Electrification or Fuel Cell? It’s ‘make your mind up’ time
It does appear as though, during this period of ‘transition’, the entire motoring scene has gone haywire for electricity and battery power, states Iain Robertson, while introducing remarkable levels of ‘EVangelism’ and easy-to-disprove claims.
Our nation’s legendary ‘greatest broadcaster and soothsayer’, Sir David Attenborough, who sparked environmental damage warnings well over a decade ago, has reassessed his stark admonishments, to deliver a more urgent pronouncement. Finally, and he is not alone, the blame is being placed directly and justifiably on our shoulders, each and every one of us. Time is up. Yet, before we take this entirely out of perspective, his primary concerns are with abysmal waste management and poor animal husbandry, tinged with a major regret about the speed at which breed extinction is occurring…far quicker than he had envisioned not long ago.
However, this is like fodder for the electrification scene, which believes most evangelically in a future propelled in near silence…accompanied by interminable queues at recharging stations that deliver a long overdue and time-consuming penance to us for having the temerity to glug far-from-endless supplies of fossil fuels. If you think that ‘road rage’ is a rarity, it might not be so in future. It hardly seems to matter that the predominant power stations are fuelled similarly and, in the process, only serve to shift the blame a little further along the line. Sadly, even were the entire world car parc to shift overnight from fossil to electricity, it would not stop the over-population of ‘airborne-rat’ starlings, the demise of the rhino, or the loss of antipodean camels, even though the nations would grind to a halt, with all the subsequent power surges.
Speak with any of the e-protagonists and you might believe in their blanket and blind acceptance of a future propelled by over-expensive BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles), the entry-level cost of has already breached £20k territory, when it really needs to be closer to £10k, in order to make a positive impact on the market. Yet, there are big corporate coffers to be filled, with limitless public funds, to ensure that an increasing number of e-millionaires will be the only people able to fly (electrically, of course) to their pieds-a-terre in Juan les Pins, where nobody will really care about their diesel-powered, Mediterranean pleasure boats, as we shall all be stuck in Blighty, with air travel removed judiciously from our personal agendas.
In the meantime, that troublesome patch of land just north of Hadrian’s Wall is best served with publicly accessible, plug-in electrical chargers nationally (3.34 vehicles per unit), even beating London (3.82) but putting the West Midlands in a parlous last place (17.4). Scotland also benefits from an imminent further £7.5m e-funding injection…work out the politics yourself.
Yet, our ‘industrial heartland’, as the West Midlands used to be known, could benefit from upwards of £200m from the Government Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund (another quango?), with an additional £200m from ‘private funding’, should it require it. It is worth knowing that the true sales position/uptake rate of BEVs has not quite breached 1% of the annual UK new car registrations level, after well over a decade’s worth of incessant, government and some carmakers sponsored preaching. Across the UK, there are now 9,300 EV recharging stations, contrasted with 8,400 regular fuel stations, of which just over 20% offer a fast/rapid charging option (20-40 minutes, instead of over an hour). It is worth checking who pays.
Of course, the number of carmakers indulging, during the most friable of times, in electrification is growing and those that already have twenty years of sound experience are expanding their hybrid and EV line-ups. Yet, Ford Motor Company, of which I used to be an ardent fan, has already bucked a trend with its amorphous e-Mustang, which could carry virtually the branding of any one of a dozen carmakers, and now supplemented it with a £45m investment in hybrid technology at its Valencia plant…where it produces the slow-selling S-Max and Galaxy MPVs. A clear toe-in-the-water, for one of the world’s larger vehicle producers, if ever one existed, but it is not flying solo.
Look, I know that fossil fuel consumption is unsustainable, unless we have another 50m years during which to replenish it, using human bones and our petroleum product detritus, rather than dinosaurs. On a personal front, I practice what I preach, which is my logic behind travelling only when necessary and, then, in a 1.0-litre car that attains 60mpg. I have ceased flying and I really do not ‘do’ public transport (either physically, or psychologically, both ways are interminably damaging) but I am not donning a halo. What is your excuse?
Just ‘because you can’, in both financial and social terms, does not justify the big V8 turbodiesel luxo-barge sitting in your company car parking space. Just ‘because you can’, does not warrant a fleet of 2.0-litre turbo-petrol mid-size hatchbacks for your clamouring company employees. Just ‘because you can’ will never justify acquiring an EV to save your soul that will be worth sod all in couple of years’ time. In many ways, rather than ‘EVangelism’, ‘HydrogeNation’ is where we ought to be headed. The hydrogen fuel cell is a truly efficacious means to high-mileage mobility. Let us not head like headless chickens down a pathway to early mortality, driven by the power of electricity, unless it is self-generated and renewable.
Electrification is not as ‘electrific’ as it is purported to be. In fact, it is in a mess. No amount of government funding will make a difference, because there are far too many well-informed rotters prepared to dive-in and cream off the profits. A ‘Free Market’ is fine, until control is squandered. Yet, electrification is essential. What will work is hydrogen as a fuel source and fuel cell technology, as the means to mobility. Each fuel cell ‘engine’ contains less precious metals than an average exhaust catalyser. Mass-production of fuel cells will work out less costly than the old ‘infernal’ combustion engine and render BEVs largely redundant. The technology is here. It is a plot worth contemplating, as we disappear into the plughole’s vortex.