The government has announced plans to introduce a legal requirement for new residential buildings to be built with an electric vehicle charging point. The scheme will begin next year, and will include newly-built supermarkets, workspaces, and relevant buildings undergoing significant renovations.
Those behind the initiative have claimed that this will allow for 145,000 new electric car charge points every year, an essential step if the UK government's plans to ban new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 onwards is to go ahead. Currently, Britain only has around 25,000 charging points, a number that will need to increase by up to ten times as much throughout the next decade, according to the Competition and Markets Authority.
Motor vehicles accounted for 27% of UK-wide emissions in 2019. Approximately 91% of these emissions stemmed from road transport vehicles, with the same study demonstrating that petrol car journeys can produce up to 4 times more carbon emissions per passenger than coach journeys. Despite warnings of greenhouse gasses being produced by transport, and of the negative consequences related to this, there has been very little change over the past decade in the level of emissions generated in this way. Between the years of 2009 and 2019, there was only a 3% decrease in transport carbon production.
It is clear then, that new, radical action is needed to tackle this issue, and it appears that Boris Johnsons and his cabinet consider the phasing out of petrol and diesel-powered engines in favour of electric vehicles to be the solution. The negative aspects of electric vehicles have been discussed for some time now, with the general consensus being that they will have a far lower impact on carbon emission, but may result in the deforestation of the Congo rainforest due to increased demand in cobalt mining. However, a move from the current level of reliance on petrol/diesel engines is almost universally accepted to be a necessary step towards reaching net zero.
Johnson has stated: "This is a pivotal moment - we cannot go on as we are.
"We have to adapt our economy to the green industrial revolution."
However, he has faced criticism from the Labour Party over his failure to address key issues. For one, there is currently an acute geographical inequality in terms of the location of electric vehicle charging points. According to Labour:
"London and the South East have more public car charging points than the rest of England and Wales combined. Yet there is nothing here to help address this.
"Nor is there help so lower and middle income families can afford electric vehicles or the investment required to build the gigafactories we need," Labour went on to say.
Whilst electric cars can be cheaper to drive in the long-term, many individuals and families will struggle to overcome the initial price of a vehicle that is on average 81% more expensive than its petroleum-based counterpart.
Additionally, there is even a geographical disparity in the construction of new homes. Cities and large towns see the most growth in the number of homes being constructed, with London unsurprisingly taking the top spot. This is true across each of the UK's four nations, with a quarter of new homes in Northern Ireland being erected in and around Belfast, and the bulk of Scottish construction projects located in Edinburgh and its closest local authorities of East Lothian and Midlothian.
This poses a problem to the government's initiative in two ways. One, statistics show that cities like London have a far greater level of public transport usage than towns and rural villages. This means that the newly constructed electric vehicle charging points will not be built in the areas that they are most needed, i.e: areas that rely more on petrol/diesel engines than public transport. Two, properties in these cities tend to be the least affordable. This creates yet another obstacle for low-income individuals and families to make the switch to electric cars, as their ability to choose recently-constructed homes is limited by the geographical disparity.
All in all, whilst a shift to electric cars does bode well for net-zero targets, there appears to be a great many issues to tackle before such an initiative is feasible, and Boris Johnson seemingly does not intend to address them.