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Electric Vehicles Questioned


Revolutions are messy affairs. The electric vehicle revolution (the term favoured by transport pundits across the developed world for rising EV sales) is no exception. Europe is betting big on electric cars to cut road transport emissions, which despite the bloc’s best efforts continue to rise (pandemic years notwithstanding). The EU has gone so far as to propose a de facto ban on the sale of thermal cars from 2035, all but ensuring the supremacy of plug-in EVs (with a scattering of hydrogen cell vehicles for good measure). But as EVs become mainstream, sceptics are increasingly vocal. As with all upheavals, the EV revolution must contend with counter-revolutionaries. Faced with a slew of concerns, Brussels used its Fit for 55 climate laws package, tabled in July 2021, to try and legislate away many of the long-standing criticisms of electric vehicles. With drivers worried that electric vehicles have poor range, the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation will ensure charging points are plentiful across the EU; consumers are disturbed by stories of human rights abuses in the mining of raw materials needed to produce batteries for EVs? The EU battery regulation will ensure that Europe has the most ethically produced batteries on Earth. There is concern that increased taxes on internal combustion engine vehicles will hit the poorest in society the hardest - The Climate Action Social Fund will provide a pot of money to compensate the most vulnerable. But as EVs come under heightened scrutiny by pundits and industry, new criticisms are being aired. In an article for the Daily Mail, Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish statistician and well-known critic of climate science, questioned whether electric cars will be seen as the new diesel cars – a reference to the push to switch vehicles to lower-CO2 diesel rather than petrol, which overlooked the harmful air pollutants that came with burning diesel. In his piece, Lomborg argues that the weight of the battery means electric vehicles are much heavier than their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts, which will increase road fatalities. This extra weight will also hurt the environment, Lomborg contends, due to more particles leaching from tyres due to friction with the road. Experts in the field have dismissed these claims as largely fatuous, pointing out that batteries continue to get lighter and that while road particles are a serious issue, the overall emissions from ICE vehicles and EVs are not comparable. However, another claim is likely to cause policymakers a greater headache than the ramifications of heavier cars – the EV revolution’s threat to employment figures. The transition to electric vehicles will put around 73,000 jobs at risk in Italy alone, according to the country’s metal workers’ union and an employers’ group. The European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA) has also warned that an electric vehicle-only approach would lead to around half a million job losses across the EU. Misinformation about the environmental impact of EVs may be easy to counter, but stark warnings of widespread unemployment are certain to occupy the minds of national and EU lawmakers alike.



Via Euractive News

Image - Lewis Clarke.