The Government’s announcement in July that diesel and electric cars would be phased out and only electric cars would be sold from 2040 rang alarm bells.
First of all manufacturers need to improve the charging time of electric vehicles and also the range that a vehicle can do. Certainly at present a long distance journey is now possible without recharging and recharging points are somewhat thin on the ground. Still manufacturers and local authorities have 23 years to get their act together. But I predict it will go to the wire.
Fuel stations will disappear. Hopefully to be replaced by a mass of fast charge points.
But what of buses, coaches and lorries. If buses and coaches are to fall within the scope of electric vehicles only from 2040 then it’s a case of operators having to upgrade fleets again - many having just gone through a fleet upgrade process to comply with DDA requirements.
But shouldn’t current electric power issue ring alarm bells. We hear of several operators - one in the LEYTR area - converting diesel/electric hybrid vehicles to straight diesel. The batteries have a short life-span compared with the expected vehicle life and are expensive to replace. There have also been a number of fires involving hybrid-powered buses.
We have 23 years to get the full electric infrastructure in place. I suspect come 2040 it will be like Broadband, good in places but non-existent in others.
Time will tell…
But whilst the Department of the Environment was proclaiming the end to use of fossil fuels for cars the Department for Transport was announcing the scrapping of further rail electrification. Whilst on the Midland Main Line the wires will go north to Kettering and Corby, the route north of Kettering will need to rely on the unproven in the UK Bi-Mode option. There will be gaps in the Great Western electrification plan for Wales and any thought of TransPennine electrification in the future is now nothing more than a fairy story. These Bi-Mode trains are heavier than existing trains and slower in diesel mode with limited range so passengers will potentially see journey times extended and fossil fuel emissions continue.
It also seems that the Government has no plans for phasing out diesel trains. On 12th September Andy McDonald MP (Middlesbrough) asked the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the announcement of 26 July 2017 on the end of sales of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040, what his policy is on the use of diesel trains after that date.
Transport Minister Paul Maynard provided a written answer on 9th October 2017
“We are encouraging the railway industry to improve air quality by proposing solutions that reduce emissions from trains and also to develop innovative solutions around future fuel technologies such as hydrogen and battery power. In the nearer term, there are currently a number of new bi-mode trains being delivered or on order. The rail industry expects rolling stock to typically have an expected life in the range of 30 to 35 years. There is no policy at present on the use of diesel trains post 2040”.
Steven Knight is a Transport Specialist who has over 40 years experience in the bus and rail industries as well as in specialist transport journalism. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists.