Charging Slowly

December 2018

It has been four years since we went electric, swapping a diesel BMW for a zero emission Nissan Leaf.  I have written before about our personal experience of electric motoring.  I am pleased to say that, with improved batteries – and in our ability to plan our journeys appropriately! – we no longer face range anxiety and we enjoy having our Leaf more than ever.

Yet I continue to be surprised by how few fully electric cars I see out here in the suburbs.  Our experience is often to be sat in slow-moving traffic in the middle of a long line of cars all emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and nitrogen oxide particles into our lungs.  The sweet smell of a car’s exhaust, which I still associate with sepia-tinted childhood memories of standing by while my dad fixes our car or jump starts a friend’s, has become sickening.

The data, as you would expect, show sharp rises in the number of new cars which are fully electric.  But my anecdotal experience reflects important realities:

  1. Carbon-burning transport is embedded into our society, economy and even the way we think about ourselves;

  2. Perhaps consequently, the very low base from which electric car sales are rising.  There is such a long way to go.

The pace and scale of change matter.  The most recent authoritative forecasts suggest that we are firmly on track to reach climate change tipping points in the coming decades despite the efforts made so far.  Yes, we need to nudge and encourage and cajole people and businesses to rethink how they live, buy and trade in ways that do not end up destroying our ability to live on this planet.

That takes long-term, unselfish thinking ahead of short-term, parochial interests.  Perhaps writing this in the deepest gloom of midwinter is making me unduly grumpy, but I am not convinced we have what it takes to avert disaster.  Ask me again in the summer!

- Faisal.

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