A former Energy & Environment advisor for former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Stephen Heidari-Robinson, has called for a “massively ambitious industrial strategy for electric vehicles as soon as possible,” according to recent reports.
The need for such an approach includes ubiquitous problems with deadly air pollution levels and carbon emissions in the UK, as well as the potential economic benefits that could accompany such action.
The former government advisor — now a visiting fellow in the programme for integrating renewable energy at the Oxford Martin School, Oxford University — argues that electric vehicles represent the best option for significantly reducing air pollution in the UK over the long-term.
He also notes in his call for action that electric vehicle support should be a “key component “of both the upcoming Brexit negotiations and the government’s promised industrial strategy.”
In a piece for Business Green, Heidari-Robinson writes: “The shift to electric — and autonomous — vehicles will drive a health revolution in this country: with the road safety benefits far, far outweighed by the reduction in deaths from air pollution, it will be easier to find a syphilis test if you own a car. Needless to say, this transition will also lead to a significant reduction in carbon emissions too. If the UK, in concert with Europe (our largest market and supplier), sets ambitious targets for clean vehicles, manufacturers would be able to drive scale benefits of production and get costs down. So, this must be a significant part of our Brexit and wider trade negotiations. … To safeguard jobs, we need to work with the car industry: switching production lines from diesel to electric. Because other countries are going down the same route, there will be significant export opportunities and a chance to leapfrog Germany, Japan, the US and other traditional auto manufacturers. Already, the UK makes a quarter of Europe’s electric cars.”
Heidari-Robinson also commented that the UK’s government should be actively working to support battery technology development and R&D efforts, the aim being to “create new battery technologies that improve costs, range, and weight even further — so that electric vehicles truly beat petrol and diesel cars, not just get in the same ballpark.”
Business Green provides more: “Last week, Defra published a new consultation on proposed Clean Air Zones for a number of cities outside London. But Heidari-Robinson warned the creation of Clean Air Zones that limit access for the most polluting vehicles could soon prove unpopular with the public. … He added that given the shift to zero emission vehicles will take time some air quality measures will still be required, arguing a diesel scrappage scheme, gas-based substitutes for diesel, trees to screen schools, and diverting of traffic from the worst areas would all help save lives.”
Heidari-Robinson continued: “Already, in Birmingham, a ‘clean air zone’ around Birmingham New Street Station, produced protests from taxi drivers and unions which led to its removal. I don’t blame the cabbies and unionists. Without a clean alternative, why should they give up their businesses and jobs? Unless we provide such alternatives, I confidently predict that city-wide clean air zones will lead to exactly the same reaction. The public will revolt. If this happens, post-Brexit, with the power to set our own environmental laws, it’s possible that politicians will respond by relaxing regulation and the deaths will continue.”
I’m not sure that I completely agree with that, but it’s an interesting perspective.