Electric Cars

Part of a forthcoming paper on Climate Change

E-cars are being heralded as a major step towards reaching carbon zero by 2050.  At present emissions from transport – petrol and diesel – account for about 20% of UK greenhouse gas emissions.  But they are not the answer.

  • e-cars are much more expensive than petrol or diesel cars, putting them out of reach for the majority of people
  • second hand e-cars are also more expensive than equivalents
  • older e-cars have batteries with a limited range making them unattractive
  • the electricity they consume is still made by use of fossil fuels – in the 12 months to September 2022 fossil fuels provided 44.2% of electricity generated, nuclear 17.8% and only 28% came from green sources.
  • their batteries make e-cars heavier, causing more wear on brakes and tyres both of which produce high levels of noxious and potentially carcinogenic nano-particles
  • batteries depend on supplies of a rare element – lithium – none of which comes from UK sources; a potential source has been identified in Cornwall but has yet to be commercially exploited
  • the major lithium producing countries are Australia, Chile, China and Argentina; demand is increasing c.25% pa but supply is only increasing by 5%. 
  • lithium is predominantly produced from salt deposits in desert areas and requires vast amounts of water; it also produces a vast amount of environmental damage,  making it a very much less than green solution
  • cars still take up space leading to more demand for wider, better roads, construction of which creates masses of carbon emissions; continued growth in car numbers also leads to more congestion in towns and cities, more space wasted on parking
  • charging points are not easily available especially in inner city locations with no or limited off-street parking, small terraced housing, narrow pavements
  • few batteries are actually produced in the UK leading to increased import costs, supply chain concerns and lack of resilience in supply
  • e-cars are not currently taxed – RFL, which is based on emission levels, even though over half their electricity is produced .  A potential revenue stream of £36bn pa which should help fund public services is at risk.  

WR policy

  • to gradually, but quickly, replace cars by public transport – trains, buses, taxis, e-scooters, cycles, car pools

Methodology to support policy

  • tax all cars on their emissions levels based both of direct emissions from exhausts and from production of the electricity used to power them
  • e-car tax also to take account of distance per kW
  • introduce an additional tax based the weight and size of all cars to take account of other particle , road wear and impact on space requirements
  • take all public transport into real public ownership.
  • use the money from car taxes to subsidise public transport which would be massively expanded
  • cut new road building schemes
  • as car used declines restrict on-street to create more space for cycling, walking, e-scooters
  • create more private vehicle exclusion zones in towns and cities to create more space for and to speed up public transport route times
  • the car free space in towns and cities would facilitate the introduction of driverless public vehicles once the technology has be proven to be safe
  • recognise that not all transport needs can be met solely by public transport so car pooling, car sharing initiatives would be encouraged


Even with the growth in green energy production (see separate Climate Change paper) the priority would remain to use that energy for industrial, commercial, social and domestic use, to heat and power hospitals, schools, and public transport not private cars.

Green energy production is still exploitative.  Solar panels themselves have similar problems to e-car batteries and also require their own batteries to be totally useful. “Growing” solar panels in fields is losing food production and/or re-wilding opportunities. Production of wind turbines is not harm free. They present a risk to bird populations.  Hydro-electricity requires dams to be constructed, flooding usually agricultural landscapes, interfering with natural river flows.  Nuclear energy is not a green solution.

Energy production must be limited to what we really need not what we fancy.