Electric cars in Britain

electric carAlors que les pays développés mettent en place des politiques pour réduire la pollution, les voitures électriques sont souvent mises en avant comme une solution miracle à ce problème. La Grande-Bretagne essaye d’universaliser l’utilisation de ses voitures dites non polluantes en offrant des aides aux particuliers mais aussi dans le secteur public.

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The British government declared that it will cover up to 75% of the price to settle a charging-point for electric vehicles in garages or driveways. But, according to the Department of Transport the installation is still expensive for an average family because it costs about 10.000£ for a power point capable of charging two cars in a residential area. But the price of the electric cars themselves must also be taken into account as they remain much more than petrol cars – about 25,000£ for the new Nissan Leaf which isn’t even the best car on the market.  So who drives those cars?

According to the BBC, everyone can drive and enjoy them. The British electric car users interviewed by the BBC seem very happy with their cars and claim they are more fun to drive than petrol cars. The new cars on the market can please students as well as families and even sport car lovers. Indeed, to go to work or to go out with friends, electric cars can fill our needs just like other cars. So why were only 2000 electric cars sold in Britain last year?

The crux of the matter could be Britain’s electricity mix. Currently in Britain, only 5.5% of the energy produced comes from a renewable source, 14% is provided by nuclear plants, 31% by coal and 46% by gas stations. The British government is considering an alliance with the French electric company EDF to build new nuclear power plants in the South of England. So, even if electric cars don’t reject CO2 directly, it doesn’t mean they are not harmful for the environment! How harmful they are basically depends on a country’s electricity mix: the more coal and gas in the mix, the more greenhouse gas emissions electric cars will cause in that country (albeit indirectly): “Electricity from coal, which is the most polluting way to generate power, drastically reduces the environmental advantage for EVs. Because China, for example, generates almost all its power from coal, life cycle analysis of EV cars in China shows they are far more polluting than conventional cars.”  The possible consequences of driving such cars aren’t always known to the public. A recent study by a scientist in Norway pointed to how dysfunctional those cars can be. Indeed, they are sold as the way to curb global warming but in fact, according to this study, they aren’t even “clean”: in some circumstances electric vehicles can have a greater carbon footprint than conventional cars! And in somes cases the footprint can be twice as big!

Marie PERRIOT

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