This week, Defra Secretary of State, Michael Gove informed us that all new cars powered by petrol and diesel will be banned by 2040 - just 23 yrs away. Whether or not this will turn out to be precisely the case is not the point. It establishes the direction, and target we are aiming for. Actually, all it does is tell us about the change that is already taking place. I have been genuinely surprised by the number of usually well informed people who have denounced the move away from conventionally powered cars as both unwise and unlikely to happen. To me this seems to be a case of a 'Head in the sand' response. The reality is it's already happening - already accelerating away. And it's the reality that diesel and petrol cars are on the way out. This is being accepted by most of the motor industry.
It's not just the UK which sees an end to petrol and diesel cars. Two weeks ago, France made the same announcement. Norway is bringing in the change by 2025 - just 8 years away. In 2013, there were a few more than 3000 electric cars on our roads. Today it's over 100,000. Volvo has announced it will go all electric or hybrid by 2019. BMW has last week announced a new assembly line to build electric Minis in Oxford. New models are being launched every month. Every car manufacturer is bringing out new electric cars. We may well have reached the 'tipping point' already.
We know there are multiple challenges. The biggest is where will the electricity come from. Massive new supplies will be needed. At present we don't know where it will all come from. But la st week, Britain's first 'floating' offshore wind turbine was launched - much earlier than we expected. This combined with developing battery storage technology will transform generation from wind. Storage technology will also transform prospects for solar. Leaving the EU will allow the cost of importing solar panels to fall significantly. Nuclear power will also develop, hopefully through Small Modular Reactors. Perhaps other power sources like hydrogen will emerge over the next two decades. As well as energy sources we've not thought of yet. And of course there are nothing like enough charging points on long journeys. We know that, but an appropriate network will develop as demand grows. And the range of new electric cars is increasing rapidly. Lots of other problems too, but they will be faced and managed.
It's true that none of us knows how the electric car market will develop over the next 23 yrs. but it's going to happen - driven by air pollution legislation the in our cities and large towns. And leaving the EU won't stop this. King Canute was rolled over by the unstoppable tide. Our car manufacturers will not want to be rolled over by electric cars while they chase a falling market.