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Electric cars are good fun for wealthy virtue signallers, but a dreadful way to save the planet

November 18, 2020

By Paul Homewood


h/t Philip Bratby


A dose of reality from Bjorn Lomborg:




In a move to burnish Britain’s green credentials, Boris Johnson is to announce a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. He is following other political leaders, including Joe Biden, in promising lavish carrots to energise the market for electric cars along with sticks to outlaw petrol cars. Unfortunately, electric cars will achieve only tiny emissions savings at a very high price.

Electric cars are certainly fun, but almost everywhere cost more across their lifetime than their petrol counterparts. That is why subsidies are needed. And consumers are still anxious because of their short range and long recharging times. Despite the US handing out up to $10,000 (£7,600) for each electric car, for example, fewer than 0.5 per cent of its cars are battery electric. And almost all the support goes to the rich. Ninety per cent of electric car owners also have a fossil-fuel driven car they drive further. Indeed, electric vehicles are mostly a “second car” used for shorter trips and virtue signalling.

If you subsidise electric cars enough, people will buy them. Almost 10 per cent of all Norway’s passenger cars are now electric because of generous policies that waive most costs. Over its lifetime, a £23,000 car might receive benefits worth more than £20,000. But this approach is unsustainable for most nations. Even Norway is starting to worry, losing more than a billion euros a year from exempt drivers.

Innovation will eventually make electric cars economical even without subsidies, but concerns over range and slow recharging will remain. That is why most scientific prognoses show that electric cars will not take over the world. A new study shows that by 2030, just 13 per cent of new cars will be battery-electric. If Johnson bans new petrol cars by then, he would essentially forbid 87 per cent of consumers from buying the cars they want. It is hard to imagine that could be politically viable.

The International Energy Agency estimates that by 2030, if all countries live up to their promises, the world will have 140 million electric cars on the road. Yet, this would not make a significant impact on emissions for two reasons. First, electric cars require large batteries, often produced in China using coal power. Just producing the battery for an electric car can emit almost as much as a quarter of the greenhouse gasses emitted from a petrol car across its entire lifetime.

Second, the electric car is recharged on electricity that almost everywhere is significantly fossil-fuel based. Together, this means that a long-range electric car will emit more CO2 for its first 60,000km than a petrol car. This is why having a second electric car for short trips could mean higher overall emissions. Comparing electric and petrol, the International Energy Agency estimates the electric car will save six tons of CO2 over its lifetime, assuming global average electricity emissions. Even if the electric car has a short range and its battery is made in Europe mostly using renewable energy, its savings will be at most 10 tons.

To use America as an example, if Biden restores the full electric car tax credit, he will essentially pay £5,700 to reduce emissions by at most 10 tons. Yet, he can get US power producers to cut 10 tons for just £45. Indeed, if the whole world follows through and gets to 140 million electric cars by 2030, the IEA estimates it will reduce emissions by just 190 million tonnes of CO2 – a mere 0.4 per cent of global emissions.

We need a reality check. First, politicians should stop writing huge cheques just because they believe electric cars are a major climate solution. Second, there is a simpler solution. The hybrid car saves about the same amount of CO2 as an electric car over its lifetime. Third, climate change doesn’t care about where CO2 comes from. Personal cars are only about 7 per cent of global emissions, and electric cars will only help a little.

Right now, electric car subsidies are something wealthy countries can afford to give elites to show virtue. But if we want to fix the climate, we need to focus on the big emitters and drive innovation to create better low-CO2 energy from fusion, fission, geothermal, wind, and solar. Innovations that will make just one of them cheaper than fossil fuels would mean not just rich Londoners changing their habits, but everyone, including China and India, switching large parts of their energy consumption toward zero emissions.

  1. November 18, 2020 10:09 am

    The developed nations have forgotten about the 600 Million Africans who don’t have access to electricity anyway,let alone spare electricity to charge EVs. What are they going to do for transport when the supply of petrol driven cars dries up? developed nations should take the rest of the world into account when making such decisions.

  2. Peter Fieldsend permalink
    November 18, 2020 10:14 am

    If Dominic Cummings had an electric car, how long would it take to drive to Durham, with how many stops?

    • NeverReady permalink
      November 18, 2020 1:34 pm

      Depends on whether he was testing his eyesight or taking his missus for a drive on her birthday.

  3. Harry Passfield permalink
    November 18, 2020 10:19 am

    “Electric cars are certainly fun, but almost everywhere cost more across their lifetime than their petrol counterparts” BL.

    Yet…some government talking head on the news just now came out with the great lie: that buying, owning and running an EV will be seen to be cheaper than buying, owning ad running an ICE car. I bet that was based on the fact that EVs do not (yet!) pay a fuel (equivalent) duty or (yet) VED.

    • Ian Magness permalink
      November 18, 2020 11:54 am

      Yes Harry, and it gets worse.
      Because no BEV made for the man in the street has ever been through a full product lifecycle, nobody can yet understand the real costs of maintenance and depreciation – not even the lessors and insurance companies who are struggling at present to price the risk.
      Consider this, however. In large family 4×4 BEVs the battery packs not only weigh more on their own than an equivalent petrol car engine, but the batteries can cost over £20,000. Yes, you read that correctly. Ah, the greens say, but when a battery “goes” it’ll only be one cell that needs replacing. Indeed that is usually the case (although not always). So, what does a cell cost to replace? Answer – for a chunky vehicle, £500 – £1,000 for the cell and up to £1,000 again for the specialist labour involved. So, on your “oh so cheap to run” 4×4, you could be hit with a £2,000 bill just you replace one part of the battery array. This compares with, say, £100 at present and it’s a 10 minute unskilled job to do it yourself.
      OK so it’ll be cheaper on smaller BEVs but you get the point – BEVs will not being cheap to run and the depreciation could be very rapid indeed down to £0.
      Not for me and, I suspect, not for the great majority of the public once the full financials become more apparent.

      • Lorde Late permalink
        November 18, 2020 1:01 pm

        Morning all
        I’ve been a mechanic for 45 years and this drive for electric cars is the latest incarnation of ‘the emperors new clothes’ I won’t go into all the technicalities which we are all aware of suffice to say There is no way on earth we will all be using electric vehicles in 30 years let alone 10. I saw a comment on Fb earlier this morning where someone used the analogy of the naysayers when the car first appeared ‘oh it will never catch on, horses are great, no infrastructure etc” and I thought, its taken 120 years or so to get to to the point we are at!
        I have also witnessed at first hand the debacle of Gordon Browns incentives to get people out of petrol fuelled vehicles. yes petrol may produce a little CO2 which of course is not the demon it’s labeled as, but something I thought 20 years ago was that the particulate matter etc from diesels is far worse to people.
        Thats is with out the huge maintainance issues that affect modern (mainly German it seems to me) diesel fuelled vehicles, yes you may have slightly better mpg with a diesel but any money you save on fuel will be offset by some injector or DPF issue! how many of us are aware of the regeneration process that happens with a diesel?
        I will stick to my small petrol engine where possible
        Have a lovely day

    • Lorde Late permalink
      November 18, 2020 1:02 pm

      very true!

      • Lord Late permalink
        November 18, 2020 1:04 pm

        sorry that was agreeing with Harry

      • Coeur de Lion permalink
        November 18, 2020 1:19 pm

        I pay £20 a year car tax on my Adblu fitted Citroen Picasso diesel so somebody thinks it’s cleaner that most petrol cars. I suppose imports will be banned – contravening WTO rules. I’m buying a couple of new diesel cars in 2029 which should see me out.Oh, and remember that since Paris CO2 has gone up 11ppm. And does not affect the weather.

  4. November 18, 2020 10:23 am

    “Electric cars are certainly fun”, especially when you are stuck in a snow drift with no heater.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      November 18, 2020 2:07 pm

      Or need to drive along a flooded road.

      • saparonia permalink
        November 18, 2020 4:02 pm

        Or there’s a power cut and you can’t charge it.

  5. MrGrimNasty permalink
    November 18, 2020 10:36 am

    “There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always— do not forget this, Boris— always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a carbon footprint stamping on all human faces— forever. ”

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      November 18, 2020 11:28 am

      Good adaptation. Well said.

    • November 19, 2020 10:47 pm

      Too true. For me it calls to mind that Monty Python descending foot. Has anyone got the video clip on that?

  6. GeoffB permalink
    November 18, 2020 10:54 am

    On a wider viewpoint, in my lifetime, we used to have vibrant industries, ship building, steel making, car assembly, railway locomotive building, nuclear power stations, airplanes, electricity generation, o.k. some were nationalised but they were British owned, Now all are gone or foreign owned, down to politicians supporting the greedy bankers. The green scam is just another money making scheme for the rich at the expense of the people. Capitalism at its worst, what I do not comprehend is that most of the green loonies, particularly XR, are anti capitalism, do they not realise the harm they are campaigning for?

    • John Cullen permalink
      November 18, 2020 11:56 am

      Are they what Lenin is reputed to have called “useful idiots”?

    • Robert Christopher permalink
      November 18, 2020 12:29 pm

      “greedy bankers”
      You are maligning a whole industry, and inferring that buying and selling is a sin. The shareholders invested their money, because they thought the expected return compared to the risk was worth it, and then they found someone else to take over.

      Why shouldn’t shareholders sell to the highest bidder? Maybe they knew that the shares were to lose value. They might even have been part of your pension fund, so you should be thanking them. It’s how the West has made so many so wealthy.

      “The green scam is just another money making scheme for the rich …”
      It isn’t! It’s a scam for the VERY rich, and well connected. The rich will be taxed to pay for it, as the poor don’t have the cash, though Green Zealots will try.

      “Capitalism at its worst”
      Capitalism involves politicians setting some general rules, and then leaving well alone, only tweeking in a general way, not specific to anyone, when there is a malfunction, or a war! Corruption occurs in most industries, but most industries need money to do business, and money is a popular thing to covet.

      What we have are Socialists, Marxists, Eco-warriors, etc, whose aim is to destroy what we have and ‘Rebuild Better’, and Corporatists not caring as long as they are rewarded financially. They are to be found in very large organisations, private and public, and in the political village, not so much in banks. Think Tanks, Charities and Foundations attract them as well.
      Just like the megalomaniacs of the 20th century did, they will continue until they are stopped, but this time with the help of a not very dangerous virus and a not very dangerous changing climate. The knowledgeable know their professed objectives won’t work, but that they will lead to success in their unspoken objectives.

      Biden, Trudeau and Boris have signed up, whether they have realised it or not!

      • ThinkingScientist permalink
        November 18, 2020 7:30 pm

        National Socialism reincarnated. Private corporations whose only customer is the state,

    • bobn permalink
      November 19, 2020 12:48 am

      Geoff, this is not Capitalism. Its Socialism at its worst. State direction of industry. Business and bankers are just responding to the tax and subsidy and legislation directions of our socialist overlords. Capitalism would let the free market and customer choice decide how many electric or ICE cars to produce. Socialism says ‘thou will not be allowed a market or an ICE car.’ Alas every Party in parliament is wholly on a socialist agenda now.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      November 19, 2020 2:31 am

      I think that the bankers have been trying to insulate us from the consequences of madcap politicians, but they are running out of plates to try to keep spinning. The reality is that we have been running a massive and chronic balance of payments deficit this century. Between 1946 and 1984, if you add up all the balance of payments surpluses and deficits you reach +£106m. We started to run into trouble as we shadowed the DM and joined the ERM, clocking up deficits until after we had left the ERM and returned to floating exchange rates. But between 1998 and today, our cumulative balance of payments deficit has ballooned from £1.3bn to £1.3trillion. That has to be financed – and the ways the bankers found to do it were pumping up house prices and selling the ever rising mortgages on to overseas buyers – a ruse that came unstuck in the financial crisis; and selling our assets to foreigners. Whether it be expensive London property, marketed as a tax haven and money laundering opportunity, or companies sold for their intellectual property and offshoring of jobs. The alternative would have been not to sell anything, and see sterling crash, forcing us to pull in our horns and not spend out on imports. When we run out of things to sell and mortgage, that will happen anyway. Green madness will accelerate the process considerably. That will be the real reset.

  7. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    November 18, 2020 10:57 am

    Why does Princess Nut Nut not understand this?

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      November 18, 2020 11:49 am

      She went to the University of Warwick, where she studied art history and theatre studies, completing her degree in 2009. Therefore she knows all there is to know about art history and something about the theatre, I’m not sure what, but f’all about power, energy and the national grid and how much it’s all going to cost.

      • Chaswarnertoo permalink
        November 18, 2020 12:49 pm

        Yeah, I know. Dunning Kruger in action.

      • Mad Mike permalink
        November 18, 2020 12:55 pm

        She know plenty about Boris though, certainly enough to get him to do her bidding.

        Every person has their achilles heel and Boris sure has his fair share.

      • ThinkingScientist permalink
        November 18, 2020 3:16 pm

        As soon as anyone mentions Warwick Uni I think of The Inbetweeners episode Trip to Warwick. Perhaps Boris is Simon and his squeeze is Tara?

        It doesn’t end well for Simon.

      • saparonia permalink
        November 18, 2020 4:10 pm

        Before Mr Johnson was PM, wasn’t she the one chucking his laptop about and some neighbour called the police to report a domestic?

  8. dennisambler permalink
    November 18, 2020 11:29 am

    “climate change doesn’t care about where CO2 comes from”

    It doesn’t even care about CO2.

  9. Robert Christopher permalink
    November 18, 2020 11:31 am

    Joe Biden?

    A political leader? 🙂

    • JBW permalink
      November 18, 2020 11:48 am

      Is anyone taking betts about how long he will be in post, after he takes office?

      • Gerry, England permalink
        November 18, 2020 2:11 pm

        That is making the big assumption that he will ever take office. There is a total media blackout on what is really going on. At some point the word ‘Dominion’ will break cover and we shall hear about special software programs.

      • November 18, 2020 3:17 pm

        Gerry, I fear for your sanity. There is plenty in the media about the current state in America re the election. Biden won as fairly as anyone has ever won an election in the US. There is no evidence of any widespread fraud. None at all. Even Trump is coming around to realise that.

      • Robert Christopher permalink
        November 18, 2020 5:35 pm

        “Biden won as fairly as anyone has ever won an election in the US.”

        David, are you being sarcastic?

      • Chris permalink
        November 18, 2020 6:27 pm

        Creepy, sleepy Joe wants to stay. He has the personality to ignore all the shouting and thrusted shepherd crooks to remain on the stage beyond the time agreed with his woke colleagues. As for the election sham, it plays out with right screaming “stop thief!” and the left countering with “c’mon man, nothing untoward here!” Am in Texas and have fingers crossed that the Dominion-Hammer-Scorecard rumors have some connection to reality and that the incredible 79million votes that are attributed (10 million more than the anointed Obama) to Biden are as real as unicorn Pooh.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        November 19, 2020 2:51 am

        I keep looking for that market. But I guess it won’t be launched until after the Electoral College does its thing. The same market on Trump saw plenty of oscillation during his presidency, as Democrat sympathising punters kept piling in every time they thought they had a gotcha or a perceived Trump faux pas.

        The Biden market will be revealing, because there will be some serious input into evaluating his health risk and the political balance within the Democrats. It could surprise us if the shadows behind prefer to see their ventriloquist’s dummy in place, unless it becomes too obvious that he cannot continue – or dies. Harris will be a loose cannon if she gets in.

  10. ThinkingScientist permalink
    November 18, 2020 11:52 am

    Norway. Subsidising electric cars by using the revenues from a sovereign wealth generated almost entirely from fossil fuels.

    Insanity, hypocrisy, stupidity.

    • Robert Christopher permalink
      November 18, 2020 12:47 pm

      Several years ago, I heard that Norway had borrowed against their Sovereign Fund to the tune of 80%+.
      Maybe their investments have increased in value and they are in a better position now.

    • November 18, 2020 3:18 pm

      Yes, but they are starting to worry about the cost of doing that now!

  11. John Peter permalink
    November 18, 2020 12:00 pm

    Maybe Phillip Bradby can explain how virtually the whole House of Commons can believe in and probably support this latest Boris 10-point plan to save the World including the ban on fossil fuel powered cars. I also thought that the Lords were there to inject a degree of sense into what came up from the commoners before it was turned into law. To me the whole thing is a mass hysteria. Does Boris actually study the intended and unintended consequences of what he pushes so hard and with such great enthusiasm? Where is the great free trade deal he promised us with the EU? Seems to be not as easy as he thought a few months ago. I anticipate that his 10 point plan will meet with increased resistance as the costs build up. The whole thing is built on subsidies and that will not be sustainable. House of Cards?


    • ThinkingScientist permalink
      November 18, 2020 12:11 pm

      Climate Change Act 2008

      Votes for – 463
      Votes Against – 3

      Mass hysteria – Yes
      Mass delusion/insantiy of crowds – Yes

      And to close with Richard Feynman “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts” or how he better put it “Intellectual tyranny in the name of science”

      How many MP’s have any scientific training? Anyone know?

      • Robert Christopher permalink
        November 18, 2020 12:31 pm

        From your figures, about 3. 🙂

      • MikeHig permalink
        November 19, 2020 9:06 pm

        TS: A while back that question occurred to me so I did a quick scan on the “They work for you” website which lists qualifications and special commitees, etc for each MP. I looked for any scientific qualification, including medicine, biology, etc as well as for MPs without qualifications but who were active in science-related commitees and the like.
        I came up with a total of 70 out of 670 (iirc: the total at the time). The number with qualifications in “hard” science relevant to energy, etc was less than half that figure.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      November 18, 2020 2:16 pm

      Boris is an ignorant idiot who doesn’t do detail and just uses his floppy blond hair and latin quips to charm people who should know better. A lot of them now realise that stupid hope for him to become competent for the first time in his career if he was given the top job has failed dismally. With what is coming in January I will be shocked if he isn’t gone by summer so that the Tories can have a new leader in time for conference.

      • ThinkingScientist permalink
        November 18, 2020 2:46 pm

        That description of “ignorant idiot” could apply to the majority of MP’s in the HoC. There is no longer any opposition to the government except from the Conservative party’s own backbenchers.

        On Covid, the only objections have come from what the HoC and Newspapers describe sometimes as “swivel-eyed right wingers”. They appear to be the only sane ones left, and are an endangered species it would seem.

        Western democracies now seem to be gripped by the “Madness of Crowds”. Half the population seems to be held in thrall to computer models and hysteria. Saved from N4zi tyranny only to be destroyed by our own stupidity and the tyranny of scientific experts. How can you vote for sanity, or vote for scientific experts with different views?

        A year ago I would have considered trying to move to USA. Not looking so attractive now (although the jury is still out). Namibia looks quite compelling – at least its warm, dry and the sun always shines.

      • ThinkingScientist permalink
        November 18, 2020 2:48 pm

        Looking at this live webcam feed from Namibia keeps me sane most days:

      • November 18, 2020 3:19 pm

        Gerry, whatever Boris Johnson is, anyone who calls him an ignorant idiot is betraying their own ignorance and idiocy.

    • Robert Jones permalink
      November 18, 2020 7:24 pm

      I’m not sure that anyone in the House of Commons is really behind this wizard new scheme because it has so many glaringly threadbare assumptions propping it up. When the voices of reason have pointed out the technical, economic, military, police, road movement of freight and a host of other shortcomings the tempo will change and common sense will poke through.

  12. November 18, 2020 3:11 pm

    When the simple issues of the practicality of EV versus ICE are beyond the intellect of the Boris’s of the world we are in trouble.

    We are entering a maelstrom of competing interests and these will overwhelm everyone. Covid; Climate Change; Forecasted storms and pestilence, of biblical proportions; Critical Race Theory; Political Correctness; Fragility of Free Speech and Freedom of Thought; Corrupted science; Corrupted Medai;XR; BLM; Rewriting of History by Neo Marxists, to name a few. The new big black cloud on the horizon is the stealth promotion of the UN and World Economic Forum’s “BIG RESET” driven by the top 1%of the 1% of the so called elites. The whole shebang is beyond the ken of Boris and other world leaders except totalitarian Xi.

    Is the world going mad?

    • ThinkingScientist permalink
      November 18, 2020 3:17 pm

      Is the world going mad?

      More than 50% of it is.

    • Lorde Late permalink
      November 18, 2020 9:04 pm

      yes it is.

  13. November 18, 2020 8:41 pm

    Excellent [fact-based] material, Paul. Thanks – a keeper.

    “if Biden restores the full electric car tax credit,”

    This, he has promised to do.

  14. Michael Porter permalink
    November 19, 2020 12:14 am

    Tony Happy to debate Homeward thesis. True subsidy issue on electric cars an issue, but as mini and home grids get efficient, optimising sunlight storage via cars, and Musk cars cheap at around $30k it could make a lot of economic sense. It’s probably a valid infant industry but initially wasting many hundred $ billions.


  15. StephenP permalink
    November 19, 2020 9:03 am

    See the article on Big Tech on: -internet-and-sharing-it-with-each-other/
    There is an interesting clip from a Senate hearing with Zuckerberg and Dorsey.
    And you can see why I don’t intend using Faceb..k and, and wonder why anyone else would.
    Big Brother is watching you.

    • Lorde Late permalink
      November 19, 2020 1:29 pm

      Thought provoking to say the least! Thanks for putting that link in.

  16. John permalink
    November 22, 2020 2:48 pm

    China sells about 5% electric cars they are expecting to have that up to 25% in 5 years
    Norway wants more electric cars used their electricity us almost entirely renewable you failed to mention that
    That is called “deception by omission”
    In the USA subsidies run out after 200000 cars are built
    After rebate the cheapest Tesla costs 30000$ about the same as the average car sold here
    Recharging times ?? Most cars recharge 80% in less than 30 mins
    You also seem to have tried to mislead people by refusing to admit that electric car technology improves greatly EVERY year
    And that electric cars operating “ fuel” costs are 66% lower than fossil fueled cars

    • November 22, 2020 3:49 pm

      You cannot compare US car prices with UK prices, EVs are around £10K more than a proper car here.
      And Norway is irrelevant as they rely on hydro for their renewable energy. China is also irrelevant as there consumers get no choice what they buy

      Most cars do not “recharge in less than 30 mins” unless you can find a rapid charger without a queue.

      Fuel costs are not 66% lower, if you exclude fuel duty.

      As for “improves greatly every year”, I’ll believe that when millions of drivers start buying them without subsidies or compulsion. That is the ultimate test

      There is one thing however that always baffles me- why do EV geeks keep trying to convince us of the advantages of EVs? I don’t try to persuade you to buy a Mazda! If people want a diesel, they should be able to buy one.

  17. Spurwing Plover permalink
    November 27, 2020 11:14 pm

    Let Al Gore Laurie David and Leonardo DiCaprio take ride with Greta Thunburg and run out of power 50 miles from the closes recharging Station

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