reasons why people have not yet embraced electric driving.

The most cited one we hear is still “They don’t go far enough”.

With more than 90% of journeys made under 25 miles and most electric cars being able to cover at least 100 miles on one charge (some of the higher end models can cover over 300 miles) this is definitely a matter of perception over reality.

“There’s nowhere to charge” is another objection. Again, this is also not the case in Scotland. Thanks to the work of Transport for Scotland and the Charge- Place Scotland programme, the national network of charge points has grown to around 900 chargers.

And as an added bonus, they’re all free to use. It is fair to say that the cost of purchase is still also a barrier. The second hand market is still very limited so those looking to switch to electric are for the most part buying or leasing from new.

The marketplace desperately needs to increase, so that we have more options for buyers of all price brackets. And to me, this is the key challenge. It’s not about consumer acceptance at all but rather the supply available.

Governments all over the world are setting ambitious targets for electric car ownership; however, the reality is that there are waiting lists for these vehicles.

To get the market moving and to get us all replacing our vehicles with an electric version, the car industry needs to ramp up battery production and do it fast. Only time will tell if they can do it fast enough to help stop this ticking time bomb.

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The Herald’s Climate for Change initiative supports efforts being made by the Scottish Government with key organisations and campaign partners. Throughout the year we will provide a forum in The Herald newspaper, online at herald.scotland.com and in Business HQ magazine, covering news and significant developments in this increasingly crucial area.

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